FIX: Windows 10 won’t activate after reinstall

Elsie Otachi By: Elsie Otachi
4 minute read

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If Windows 10 won’t activate after a reinstall of the operating system, it depends on how it was originally installed on your device.

If you activated a free upgrade or bought from Microsoft Store and activated it, you have a digital license, which means you can reinstall without a product key as Windows automatically activates it online after the process is complete. Before trying to reinstall, ensure you check that it is activated on your device.

However, there are concerns by users that Windows 10 won’t active after reinstall of the operating system. If you share the same concern, then try the solutions below to resolve it.

Windows 10 activation: Things to note

Windows activation is a way of verifying that the copy of Windows 10 you are using is genuine and used on your device, and not many others as per the Microsoft Software License Terms.

However you got your copy, the activation can either be done via a digital license or a product key, without which activation is impossible and you cannot substitute the two.

A digital license, also known as a digital entitlement is given instead of a product key and if you have it, you need not enter a product key.

When installing Windows 10, you may either be asked for a product key or if you have the digital license, you can continue without entering a key, and the latter can be bought after installation by going to: Start > Settings > Update & Security >Activation > Go to Store and purchase the license.

Before you resolve the Windows 10 won’t activate after reinstall problem, it is important to note the following:

  • Windows 10 uses its own unique product key
  • Windows 10 builds are pre-keyed so you need not enter a product key as long as you upgraded from an activated older version of Windows
  • If you are prompted to enter a product key, click Do this later and give it a few days, Windows 10 will activate automatically
  • Activation servers get overwhelmed so give it some time and it’ll activate as long as your upgrade is genuine
  • The copy of Windows 10 you download must correspond with the edition of Windows you are upgrading from

— RELATED: Windows 10 activation errors: Why they occur and how to fix them

How do I fix Windows 10 activation issues after reinstall?

  1. Preliminary fixes
  2. Reset your license status
  3. Force activation
  4. Replace the product key
  5. Check your Windows PID
  6. Check your hardware

1. Preliminary fixes

  • Restart your computer and try activating it again
  • Give it a few days and Windows 10 should automatically activate itself
  • If prompted to enter a product key after reinstalling Windows 10, select Do this later and Windows will reactivate in a few days, automatically
  • Reinstall a valid license that you have either for Windows 7/8.0/8.1 and ensure it is activated, then upgrade to Windows 10
  • Try a different network connection if possible, so switch from Wi-Fi to Ethernet or vice versa
  • Update Windows 10 to the latest version using the Windows Update option in Settings > Update & security > Windows Update

2. Reset your license status

  • Type CMD in the search bar, and right click Command Prompt
  • Select Run as Administrator

  • Type the command: slmgr.vbs -rearm
  • Press enter and exit the command prompt
  • Restart your computer
  • Enter the product key using the instructions

— RELATED: Fix: Windows 10 activation key not working

3. Force activation

  • Type CMD in the search bar, and right click Command Prompt
  • Select Run as Administrator

  • Type the command: slmgr.vbs -ato
  • Press enter and exit the command prompt
  • Restart your computer

4. Replace the product key

This may resolve any problems preventing Windows 10 product activation. To do this:

  • Type CMD in the search bar, and right click Command Prompt
  • Select Run as Administrator

  • Type the command: slmgr.vbs -ipk xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx (to replace the current product key with the specified) xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx – represents your product key
  • Press enter and exit the command prompt
  • Restart your computer
  • Try Activating again

— RELATED: The Refresh Windows tool reinstalls Windows without ISO

5. Check your Windows PID

If Windows 10 won’t active after reinstall, you may have been running a copy of Windows that isn’t genuine. This could have been bought form an auction website like eBay or Amazon, or a counterfeit copy. You can check the Product ID (PID) to determine the level of support. To do this:

  • Click Start
  • Right click Computer
  • Click Properties
  • Go to Windows Activation and look at the PID (it has about 20 characters), check the three-digits if they match with the key.

Note: You can confirm if it is genuine by checking Microsoft site, and click Validate Windows. If it fails, click Get Genuine button to get a WGA Kit.

6. Check your hardware

If Windows 10 won’t activate after reinstall, and previously it activated, you could have changed some hardware, like your motherboard or processor, which to Windows seems like a totally different PC.

Were you able to resolve the Windows 10 won’t activate after reinstall issue using any of the above solutions? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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