Enter the brave new world of Windows 10 license activation

Historically, hardware upgrades on Windows PCs that involved major changes required a phone call to Microsoft to reactivate the Windows license. Microsoft has altered its licensing policy to cut down on calls. Here’s what happened when we tested this hypothesis.

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Windows 10 brought a lot of changes to Microsoft's flagship desktop operating system when it debuted on July 29, 2015, and it has changed even more since then. With the release of the Anniversary Update in August (Build 1607 for Current Branch users, at Build 14393.105 as I write this), even license activation has changed. Here's what most users of the business-oriented Windows 10 Enterprise will see if they check their Activation screen:

Windows 10 activation Ed Tittel

Click Settings, Update & Security, Activation to view this information on your PC.

Earlier versions of Windows would often require you to enter a 25-character product key during the activation process. Today, this is required only if you wish to change the product key associated with the current installation. In that case, a window like this one will appear, ready to accept a replacement key for validation and possible acceptance.

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