Windows 10: Windows 10 Activation and cloning HDD

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  1.    27 Aug 2015 #1

    Windows 10 Activation and cloning HDD

    We have purchased 14 HP EliteBook 820 laptops (which come with Windows 8.1 downgraded to Win 7 preinstalled) to rollout within our company and my usual method for laptop rollouts is to setup one with our corporate apps etc, run SysPrep and then clone the hard drive to the rest of the laptops.

    This has worked fine in the past with Windows XP and 7 but with the introduction of the free upgrade to Windows 10 which we want to take advantage of it has produced a problem.

    I have setup one laptop and gone through the free upgrade to Windows 10 then installed our required apps etc, run SysPrep, shutdown and cloned the hard drive to another hard drive to go into the next laptop (same model) to rollout.

    Windows is then unable to activate giving error code 0xC004C003 meaning the key is blocked.

    Because the laptops have OEM Windows licences pre-installed this means that I don't have a product key sticker; it is embedded in the BIOS.

    I am assuming that at the point of upgrade the Microsoft servers check the key and add it to their list of 'OK' keys to allow the upgrade.

    When the cloned hard drive is placed into another laptop the key embedded into the BIOS is not OK and Windows does not activate? I've tried the slui program to remove the licence but that just removes the key and asks for a new one. I have also tried doing the clone of a clean install after upgrading. I have tried speaking to HP and Microsoft but each one said speak to the other.

    Currently my only option is to setup one laptop with the OEM Win 7 or 8.1, install our Apps, do the SysPrep and cloning and then upgrade each one individually at the end of the OOBE experience. This will be more time consuming when rolling out and rebuilding.

    I'm sure the official line will be purchase a volume licence for Windows 10 but why should we? - it's a free upgrade!

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  2.    27 Aug 2015 #2

    I'm sure the official line will be purchase a volume licence for Windows 10 but why should we? - it's a free upgrade!
    That's a matter of interpretation. Certainly, the Consumer versions are free upgrades, but the Enterprise version (which is the real VL version) is not.

    You're probably going to have to upgrade each machine individually.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  3.    27 Aug 2015 #3

    MrUnderhill said: View Post
    I am assuming that at the point of upgrade the Microsoft servers check the key and add it to their list of 'OK' keys to allow the upgrade.
    That would be an erroneous assumption.

    What you are going to have to do is upgrade each laptop from within a previously activated Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 installed on it. Once it is upgraded and the Windows 10 is activated on it, then you should be able to use cloning to put a new Windows 10 on it which should then activate.

    Windows 10 will activate upon one of three conditions:

    1. It is an in place upgrade from a currently activated Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. Windows 10 will read the previous license information from the previous OS and use that to both activate Windows 10 and push that hardware configuration information onto Microsoft activation servers for future use.

    2. A valid Windows 10 Retail, OEM or other product key is provided (not the generic key generated from an upgrade). Windows 10 will use the valid product key to both activate Windows 10 and push that hardware configuration information onto Microsoft activation servers for future use.

    3. If there is no upgrade and no product key is provided (such as a clean install onto a blank hard drive), Windows 10 will calculate the unique hardware configure and look on Microsoft activation servers to see if the hardware configure was previously pushed by situation 1 or 2 above. If it finds that Windows 10 was previously activated on that unique hardware configuration, then it will activate based upon that - without any MS account ever being used to log on.

    4. If it doesn't find that unique hardware configuration then it will not activate, no matter how many users log onto it with the Microsoft accounts until a product key is provided to create situation 2 above.

    Even though two computers may have the exact same hardware (make and model) there will be several serial numbers for the motherboard, CPU, and LAN MAC addresses that will be unique. Those are a large part of what generates the unique hardware ID used for activation.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  4.    23 Sep 2015 #4

    same here - update

    I have the same issue here, only I'm adding another complication, i'm upgrading each PC with an SSD.

    I have 10 x HP Pro 400 Desktops with a standard 250Gb HD and Win 8.1 Pro downgraded to Win 7 Pro.
    I have a Kingston SSD 240Gb for each.

    Here are my steps:

    - Clone HD to SSD using Kingston CD with a software provided
    - Setup my machine with Win7 Pro and install all my programs
    - Upgrade to Win 10 Pro
    - Use "EaseUS DiskCopy" to make a copy of the SSD to a new one
    - Enter the new SSD into a fresh PC (instead of it's HD)
    - Change name / iP / add it to domain.
    - Windows 10 Pro isn't activated!

    Did you find a solution? Do you clone the Win 7 and upgrade them individually to 10?
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  5.    23 Sep 2015 #5

    The free Win10 Upgrade is activated as a byproduct of performing the in-place Upgrade. That stores hardware hash information on the MS activation servers.

    Cloning the RESULTS of that upgrade from one drive to another completely bypasses the upgrade process -- and as a result -- no activation gets done, or will get done.

    The "solution" was already presented by NavyLCDR in post #3 -- upgrade each machine individually.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  6.    23 Sep 2015 #6

    Mark Phelps said: View Post
    The "solution" was already presented by NavyLCDR in post #3 -- upgrade each machine individually.
    and after each is upgraded individually, then the clone image should be able to be used to overwrite the upgrade with the desired software.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  7.    24 Sep 2015 #7

    I think that what people proposed you so far should work: On each PC, run a real upgrade, make sure that the PC shows that it is activated and after that replace the stuff with your system image. I think this will work, but it is not really elegant.

    You might be faster, if you use the gatherosstate.exe, which comes with the Windows 10 DVD. When some time ago I proposed using this tool to a user, Brink accused me of trolling; I would do strange things with activation and whoo. However, in the meantime, Brink himself has written a Tutorial on how to use gatherosstate.exe: Clean Install Windows 10 Directly without having to Upgrade First - Windows 10 Forums
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  8.    02 Oct 2015 #8

    Hi I have the the same problem a the original poster.

    I've followed the excellent guide here to the letter but Windows no longer activates on the other machines. All 23 of which are identical.

    I finally it the bullet and phoned Microsoft to be told the machines required a retail licence to activate. The original laptop was activated via its own OEM DVD and upgraded to Windows 10 64bit via the MS icon. I cloned the original drive and put them in the new laptops and the activation fails.

    None of the steps in this guide seem to work t give the activation.

    I've not entered a product key as they are all generic now for windows 10.

    Is it because MS are using the hardware hash as teh "key" now. Whilst they are identical laptops the hardware will have different serial numbers!
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  9. Posts : 4
    Windows 10 Pro x64
       04 Oct 2015 #9

    My experience si exactly the opposite:
    I had 2 DELL Vostro 1710 laptops. The first one was originally installed with Windows XP and upgraded to Windows 8.1 last year, the other one was still on Windows XP. There were some major hardware differences between both machines: The latter only had Intel integrated graphics, the first one had a discrete nVidia graphics controller, faster CPU, more memory, bigger drive.

    I ran the Windows 10 upgrade on the first machine. Went fine.
    To win time, I cloned the newly upgraded Windows 10 drive (with HD Clone) and used the cloned second drive in the second machine.
    Windows 10 installed newly detected peripherals as expected and there was no need for activation!
    I have been able to run Windows Updates, use Windows Defender, well everthing for a month now.

    Detail: These machines date from 2009 and don't have an UEFI BIOS which is perhaps something that makes the difference?
      My ComputerSystem Spec

  10.    04 Oct 2015 #10

    Frutchy, I think what you did is kind of dangerous:

    If both PCs have the same motherboard (make and model), then Windows 10 might think that you had done an upgrade of the hardware and so it would activate again. With a different motherboard, it should no longer activate as Microsoft in most countries of the world binds the licence to one certain PC where the motherboard is the deciding factor.
    That given, if the motherboards are different, I would expect that the copied Windows 10 might lose activation once it checks, if the hardware has been changed.

    Apart from that there is another problem:

    You are now using one Windows licence on two different PCs. If your licence does not allow you to use it on different PCs at the same time (the "Familiy Pack" of Windows 7 e.g. allows usage on three systems at the same time), if your licence does not allow that, then I would expect that one day Microsoft will complain that you would be violating the licence terms. I don't know what Microsoft does in such cases; in the worst case they could block the Windows key - however, like I said, I don't know if they actually do.
    I see that you have two licences and that you can also use them on two PCs, but currently you are using one licence on two.

    I don't know if there is a way to change the basic licence of the copied system so that it is correctly based on the now unused Windows licence of the second machine.
      My ComputerSystem Spec

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