When installing Windows 10, the digital license associates itself with your PC’s hardware. So, if you make significant changes, such as replacing your motherboard, Windows will no longer find a license that matches your PC.
Here’s how to prepare Windows 10 for activation before you make any significant hardware changes. If you didn't prepare before the hardware change, we also provide the steps to help you reactivate Windows 10.
Prepare your Windows 10 device for a hardware change
Confirm that Windows 10 is already activated
Select the Start button, and then select Settings > Update & Security > Activation. If not activated, complete the activation process. If you experience an error while activating, see Get help with Windows activation errors.
Associate your Windows 10 license with your Microsoft account
In Windows 10 (Version 1607 or later), link your Microsoft account to the Windows 10 digital license on your device. Then you can reactivate Windows using the Activation troubleshooter if you make a significant hardware change later.
First, find out if your Microsoft account (What is a Microsoft account?) is linked to your Windows 10 digital license.
Select the Start button, and then select Settings > Update & Security > Activation.
If your Microsoft account is linked, you’ll see this message on the Activation page:
Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.
If you don’t see that message, you’re not linked. Instead you’ll have an option to Add an account. Here’s how:
- Sign in as an administrator to add your Microsoft account. To confirm if you're using an administrator account, select the Start button, and then select Settings > Accounts > Your Info. Under your name, you’ll see Administrator. If you’re not an administrator, see Create a local user or administrator account.
- Confirm that the administrator account is also your Microsoft account by checking to see if an email address is displayed above Administrator. If an email address is displayed, this is a Microsoft account. If not, you’re logged in using a local account. If you don’t yet have a Microsoft account, see How to create a new Microsoft account.
- Once you confirm that you’re an administrator and using your Microsoft account, go back to the Activation page, select Add an account, enter your Microsoft account and password, and then select Sign in.
After your Microsoft account has been added, on the Activation page you’ll see Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.
Confirm your Windows 10 version
Review See which version of Windows 10 you have to find your version of Windows 10 (such as Windows 10 Professional), which appears under the Windows Specifications. Be sure your digital license matches your Windows version following a hardware change.
Get your product key
If you used a product key to get to Windows 10, then you’ll need that key again after the hardware change. To find out how to locate your key, see Find your Windows product key. For more info about product keys and digital licenses, see Activation in Windows 10.
How to reactivate Windows 10 after a hardware change
Connect your PC to the Internet.
Run the Activation troubleshooter
If you previously linked your Microsoft account to your digital license, you can use the Activation troubleshooter to help reactivate Windows after a significant hardware change.
This troubleshooter will only be available if your copy of Windows 10 (version 1607 or later) isn’t activated. See Using the Activation troubleshooter. Also, the Activation troubleshooter helps you reactivate Windows only after you add your Microsoft account and link your account to the digital license on your device.
To use the Activation troubleshooter:
Sign in as an Administrator. For more info, see Create a local user or administrator account in Windows 10.
Select the Start button, then select Settings > Update & Security > Activation, and then select Troubleshoot.
The troubleshooter will show a message that Windows can’t be activated on your device. Select I changed hardware on this device recently, and then select Next.
Enter your connected Microsoft account and password, and then select Sign in. The troubleshooter will only work with the connected Microsoft account.
From the list of devices that are linked to your Microsoft account, select the device that you’re currently using, then select the check box next to This is the device I’m using right now, and then select Activate.
If you don’t see the device you’re using in the list of results, make sure that you signed in using the same Microsoft account you linked to the Windows 10 digital license on your device. Once you confirm that you’re signed in using the same Microsoft account, here are some additional reasons why you can’t reactivate Windows:
- The edition of Windows on your device doesn’t match the edition of Windows you linked to your digital license.
- The type of device you’re activating doesn’t match the type of device you linked to your digital license.
- Windows was never activated on your device.
- Your device has more than one administrator, and a different administrator already reactivated Windows on your device.
- Your device is managed by your organization and the option to reactivate Windows isn’t available. For help with reactivation, contact your organization’s support person.
Enter your product key
If Windows 10 wasn't pre-installed on your PC when purchased, and you used a product key to upgrade to Windows 10, then you'll need that same product key after the hardware change.
Select the Start button, then select Settings > Update & Security > Activation > Change Product Key, and then enter the product key.
If you installed a retail copy of Windows 10 on your PC using a Windows 10 product key, and then made hardware changes, follow this same process using your Windows 10 product key.
If you continue to experience errors when activating, see Get help with Windows activation errors and locate the error you're getting.
If you don’t have a product key or digital license
If you don't have a product key or digital license, you can purchase a Windows 10 license after installation finishes. Select the Start button, then select Settings > Update & Security > Activation. Then select Go to Store to go to the Microsoft Store, where you can purchase a Windows 10 license.
If you need additional help reactivating Windows on your device, contact customer support.