Windows 10: Question about licence/activation on a VM Solved

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  1.    29 Jan 2016 #1

    Question about licence/activation on a VM


    Before Win10 released I was running a copy of the preview on a virtual machine. I was also signed in to the insider program. After release I upgraded my machine and deleted the VM. I also deleted the downloaded preview ISO.

    I'd like to set up another VM. From what I've seen, the licence doesn't allow me to do that with my upgraded (from 7) copy, and I've seen the FAQ here that, if I understand it properly, suggests that I would need to reinstall the same version of the preview that I'd originally activated. I have no idea which version that was.

    If I install a copy on the VM using the 10586 ISO I recently downloaded, will that possibly invalidate my licence? I'm assuming that the VM won't look like it's running on my physical machine, so it won't look like I've just clean installed Windows on the same hardware: if it looks like different hardware, will the activation (assuming I can't just put it off for 30 days or something) just fail, or could it revoke the real machine's licence?

    Thanks in advance.
      My ComputerSystem Spec


  2. Posts : 12,381
    Windows 10 Pro
       29 Jan 2016 #2

    Hi NJMorf, welcome to the Ten Forums.

    First the bad news, then an explanation: There's absolutely nothing¹ you can do to save your Insider activation for that deleted vm. Whatever build you will install on a new vm, you will need a valid product key to activate it. In other words you need to buy a Windows 10 license for the vm.

    All Windows computers, be it a real physical PC or a virtual machine have a unique ID and signature. When you activate Windows 10 on any machine (again: a real one or a vm), the ID and signature of that machine will be stored on Microsoft activation servers. You can reinstall Windows 10 on that same machine without entering a product key because when online, Windows contacts those servers and checks that the machine has a so called digital entitlement to be activated.

    Two screenshots to explain the above. First the latest Build 14251 on a Hyper-V virtual machine, clean installed. I had previously activated Build 11102 on this vm, let Windows Update download the build upgrade, created a Build 14251 ISO image and clean installed on top of the previous build without entering the product key. Because the vm ID and signature matched those stored by MS, the fresh installation was automatically activated:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Using the same ISO image, clean installing on a new vm, the machine gets totally new ID and signature. According to MS activation servers this machine has never been activated, therefore it will not be activated before I enter a valid product key:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Deleting the vm when you upgraded your machine is in effect the same as if you had completely dismantled a PC, poured acid over all components and brought them to trash. The machine, its ID and signature, its digital entitlement are all gone to Cyber Heaven and there's no way to restore them.

    To avoid this in the future export your virtual machines before wiping the disk and reinstalling Windows. You can also use normal system imaging tools to create a system image of your vm, reinstall Windows and your virtualization software, create a new vm making it boot from the boot disk of your chosen imaging software and restore the image.

    Kari

    ¹ = For those wanting to post something clever, I am talking about legal, valid activation methods according to the Windows 10 EULA.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  3.    29 Jan 2016 #3

    OK, I thought as much. Thanks for the advice.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  4.    29 Jan 2016 #4

    Kari said: View Post
    Hi NJMorf, welcome to the Ten Forums.

    First the bad news, then an explanation: There's absolutely nothing¹ you can do to save your Insider activation for that deleted vm. Whatever build you will install on a new vm, you will need a valid product key to activate it. In other words you need to buy a Windows 10 license for the vm.

    All Windows computers, be it a real physical PC or a virtual machine have a unique ID and signature. When you activate Windows 10 on any machine (again: a real one or a vm), the ID and signature of that machine will be stored on Microsoft activation servers. You can reinstall Windows 10 on that same machine without entering a product key because when online, Windows contacts those servers and checks that the machine has a so called digital entitlement to be activated.

    Two screenshots to explain the above. First the latest Build 14251 on a Hyper-V virtual machine, clean installed. I had previously activated Build 11102 on this vm, let Windows Update download the build upgrade, created a Build 14251 ISO image and clean installed on top of the previous build without entering the product key. Because the vm ID and signature matched those stored by MS, the fresh installation was automatically activated:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2016_01_29_11_52_511.png 
Views:	4 
Size:	63.3 KB 
ID:	61373

    Using the same ISO image, clean installing on a new vm, the machine gets totally new ID and signature. According to MS activation servers this machine has never been activated, therefore it will not be activated before I enter a valid product key:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2016_01_29_12_04_252.png 
Views:	5 
Size:	88.8 KB 
ID:	61375

    Deleting the vm when you upgraded your machine is in effect the same as if you had completely dismantled a PC, poured acid over all components and brought them to trash. The machine, its ID and signature, its digital entitlement are all gone to Cyber Heaven and there's no way to restore them.

    To avoid this in the future export your virtual machines before wiping the disk and reinstalling Windows. You can also use normal system imaging tools to create a system image of your vm, reinstall Windows and your virtualization software, create a new vm making it boot from the boot disk of your chosen imaging software and restore the image.

    Kari

    ¹ = For those wanting to post something clever, I am talking about legal, valid activation methods according to the Windows 10 EULA.
    Hi there,

    Do you know, off the top of your head, if you create a VM on one pc, and you back it up, can you restore it to a different pc (deleting it on old of course).

    I can see no reason why this should not work, and so long as you only have one copy, it would be legal as well?

    I plan to try it anyway, but do not wish to do anything dodgy.

    Cheers.
      My ComputerSystem Spec


  5. Posts : 12,381
    Windows 10 Pro
       29 Jan 2016 #5

    cereberus said: View Post
    Do you know, off the top of your head, if you create a VM on one pc, and you back it up, can you restore it to a different pc (deleting it on old of course).
    Two answers: Yes and Maybe.

    Yes: Using any of the most common imaging programs if you create an image of a vm with an activated Windows, it will be activated when restored. If you restore it to a vm running on the same or identical host PC using the same virtualization software, the vm sees the emulated hardware as identical and the image can be restored without any issues with drivers and such.

    Maybe: If you image a Windows vm running on Hyper-V on PC-1, then restore the image on a VirtualBox or VMWare vm on PC-2 with different hardware, there might be some driver issues but usually Windows, especially Windows 10 is quite good to adapt to changed hardware (even changed emulated, virtual hardware).

    Kari
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  6.    30 Jan 2016 #6

    Kari said: View Post
    Two answers: Yes and Maybe.

    Yes: Using any of the most common imaging programs if you create an image of a vm with an activated Windows, it will be activated when restored. If you restore it to a vm running on the same or identical host PC using the same virtualization software, the vm sees the emulated hardware as identical and the image can be restored without any issues with drivers and such.

    Maybe: If you image a Windows vm running on Hyper-V on PC-1, then restore the image on a VirtualBox or VMWare vm on PC-2 with different hardware, there might be some driver issues but usually Windows, especially Windows 10 is quite good to adapt to changed hardware (even changed emulated, virtual hardware).

    Kari
    Thanks for that.

    Not sure it is necessary to use Macrium on a vmware session, as you can just copy the whole vmx file.

    Not sure how the drivers work, but I thought it was the vmware software that interfaces with the host os/drivers. How does the internal windows 10 version know anything about the outside world eg my Internet connection just shows like an ethernet connection in the virtual drive even though the host OS uses wifi (rhetorical question I am giving it a go right now to try it)?
      My ComputerSystem Spec


  7. Posts : 12,381
    Windows 10 Pro
       30 Jan 2016 #7

    cereberus said: View Post
    Not sure it is necessary to use Macrium on a vmware session, as you can just copy the whole vmx file.
    it's of course up to you. As I mentioned the alternatives are to export the vm as in copying the vmx file or using the virtualization software's Export feature, or a system image.

    Personally I prefer imaging.


    cereberus said: View Post
    Not sure how the drivers work, but I thought it was the vmware software that interfaces with the host os/drivers. How does the internal windows 10 version know anything about the outside world eg my Internet connection just shows like an ethernet connection in the virtual drive even though the host OS uses wifi (rhetorical question I am giving it a go right now to try it)?
    I do not know VMWare, being a Hyper-V user & fan. Hyper-V virtual machines use a mix of emulated virtual devices and physical devices on host, therefore a small chance exists that when exporting to different host hardware some drivers need to be updated.

    Here an example, the Device Manager showing the processors of a Hyper-V vm, real physical processors of the host:

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	61568
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  8.    30 Jan 2016 #8

    Kari said: View Post
    it's of course up to you. As I mentioned the alternatives are to export the vm as in copying the vmx file or using the virtualization software's Export feature, or a system image.

    Personally I prefer imaging.




    I do not know VMWare, being a Hyper-V user & fan. Hyper-V virtual machines use a mix of emulated virtual devices and physical devices on host, therefore a small chance exists that when exporting to different host hardware some drivers need to be updated.

    Here an example, the Device Manager showing the processors of a Hyper-V vm, real physical processors of the host:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2016_01_30_16_10_021.png 
Views:	18 
Size:	106.0 KB 
ID:	61568
    Thanks very much. I'll report back on my trial.
      My ComputerSystem Spec


  9. Posts : 1,750
    Windows 10 x86 14383 Insider Pro and Core 10240
       31 Jan 2016 #9

    Now here's the good news: Microsoft has fully legitimate virtual Windows 10 machines available free for download here:
    Virtual Machine (VM), Windows Virtual PC BrowserStack : Microsoft Edge Dev

    They are ready-made Enterprise versions, and therefore to all intents and purposes the same as Professional from the user point of view. If you make snapshots of your VM, you can keep reverting to them perpetually, so that you don't have to start from scratch when the evaluation period runs out.

    Running Windows 10 builds without activation does not seem to result in a time-bomb after any predefined period, especially since the insider builds are time limited anyway. If you want the fun of the insider upgrade pathway, this may be ok for you.

    It may not be strictly legit, but it may be possible to activate an installation (build 10565 or later) on the virtual machine using a key from one of the following types of keys you may have in your possession:
    Next big Windows 10 release will ease activation hassles - Page 3 - Windows 10 Forums

    I have used an unused key from the underside of a defunct netbook (Windows 7 starter) to successfully activate a Windows 10 core installation on a totally different machine, and an unused Windows 8 MCE key for a Pro activation - the origin of the key does not seem to matter on what hardware the installation is on.

    You can either enter the key when asked during setup - if it is accepted, you are good to go - or you can try to activate post-install, which could be more uncertain, after you have spent time installing.

    If you do get an activation, remember to run gatherosstate.exe to obtain a genuine ticket.xml file for that Virtual Machine host, and keep it safe for future use. Clean Install Windows 10 Directly without having to Upgrade First - Windows 10 Forums

    I have cloned real machine installations to different partitions and native booting VHDs on the same test machine, and none have lost activation. Microsoft does not yet seem to enforce the prohibition of installation on multiple devices for Windows 10 yet.

    I've yet to try with a windows 10 VHD VM - I don't really have good enough hardware, or perhaps more correctly, enough good hardware!
      My ComputersSystem Spec

  10.    01 Feb 2016 #10

    Looks good, thanks very much for the tip.
      My ComputerSystem Spec


 
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