Windows 10 makes you reinstall Windows 7 when you upgrade your motherboard

A funny thing happened to me while upgrading my PC the other day. Having swapped out my motherboard, CPU and RAM for a Skylake compatible MSI Z170A Gaming M5 board, Core i7 6700K CPU and some DDR4 RAM, I booted up to find my copy of Windows 10 was no longer activated. That in itself isn't unusual - however, Microsoft's suggested solution to it is: reinstall Windows 7, then reinstall Windows 10 again. 

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If you've ever upgraded your chipset before, you'll come to expect your copy of Windows to require re-activation when you next boot it up. It's an almost metaphysical question: what are the components that make it your PC, and when does it become a new PC entirely?

Chucking some new components into the same old case might logically seem like adding upgrades to the same machine, but Windows sees it differently. To Windows, the motherboard is the heart and soul of a PC. When it detects a new motherboard, it has no way of knowing someone didn't just plug the disk drive it's installed on into someone else's machine entirely, and since the license was tied to the motherboard it was originally installed on, your copy of Windows is no longer activated. 

This is worrying at first, but previous versions of Windows had easy-ish solutions (which you figure out pretty quickly if you're in the business of testing PC hardware and thus swapping components out constantly). In Windows 7's case, once you used up all your activations it was a case of contacting Microsoft support, explaining that you replaced the motherboard, and waiting for them to send you a new activation key. Simple.

However, with Windows 10 things get a lot trickier. If you upgraded for free using your copy of Windows 7/8 (as most Windows 10 users did) you have what Microsoft call a 'Digital Entitlement,' which works differently to previous Windows licenses. 

Microsoft's official line on what to do after a hardware change of this magnitude isn't encouraging: basically, you have to purchase a new license. In reality, the company's a bit more accomodating, but the solution still seems needlessly convoluted.

Having installed a new mobo for testing, I contacted Microsoft support via text chat and explained the situation. After a few minutes of discussion, he told me I'd have to first reinstall Windows 7, then upgrade to Windows 10 all over again, in order to activate this new hardware configuration. 

He apologised profusely for what we both knew would be an incredibly lengthy procedure in the name of telling Windows, "it's okay, this guys's legit."

It's mixed news. On one hand, I'm relieved I don't have to pay for a new license every time I sneeze in the vicinity of my PC. On the other: that's a lot of hard-disk thrashing and loading bars just to make a little message in the bottom right of my screen disappear. 

If you're about to embark on an upgrade to Intel's new Skylake architecture and you're currently running a free upgrade version of Windows 10, be prepared. And as for that MSI Z170A Gaming M5 motherboard whose introduction to my machine prompted all of this? I'll be posting a review shortly.

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MerseyMal avatarnu1mlock avatarBradShort avatarFattox avatarDarksx avatarSavageCore avatar+5
MerseyMal Avatar
66
2 Years ago

AFAIK the big update due next month allows you to activate Windows 10 with a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Product Key. Hopefully this will make the above easier too.

4
nu1mlock Avatar
747
2 Years ago

Correct, the Fall Update (which is due out in November) will indeed let you use your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 key to activate Windows 10. If one is in need of changing motherboard right now, then just keep using the non-activated Windows until then.

1
Fattox Avatar
464
2 Years ago

Really? I actually wondered why they didn't do this exact thing from the very start.

We don't have MAK keys where i work (small company), so the prospect of having to do the "upgrade/activate" thing for every new machine was potentially soul-destroying.

1
Belimawr Avatar
1241
2 Years ago

it's actually why I held off on the Win 10 upgrade as I knew I was going to change my motherboard, so I just left 7, got the new board nuked 7 then went straight into the win 10 upgrade so I only had to do it once.

but there are programs out there that can pull your win 10 cd key, then chances are you will be able to reactivate fairly easily, assuming they haven't purposely made the win 10 keys single use.

1
skylordjason Avatar
1
2 Years ago

You can activate your system with Digital Entitlement on the new builds. I flip flopped my hard drive to different computers to test. It asked for activation but after another restart and verifying my identity Windows activated.

1
AnAuldWolf Avatar
868
2 Years ago

That's what they say. Will they actually come through on this, though? And what about the keys that will be deemed 'invalid' because 'reasons?' Blech.

1
BradShort Avatar
5
2 Years ago

Seems a ball ache this!

1
Aever Avatar
636
2 Years ago

What type of license do you have? Retail or OEM?

1
AnAuldWolf Avatar
868
2 Years ago

Cthulhu the Operating System. I'm glad I've avoided this thing like the plague. All I'm reading is different kinds of horror stories about back doors, intentional security flaws, spying, system-killing bugs, and so much worse. I think I may end up sticking with Windows 7 until 2020, hopefully by which time a better choice will have presented itself.

And yep, I've been keeping up with the virulent computer cancer that Microsoft's been streaming down the tubes to Windows Update. I've had WU on manual for years, now, and I tend to hold off on every new non-security update until others have found out what it is and what it does.

Conversely, Microsoft has released more system breaking Windows 7 updates in the last year than they have in the history of the lifetime of the OS. I don't know what's going on at Microsoft, I really don't...

But any trust I had in them has long, long since dwindled.

1
SavageCore Avatar
4
2 Years ago

Once you've upgraded to 10 run Magical Jelly Bean to get your Win 10 key. In the future install from ISO downloaded from www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-recovery using your Win 10 key.

0
Flappers Avatar
302
2 Years ago

This does not work. When you upgrade to Windows 10, your license key is gone, and replaced with a generic key. The generic key then activates with your hardware ID - hence when you replace mobo and try to re-install, it's no longer activated.

If you use these key finders, all you will get is a generic license key that cannot be used by itself to activate Windows 10.

If you want to be licensed properly in order to replace certain parts of hardware, buy a retail license key

2
AnAuldWolf Avatar
868
2 Years ago

So the long and short of this is the the 'FREE' Windows 10 upgrade is only free until once piece of hardware fails? Does this mean that if a system has two hard drives and one of them fail, you have to reinstall Windows 7 or buy a retail key? That's grotesque.

0
Flappers Avatar
302
2 Years ago

You get what you pay for.

OEM licensing has always been this way. If you replace certain hardware while using the cheaper OEM license, then you will need to buy a new license.

You cannot complain about this, when you got it for free... If you want an OS that allows you to re-install numerous times on different hardware, then either go for Linux or buy a Retail Windows key.

Jeez... give people a million pounds and they'll demand a million and one.

This is the first time that Microsoft have practically given away their new OS for free. And you expected an all thrills, free Retail key from it? Don't be ridiculous.

What is grotesque is people assuming that you get something for free and then expecting everything else along with it.

And for confirmation, since people don't want to do their own research...

You can replace - GPU, RAM, Secondary hard drive/ SSD, fans, CDROM, Floppy drives, external disc drives and memory card readers without buying a new license.

What you will need to buy a new license on is a replacement motherboard or a replacement drive which your OS is installed on.

1
Darksx Avatar
116
2 Years ago

Win 10, nothing more then an over bloated POS OS. Stick with Win 7 its a far better OS and looks and feels 10 times better then that color faded feature missing piece of crap OS.

-4