MS Activation Hell (& HP Repair Nightmare)

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  1. Posts : 13
    Windows 10
       #1

    MS Activation Hell (& HP Repair Nightmare)


    My laptop that was running Win 10 Home 1803 needed to go back to HP under extended warranty to fix several issues including a non-functioning USB-C port. I did a full disk backup first using AOMEI, then did a reset to remove all my personal data. I never guessed that HP would have to replace the motherboard three times in three months (yeah, really) to fix the USB issue. When I finally got it back in working order (and out of warranty) it was updated to 20H2 and activated. However, when I ran my disk backup to restore everything (reverting back to 1803 with all my data), Windows was no longer activated. No surprise there in retrospect, I suppose, but from what everyone says I thought itíd be relatively simple to fix. Wrong.

    I've spent hours on the phone with M$, only to get disconnected every single time before I can talk to someone who might actually know what they're doing. And I'm on wifi calling.

    HP support first told me I have to buy Windows 10 again! Now they want to send me a "reset kit" that will supposedly activate Windows but also take my PC back to its OOB state. Seriously?

    Sorry for the rant. (Actually this is the short and non-profane version of what I wrote originally.) Anyway, can anyone advise me how to get either version of Windows activated with my backup installed? Have I missed any options (other than using an M$ account)? I don't care if I go back to Home. Activating Pro, which I didn't even ask for, would be nice but isn't a priority at all.

    Windows updates are currently locked via Sledgehammer. Iíve run the Activation Troubleshooter multiple times, but it always says it canít reach a critical Windows service (error 0x80070422) and then wants me to create a Microsoft account -- which I don't want any part of.

    I really, really donít want to lose all my system and program customizations. It seems such a simple problem, made maddeningly frustrating by M$'s totally useless support.

    I've run the Windows Diagnostic Report and the LicensingDiag. Not sure if I should post them as attachments. I've also run ShowKeyPlus several times along the way.

    Iím a long-time PC user, but by no means a techie. I know just enough to be dangerous. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!
      My Computer

  2. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 21,824
    10 Home x64 (21H2) (10 Pro on 2nd pc)
       #2

    BigMac said:
    My laptop that was running Win 10 Home 1803 needed to go back to HP ... I never guessed that HP would have to replace the motherboard.... When I finally got it back ... it was updated to 20H2 and activated. However, when I ran my disk backup to restore everything (reverting back to 1803 with all my data), Windows was no longer activated.

    ...Anyway, can anyone advise me how to get either version of Windows activated with my backup installed? Have I missed any options (other than using an M$ account)? ... I don't care if I go back to Home. Activating Pro, which I didn't even ask for, would be nice but isn't a priority at all.
    Welcome to Ten Forums

    That's a sorry tale, but there might just be a happy ending.

    First some explanations. Your original motherboard would have had your W10 Home key embedded in its bios, and this would be used by the setup media to install and activate W10 Home should you ever have needed to do a clean install. A replacement board would not have any embedded key, so it seems HP had installed W10 Pro for you and activated it with a separate key. This would have gained a W10 Pro digital license for this new motherboard and stored on Microsoft's activation servers.

    However, a digital license for W10 Pro will only activate Pro, when you restored your W10 Home image it could find no digital license for Home on the activation servers so would not activate.

    The good news is that you should be able to upgrade your restored W10 Home to W10 Pro, it will then activate from this PC's existing digital license for Pro.

    To upgrade Home to Pro, simply make sure you are online (so it can query the activation servers) then change the installed key to the generic W10 Pro key. Details (including the generic Pro key) are in this tutorial (see Step 4).

    Upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro
      My Computers


  3. Posts : 39,141
    windows 10 professional version 1607 build 14393.969 64 bit
       #3

    Each time the MB was replaced by HP what testing was performed to find problems?

    Was it the HP UEFI bootable hardware diagnostics or the technician did not comment?

    Had you tested everything since the replacement?


    https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/...d-fb3fc72b6665


    If not already installed please download and install both:
    HP UEFI hardware diagnostics version 8.3.0.0
    HP Windows diagnostics version 1.7.0.0


    https://www.hp.com/us-en/campaigns/h.../pc-diags.html



    The HP website displayed new chipset drivers and BIOS as of September 2021.
    Make sure they are up to date:
    https://support.hp.com/us-en/drivers...model/16901660
      My Computer

  4. cereberus's Avatar
    Posts : 12,610
    Windows10
       #4

    Bree said:
    Welcome to Ten Forums

    That's a sorry tale, but there might just be a happy ending.

    First some explanations. Your original motherboard would have had your W10 Home key embedded in its bios, and this would be used by the setup media to install and activate W10 Home should you ever have needed to do a clean install. A replacement board would not have any embedded key, so it seems HP had installed W10 Pro for you and activated it with a separate key. This would have gained a W10 Pro digital license for this new motherboard and stored on Microsoft's activation servers.

    However, a digital license for W10 Pro will only activate Pro, when you restored your W10 Home image it could find no digital license for Home on the activation servers so would not activate.

    The good news is that you should be able to upgrade your restored W10 Home to W10 Pro, it will then activate from this PC's existing digital license for Pro.

    To upgrade Home to Pro, simply make sure you are online (so it can query the activation servers) then change the installed key to the generic W10 Pro key. Details (including the generic Pro key) are in this tutorial (see Step 4).

    Upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro
    This all depends on how the Pro licence was activated.

    As a test, I would install Pro in a dual boot vhd, and see if it activates as it should if pc has a Pro digital licence.

    However, some technicians are dodgy and activate using a volume licence key, in which case, pc would not have a digital licence.
      My Computer

  5. SIW2's Avatar
    Posts : 2,359
    trying to install win10
       #5

    Strange tale.

    A replacement board would not have any embedded key
    So what is in the bios? Is it a special one ?
      My Computer

  6. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 21,824
    10 Home x64 (21H2) (10 Pro on 2nd pc)
       #6

    SIW2 said:
    Strange tale.
    A replacement board would not have any embedded key
    So what is in the bios? Is it a special one ?

    No, initially motherboards are built without any embedded key, but with a programmable area set aside to hold one. This is separate from and independent of the bios chip.

    For each system that is to be supplied by the OEM with Windows pre-installed its unique product key is burned into the firmware on the manufacturing line. A replacement motherboard will not have had any key embedded in its firmware, nor will any PC that is ordered from the OEM without Windows installed (ie. supplied with Linux or FreeDos instead).

    Microsoft said:
    The OEM Activation 3.0 (OA 3.0) system enables original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to develop an internal inventory management system to manage the ordering and receiving of Windows product keys and the creation and reporting process for the Computer Build Report through Microsoft-hosted web services or Microsoft Digital Operations Services (MDOS).

    This content explains implementing and using the OA 3.0 tool on a manufacturing line to create a hardware association that joins a single Microsoft-issued Windows product key to a single computer.
    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/win...m-activation-3
      My Computers


  7. NavyLCDR's Avatar
    Posts : 16,557
    Windows 11 Pro
       #7

    If HP activated Pro on the computer, the solution is simple. While connected to the internet, attempt to change the product key to the generic for Pro which is VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T. If HP did actually activate Windows 10 Pro on that computer before, your Windows 10 Home will upgrade to Windows 10 Pro and activate.

    If they did not, then you will simply get an error message that says no digital license exists for that computer and nothing will happen.
      My Computer


  8. Posts : 13
    Windows 10
    Thread Starter
       #8

    Sorry!


    My apologies to all. In condensing my original write-up, I left out an important detail: The laptop had 20H2 Home activated when I got it back from HP. When I initially called MS for help after my backup had "unactivated" Windows, the tech installed Pro, but it wouldn't activate with the key he used. That's when i got disconnected.

    Sorry for the confusion!

    PS: How do I edit my original post to add this?

    - - - Updated - - -

    Bree said:
    To upgrade Home to Pro, simply make sure you are online (so it can query the activation servers) then change the installed key to the generic W10 Pro key. Details (including the generic Pro key) are in this tutorial (see Step 4).

    Upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro
    The key in that tutorial is what ShowKeyPlus currently shows as the installed key, but with an asterisk and the note "* Default key - requires a Digital License for activation". I believe this is the key the MS tech used that failed to activate Windows, as I mentioned above.

    - - - Updated - - -

    zbook said:
    Each time the MB was replaced by HP what testing was performed to find problems?

    Was it the HP UEFI bootable hardware diagnostics or the technician did not comment?

    Had you tested everything since the replacement?

    https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/...d-fb3fc72b6665

    If not already installed please download and install both:
    HP UEFI hardware diagnostics version 8.3.0.0
    HP Windows diagnostics version 1.7.0.0

    https://www.hp.com/us-en/campaigns/h.../pc-diags.html

    The HP website displayed new chipset drivers and BIOS as of September 2021.
    Make sure they are up to date:
    https://support.hp.com/us-en/drivers...model/16901660
    All I was told was that they did "extensive testing". No details whatsoever. Not sure what you mean by "have I tested everything?", but I've tried everything that my limited knowledge can grasp. As to drivers, they're all good. HP updated all of them, including the BIOS.

    I did update the two diagnostics programs as you suggested.
    Last edited by BigMac; 19 Oct 2021 at 14:41. Reason: additional info
      My Computer


  9. Posts : 39,141
    windows 10 professional version 1607 build 14393.969 64 bit
       #9

    Consider installing these hardware diagnostic software / firmware: (link in the earlier post)

    HP UEFI hardware diagnostics version 8.3.0.0
    HP Windows diagnostics version 1.7.0.0

    Then in most circumstances you can perform hardware testing.
      My Computer

  10. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 21,824
    10 Home x64 (21H2) (10 Pro on 2nd pc)
       #10

    BigMac said:
    My apologies to all. In condensing my original write-up, I left out an important detail: The laptop had 20H2 Home activated when I got it back from HP. When I initially called MS for help after my backup had "unactivated" Windows, the tech installed Pro, but it wouldn't activate with the key he used. That's when i got disconnected....

    ...what ShowKeyPlus currently shows as the installed key, but with an asterisk and the note "* Default key - requires a Digital License for activation". I believe this is the key the MS tech used that failed to activate Windows, as I mentioned above.

    OK, so HP installed W10 Home, that means that this new motherboard's hardware ID should be linked to a digital license for Home on the MS activation servers.

    Did the MS tech clean install Pro, or upgrade your restored Home to Pro? Either way it can't activate without there being an existing digital license for Pro.

    Now the real question is why your restored W10 Home image did not activate, despite this motherboard having its own digital licence for Home. The answer is probably that as the image was of an original HP install of W10 Home, then it's installed key would almost certainly have been the one embedded in the old motherboard's firmware. That key was tied to that old motherboard and can't activate Home on this new one.

    First you need to undo any changes MS made, so restore your image of W10 Home again. Check its installed key with ShowKeyPlus. If the installed key is NOT shown with an asterisk and the 'Default key' note then it would be the key from the old motherboard's firmware. You can confirm this by saving the installed key in ShowKeyPlus, then checking that key in ShowKey's 'Check Edition' page. (the Core edition means it's Home).

    MS Activation Hell (& HP Repair Nightmare)-image.png

    Change the installed key to the generic key for W10 Home and it should then be able to activate:
    YTMG3-N6DKC-DKB77-7M9GH-8HVX7

    PS: How do I edit my original post to add this?
    as a recently joined member, you've probably gone past a time limit for editing your OP, longer membership gets you more time to edit. But no matter - you've added the info here.
      My Computers


 
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