What do you mean here:
So I just bought a modified ASUS M32BF running 8.1
Did you purchase this at a retail outlet or off the web? I'm not sure what 'modified' means.
If you purchased it from a retailer - take it back - this is their problem and they should honor the x number of days to return technology products.
If you bought it off the web (ebay??) then you could contact the seller and ask for a refund. A new machine should not have boot up issues.
To answer your question directly though.
No, the activation issue on your machine is because you circumvented the upgrade. The only ways Windows 10 will activate are:
- Upgrade a qualifying OS - a seed key is used to create, encrypt, and store a Win10 key from the hardware and existing OS key.
- Purchase a Retail version of Win10 and enter the key on the packaging.
You could re-install Win8.1 using the COA key on the machine (a sticker on the bottom, side, or in the battery compartment).
You could re-install Win8.1.
Win8.x stores the key in firmware, so you shouldn't need a key to Clean install.
Then go through a proper upgrade to Win10
You'll need the install media for both Win8.1 and Win10
Win8 install media: Download Windows 8.1 Update ISO File with "Windows Installation Media Creation Tool"
Step 4. You can select write to a USB or ISO. If you select ISO, you can burn a disc or write to a USB later using a 3rd party tool 'Rufus', but it's easeist to let the Media Creation tool create the USB if that's what you're going to use.
Win10 install media: Use Media Creation Tool to create Bootable Windows 10 USB for Legacy BIOS and UEFI
Then do a clean install of Win8.1
Clean Install - Windows 8
Then upgrade that install base to Win10
Windows 10 - Upgrade Installation - Windows 10 Forums
That's a lot of work for a new machine - so I'd just send it back and get one that works. You don't know what other problems the machine might have.