Wait, what have you done? Did you just change your computer’s hardware and hope to regain your free Windows 11/10 license? Planning to change your Windows 11/10 computer’s Motherboard, Hard Drive, Processor, GPU or Transfer your Windows 11/10 license to a new computer? Well, you’re out of luck, or maybe we’re just joking, keep reading to find out.
Here’s the thing, your free Windows 11/10 license is tied to your computer, so using it on a different computer is not so easy. But what if you change a particular component or hardware in your computer, would you still be able to regain your free license? We show you how to activate Windows 11/10 after a hardware change.
Activate Windows 11/10 free license after changing computer hardware
Microsoft doesn’t give much information about this because the company wants to keep pirates in the dark as much as possible. However, doing this only confuses legitimate users.
The free Windows 11/10 license vs. paid license
This is simple really. Microsoft doesn’t give users a product key with the free license, but this is done with the paid version. Because the free version of Windows 11/10 is linked to your computer, changing specific hardware could be troublesome, because there’s isn’t a product key to get around the problem.
We do know that should you change the Hard Drive, Processor or GPU, everything will be okay, but the real issue comes up if you have to replace the Motherboard.
It is like replacing a person’s brain with a freshly made brain from Walmart. He or she will be a different person because this new brain does not contain the same memory of the old.
How to successfully move past this issue
Install Windows 11/10 normally and skip the part where it wants you to add a product key. After installation, Windows 11/10 will attempt to activate itself and will fail in the process. You will now have a system that is saying you have a non-genuine version of Windows 11/10.
The activation screen will ask you to activate or purchase a key from Microsoft.
Now, according to Gabriel Aul, Vice President of Engineering for the Windows & Devices group at Microsoft, users who are facing this problem can simply contact support from within Windows 11/10 and explain to them what is going on.
You can contact Customer Support after you’ve made a hardware change to regain entitlement, said Gabe.
From here, Microsoft will make sure to activate Windows 11/10 for you.
This would have been an easier process if Windows 11/10 was tied to a Microsoft account. Still, it might help if you signed in to the same Microsoft account after installing Windows 11/10 on a system with new hardware attached.
How to activate Windows 11/10 after a hardware change
If you have a digital license, run the Activation troubleshooter.
First, add your Microsoft account and link your account to the digital license on your device. Then run the Activation troubleshooter.
Select I changed hardware on this device recently, followed by Next. Enter your connected Microsoft account and password and Sign in. Now, from the list of devices, select the device you are using right now, and click Activate.
If you don’t have a digital license or product key you may have to purchase a Windows 10 digital license after installation finishes from the Microsoft Store.
Related read: Unable to activate Windows 10 (0xc0ea000a).
Transfer your Windows 11/10 license to a new Computer
If you have changed your laptop or desktop computer and want to now transfer your Windows 11/10 license to the new computer, you could try the following:
- Uninstall the Windows Product Key from the old computer
- Install this Windows Product Key on the new computer and Activate it.
If you face activation problems, Activate Windows 11/10 by Phone. Else you should contact Microsoft Support and explain your situation. The Windows Support agent will verify your Windows Product Key and then give you an ID for activating Windows 11/10 on the new computer.