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How is Windows 10 Activated when you upgrade from Windows 7

When Microsoft announced a free upgrade for all users who have a valid license for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, everybody had just one question—How is Microsoft activating the Windows 10 installation without a product key? While you can still upgrade for free, let’s learn how Windows 10 is activated when you upgrade from Windows 7.

Windows 10 Activation

How is Windows 10 Activated when you upgrade from Windows 7/8/8.1

The most significant change Microsoft has made when it comes to activation is linking the key with the Microsoft account. It is almost compulsory to use a Microsoft account for the general consumer. When you do that, the activation is tied with Microsoft account and machine unique key. The machine key is generated based on the hardware. As long as there is no significant change in the configuration, it will stay active.

When Upgrading Windows 7or Windows 8.1, if you have a valid key, then it will be used to activate Windows 10. The method still works, and if you are upgrading because the End of Support is near, use the old key to validate, and use an account that you use most of the time. Do note; If you try to install Windows 10 directly (Clean Install) without following the upgrade process, it will not activate.

It would be best if you did it at least once, and the best way is to use the ISO, and then choose “Keep None” when the option shows up for files. It will create a new license certificate, and install Windows 10 clean for the computer. If you are prompted to enter the product key during installation, skip it. The activation is later linked to the Microsoft Account with which you sign in. Post this; you will never have to enter Windows 10 license key.

How does the change in hardware effects?

If you change anything, Microsoft gives you a prompt saying, “Windows 10 not activated,” If that happens to read our detailed post on how to reactivate Windows 10 after changing hardware.

Changes like hard disk replacement or change in the graphics card usually don’t trigger any activation issues. However, if it happens, you can run the internal troubleshooter or call Microsoft support to reactivate Windows. However, be aware that if you change the Motherboard of your computer, you will have to buy a new key. The license key is typically one machine, and motherboard being a significant component, there is no way out.

Related: Upgrade the local account to a Microsoft account.

A die-hard fan of Windows, PC Gaming, and Xbox. He is a seasoned content writer with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He is a specialist in writing about Windows, software reviews, troubleshooting Windows, and automation.


  1. So, that is an issue, If I have a Retail copy of Windows 7/8, this license allows me to move it to machine to machine as long as I remove it from the old machine. This was confirmed from Microsoft HOW THIS WORKS on Windows 10 and said again by Microsoft MVPs

    With out a key, how am I to move my Windows 10 to a new computer ? Do I need to re-install 7 (the licensee I used to upgrade) with the old key, activate it and then upgrade again ? What happens after the year window happens will this still work ?

    WIndows XP/Vista/7/8 was clear on this, You had a Key, your key said what it was, OEM your stuck on that PC, Retail, MSDN, Student copies fell into the retail line where you can move it machine to machine. Windows 10 is a mess on this aspect.

    Wish MS would get their crap together on this subject and be 100% clear on this. I used a RETAIL copy of 7 for my upgrade, if I want to move it how do I ?


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