Windows 10 was an update to the operating systems of most non-Apple/Macintosh computers that Microsoft released in 2015. It had significant issues and caused a lot of confusion. One particular area that was especially problematic was how to upgrade a computer running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 operating system. Since software upgrades are usually available at reduced rates (or for free) to customers running older versions of the program, it’s necessary for users to input an identification marker to activate the upgrade upon installation.
Free Upgrades for Licensed Users of Windows 7 or 8.1
The license verifies that your copy of Windows is genuine and hasn’t been used on more devices than Microsoft’s Software License Terms allow. Depending on how you acquired your copy of Windows 10, activation requires either a digital license or a 25-character product key. If you upgraded to Windows 10 from a PC running a genuine and activated copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 before July 29, 2016, your PC received what Microsoft calls a “digital entitlement.” This meant that Microsoft basically made a note in its records that your particular PC is eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10 and for updates going forward.
If you received a digital entitlement, you can install Windows 10 as many times as you’d like to on that same computer. However, you can’t install it on a different computer, i.e., you can’t upgrade your hardware at the same time you upgrade your software (at least not for free). When you attempt to install Windows 10 using your Microsoft account, your computer should automatically recognize your system and authorize the upgrade. If this is the case, under Settings > Upgrade & security > Activation, you’ll now see “Windows 10 on this device is activated with a digital entitlement.” If the upgrade asks for a product key, enter your Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 product key; it should activate the new system properly.
How to Reinstall Windows 10 After a Hardware Change
If you upgraded to Windows 10 on your device, you can reinstall it on the same computer system for the life of that device but cannot transfer the license to another device. Retail versions of Windows were transferable to other hardware, provided that you remove it from the old hardware; that is, you could use your copy of Windows 7 on a new laptop as long as you deactivated it on your old machine. This does not work with digital entitlements of Windows 10. If you were running an old version of Windows and need to replace your computer hardware, your entitlement will not allow you to upgrade to Windows 10 on your new device; you will need to purchase a new license.
But what if you had to replace just some of the hardware in your original computer (like a motherboard)? Most of the time, you can do a clean reinstall and the operating system will be activated with the license it was using prior to the hardware replacement. Once the install is complete the machine should see the same hardware configuration you had prior and activate with the digital entitlement tied to your Microsoft account. If the activation fails, go to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and you’ll see a “Troubleshoot” option. Click that option and you will be able to login with the Microsoft account you had previously associated the Windows 10 Digital Entitlement with, tell Microsoft you recently changed hardware, and pick the license from the list of devices you have activated. Microsoft Windows technical support has helpful instructions and troubleshooting tips on its website for this and other Windows 10 upgrade issues. Before replacing your hardware, if possible, link your Microsoft account to the Windows 10 digital license on your device. This can help you reactivate Windows using the Activation troubleshooter if you make a significant hardware change. If you need additional help reactivating Windows on your device, contact customer support.
Need a New Retail Copy of Windows 10?
If you didn’t upgrade your Windows 7 or 8.1 operating system before June 29, 2016, you missed the deadline to receive a digital entitlement for a free upgrade. A new license for Windows 10 costs about $119 for the basic version or about $199 for Windows 10 Pro. Many new computer systems and Windows-based devices come with Windows 10 Preinstalled.
Dymin Systems can help you with every part of the Windows 10 installation process. Whether you want to upgrade your system by purchasing a new computer or hardware parts, purchase additional copies of Windows 10 or other software, or get help troubleshooting and installing Windows 10 (or any other program) on your systems, contact us. Our Urbandale showroom has a wide selection of new and refurbished computer systems and certified parts, along with a professional staff of trained IT professionals to help you select and install the right components for you. We also do both in-store and in-home consultations and IT support—contact us today to schedule an appointment.