"The product key doesn't work" error when you try to activate Windows 8.1 on a Surface Pro 3 or Surface 3

Symptoms

When you try to activate Windows 8.1 Professional on a Surface Pro 3 or Surface 3 device, you receive the following message when you try to activate the system:

The product key doesn't work. You might need to get in touch with the store or company you bought Windows from, or you can buy a new key from Microsoft.

The Error Details link displays error code 0xc004c0033. This code indicates that the activation server determined that the specified product key is blocked.

If you run the Cscript.exe %windir%\system32\slmgr.vbs /dlv command, you get the following result:

License Status: Notification
0xC004f009

Cause

This problem occurs because the device was shipped by having Windows 10 Professional preinstalled, and the product key in the image doesn't recognize the Windows 10 product key that is embedded in the firmware.

Resolution

To fix this problem and activate Windows 8.1, install the following hotfix:

3058168 Update: activate Windows 10 from Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2012 R2 KMS hosts

Notes

  • This process does not work for Surface 3 devices that ship with Windows 10 Home edition installed if you try to install and activate Windows 8.1 Professional. This process works only for Windows 8.1 Home edition. To install Windows 10 Professional, you must purchase the full version of Windows 10 Professional that has its own product key.
  • If you select to either "Refresh your PC without affecting your files" or "Remove everything and reinstall Windows" at a later date, you must reinstall KB 3058168 and use the following workaround in order to reactivate the system:

    1. Open an elevated Command Prompt window.
    2. Run the following command:

      cscript.exe %windir%\system32\slmgr.vbs /rearm 
    3. Restart the computer.
    4. Run the following command:

      cscript.exe %windir%\system32\slmgr.vbs /ato 

Status

Microsoft is researching this problem and will post more information in this article when the information becomes available.
Properties

Article ID: 3120699 - Last Review: May 24, 2016 - Revision: 1

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