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  1.    26 Apr 2017 #1
    Join Date : Oct 2013
    Posts : 8
    macOS, Windows (Boot Camp)

    How does Microsoft store activation credentials?


    Hi all.
    Been a long while since I've needed to fix a Windows PC -- thanks to the tech gods, I guess.
    Family member's HDD failed.
    Installed a replacement HDD.
    Installed Windows 10 using Windows Creation Tool.
    They had no record of their Windows activation code; so, I was worried about having to buy a new copy of Windows.

    I was very happy to see that the newly installed copy of Windows is automatically activated. Is Microsoft using the motherboard or something else to identify the PC as the owner of genuine copy of Windows?

    Just wondering how license management works at Microsoft these days. Thank you!
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  2.    26 Apr 2017 #2
    Join Date : Dec 2013
    Portsmouth Hampshire
    Posts : 1,826
    Windows 10 x86 14383 Insider Pro and Core 10240

    I recently bought a secondhand Windows 7 Professional Laptop, lovingly restored back to Windows 7 with the Pawnbroker's own Legitimate reinstallation system, using the OEM COA product key.

    When I clean installed Windows 10 Pro on the machine, it activated with a digital license, without my, or anybody else's Microsoft Account being used.

    There must have been a previous installation or upgrade on the machine, linked to its hardware. Specifically, the motherboard, but with some small contribution from Processor, Network Adapter, installed memory etc., it has been said. The main HDD or SSD storage has very little weighting in the hardware contribution to the PCs digital identity, or "Hardware hash" as it is sometimes known, it seems.

    But you are right: the PC is the "Owner" of the digital entitlement, in much the same way that the PC "owns" an OEM preinstalled software and OS, and they cannot be independently transferred.

    In the case of Windows 10, if the Microsoft account is linked to the digital license, then Microsoft usually will allow you to transfer the license to another machine, at least by telephone licensing support if automatic transfer activation does not occur. The Microsoft account linked to the digital license is the record of activation stored by Microsoft that the user can refer to if there are difficulties in transferring the license.

    Potentially, if my laptop was installed with Windows 10 by someone with a digital licence for it linked to their MS Account in the past, they could remove the device from their Microsoft Account at some time in the future, but it is unlikely that the laptop will lose its license.

    As Microsoft is looking to get Windows 10 on as many devices as it can, and lose as many older versions of Windows still running as possible for the purposes of impressing competitors and shareholders alike, they will not likely perform a purge yet.
      My ComputersSystem Spec
  3.    26 Apr 2017 #3
    Join Date : Apr 2017
    Posts : 34
    Windows 10 Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by Fafhrd View Post
    When I clean installed Windows 10 Pro on the machine, it activated with a digital license, without my, or anybody else's Microsoft Account being used.
    You can install Windows 10 with a Windows 7 key.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  4.    26 Apr 2017 #4
    Join Date : Dec 2013
    Portsmouth Hampshire
    Posts : 1,826
    Windows 10 x86 14383 Insider Pro and Core 10240

    But I didn't need to use any key.
      My ComputersSystem Spec
  5.    26 Apr 2017 #5
    Join Date : Apr 2017
    Posts : 34
    Windows 10 Pro

    Because the Windows 7 key is in the BIOS.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  6.    26 Apr 2017 #6
    Join Date : Dec 2015
    Posts : 5,862
    Windows10

    Quote Originally Posted by Stigg View Post
    Because the Windows 7 key is in the BIOS.
    Windows 7 COA keys were never in BIOS only generic oem-slp key which cannot be used to activate a clean install of Windows 10.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  7.    26 Apr 2017 #7

    Hi there

    Ms would probably say in the old words of that famous Mafia Boss - "If we told you we'd have to kill you". !!

    I can state though the IP address, or anything to do with NIC's / networking aren't involved --- replaced several NIC's on different computers and did CLEAN installs in different countries and no problems with activation --none of these machines used any Ms account either (always local users).

    The only change is currently with the CU update is if you do a CLEAN install you might get prompted after install to activate --simply enter a W7 key. You can also still update FOR FREE -- same editions apply though.

    BTW if you use the update tool and then install CLEAN from the ISO (or a bootable USB) you won't get the selection screen which asks you what version you want to install --it defaults to HOME edition.

    To get PRO / Education etc you need to add to the sources folder (extract the ISO with 7-zip or similar) the ei.cfg file. A USB stick can be opened directly with file explorer.

    create the file ei.cfg with notepad containing the following :

    Channel]
    _Default
    [VL]
    0


    Save as ei.cfg in the sources folder and then you will get the prompt screen when clean installing Windows. The 0 in the bottom line isn't a typo - that needs to be included in the file.

    Note though you will only get activation if you are going say from W7 Pro / ultimate to W10 Pro etc.

    Cheers
    jimbo
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  8.    26 Apr 2017 #8
    Join Date : Oct 2014
    New Jersey
    Posts : 1,386
    Windows 7 Pro x64 Windows 10 Pro x64

    Jim you`re saying if someone clean installs the CU it will not auto activate ??

    OK you said you MIGHT get prompted. Got it

    I`m back to the AU anyway, gonna Defer the CU as long as possible.

    Gonna clean install the AU on my new M.2, not the CU.
      My ComputersSystem Spec
  9.    26 Apr 2017 #9
    Join Date : Dec 2013
    Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts : 10,408
    Windows 10 IoT

    Once a PC is activated with a Digital license a hardware hash code is stored on the activation server. A fingerprint if you will of the hardware in the PC. Install the same version that the DL is for, and it will auto activate. No key needed. The linked to your Microsoft Account is just an extra feature, its not needed to activate on the same hardware. You can clean install and activate with a local account. What account you log in with doesn't matter, the hardware your installing on is what matters. If you do a skip key, and that PC doesn't have a Digital License it won't activate. Install the wrong version and the same thing will happen. If your DL is for Home and you install Pro, it won't activate. And vise versa.
    If you change some major hardware like the motherboard it will fail activation. That's where the Linked to your Microsoft Account comes in. You run the activation trouble shooter and you'll get a "I've changed some hardware on this device" option. Click that and a new hash is stored and that PC is activated. That's how it supposed to work anyway.

    From what I'm seeing, you can still activate with a Windows 7 or 8 product code. Like you could with the free upgrade. That could stop at any time though. Windows 7 OEM-SLP keys will be refused on a clean install. You have to use the OEM-COA key on the COA sticker. Windows 7 does not store a key in the BIOS. All that is there is the OEM SLIC table that has OEM info in it. There is no key stored in the SLIC table though.
      My ComputerSystem Spec
  10.    26 Apr 2017 #10
    Join Date : Mar 2017
    Posts : 5,689
    64-bit Windows 10 Pro

    Quote Originally Posted by alphanumeric View Post
    Once a PC is activated with a Digital license a hardware hash code is stored on the activation server. A fingerprint if you will of the hardware in the PC. Install the same version that the DL is for, and it will auto activate. No key needed. The linked to your Microsoft Account is just an extra feature, its not needed to activate on the same hardware. You can clean install and activate with a local account. What account you log in with doesn't matter, the hardware your installing on is what matters. If you do a skip key, and that PC doesn't have a Digital License it won't activate. Install the wrong version and the same thing will happen. If your DL is for Home and you install Pro, it won't activate. And vise versa.
    If you change some major hardware like the motherboard it will fail activation. That's where the Linked to your Microsoft Account comes in. You run the activation trouble shooter and you'll get a "I've changed some hardware on this device" option. Click that and a new hash is stored and that PC is activated. That's how it supposed to work anyway.

    From what I'm seeing, you can still activate with a Windows 7 or 8 product code. Like you could with the free upgrade. That could stop at any time though. Windows 7 OEM-SLP keys will be refused on a clean install. You have to use the OEM-COA key on the COA sticker. Windows 7 does not store a key in the BIOS. All that is there is the OEM SLIC table that has OEM info in it. There is no key stored in the SLIC table though.
    This will work even with Legacy BIOS?
      My ComputerSystem Spec

 
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