A closer look at the Windows 10 Activation Troubleshooter

Dave W. Shanahan

Windows 10, Activation Troubleshooter, Microsoft

In Windows Insider Preview build 14371, Dona Sarkar and her Microsoft team introduced a new feature called Activation Troubleshooter for Windows 10. Activation Troubleshooter makes it easier to fix activation issues caused by Windows 10 installations.

To access the Activation Troubleshooter, you need to go to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and select Troubleshoot. Including Activation Troubleshooter on Windows 10 was based on user feedback by Windows Insiders that complained of activation issues on some devices after replacing hardware components, such as replacing the motherboard or hard drive.

Windows 10 Activation Troubleshooter
Windows 10 Activation Troubleshooter

The Activation Troubleshooter will be available officially as part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update coming next month and is currently available for Windows Insiders with the new Preview build 14371.

Sarkar found that in some installations, users would have trouble using Windows 10 on their devices:

“For example – if your device has a digital license (formerly called “digital entitlement”) for Windows 10 Pro from a previously installed activated Windows 10 build but you accidentally re-installed Windows 10 Home on such a device, the troubleshooter will automatically guide you through upgrading to Windows 10 Pro and activate Windows.”

Sarkar and her Microsoft team decided that after looking at Windows Insider feedback, they would allow users to link their Windows 10 activation digital license to their Microsoft account (MSA). If Windows 10 users already use their MSA to log into their activated Windows 10 Home or Pro device, their MSA will be automatically connected to the Windows 10 digital license.Using the Windows Refresh Tool to clean install Windows 10 will not help your device

Using the Windows 10 Activation Troubleshooter will only work on Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro editions, and there will be a limited number of times that you can re-activate your digital license; although Microsoft does not indicate the maximum number of times.

Microsoft also indicates that there will be a few cases where users will not be able to re-activate Windows 10 at all. In these cases, Windows 10 will not re-activate because the “type of device you’re activating doesn’t match the type of device you linked to your digital license.” Microsoft does not go into details to what degree a device would have to deviate, but if you change out most of the hardware in your device, Windows 10 might perceive it to be a completely different device, and thus, not re-activate Windows 10.

Only Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro editions will be able to be re-activated in this way. There will also be a limit to the number of times you can re-activate Windows on the device although Microsoft does not indicate the maximum number of attempts that can be made. Using the Windows Refresh Tool to clean install Windows 10 will not help re-activate Windows 10 on your hardware-altered device, so don’t bother even trying.

If you decide to make hardware changes to your device in the future, you can always use your MSA connected to your Windows 10 digital license to re-activate your device with the Windows 10 Activation Troubleshooter.