You’ve upgraded to Windows 10. All is well.

But then one day, you decide to upgrade your motherboard, processor, and RAM…

With Windows 7, you didn’t have anything to worry about. Most likely, Windows would reactivate after your upgrade, and if it didn’t, an automated phone call to Microsoft was all it took to get back up and running.

But then came Windows 10: You now have a digital entitlement, which then changed to a digital license, which means… ??? Furthermore, until recently your ONLY option was to reinstall everything.

So how the heck do you reactivate Windows 10 after a major hardware upgrade?

The Basics

First of all, before you upgrade your puter, you should probably read my post from 2010 entitled Upgrade Your Motherboard Without Reinstalling your OS.

The simple trick in the above post still applies. In some cases, if you are also going to upgrade your graphics card, it’s a good idea to change the Display Adapter driver to the “Standard VGA” one, just in case.

Otherwise, it’s a piece of cake.

The Windows 10 Re-activation Trick

It’s pretty simple:

  1. If necessary, change your Win 10 account to a Microsoft Account instead of a Local Account
  2. Upgrade, and tell Win 10 to re-activate
  3. Change your Win 10 account back to a Local Account if you want


Let’s break each step down with some extra details…

Step 1: Change your Windows 10 account to a Microsoft Account

UPDATE: Maybe not… Read this instead: VICTORY! Reactivate Windows 10 after a hardware upgrade

This just means that instead of logging in to Win 10 with a local account and password, you’ll be logging in to Windows using your online Microsoft account. That means you’ll need to either use your Microsoft online password to sign in to Windows (temporarily), or you can set up a 4-digit PIN code as the password.

The key here is that when you link your copy of Windows 10 to your online Microsoft account, they store your “activation key” so to speak. After your hardware upgrade, and because your copy of Windows 10 is linked to your online Microsoft account, you will be able to re-activate without reinstalling everything.

To switch to a Microsoft Account, just do the following:

Click Start (windows logo) and then click Settings. Click the Update & security item. On the next screen, click Activation in the left-hand column:

Then, you just click the Add an account link, and sign in to your online Microsoft Account:

You’ll need to enter your Local Account password. From this point on, you’ll need to sign in to Windows itself using your Microsoft account password. You can change this later after your upgrade and re-activation is complete.

So, when you’re done, you’ll see this:

Step 2: Upgrade and tell Windows 10 to re-activate

Now you can do your fancy motherboard upgrade. When Windows 10 boots up again, go back to the Update & security screen in Settings as described above.

You’ll see that Windows is not activated:

Not to worry: Just click the Troubleshoot link. When the troubleshooter is done, you can click on the link at the bottom: I changed hardware on this device recently:

Next, sign in to your Microsoft Account again as shown in the screen capture above.

On the next screen, you’ll need to pick your puter and click the Activate button:

That should be it!

Windows 10 should grab the “activation key” from your online Microsoft account, and re-link it to your puter with its freshly-upgraded hardware.

At this point, you can keep logging in to Windows using your MS account if you’d like, or revert back to a Local Account.

Step 3: Change back to a Local Account in Windows 10

If you just want to stick with a Local Account, you can follow the quick instructions from my previous post, 10 Fixes for Common Problems in Windows 10:

To switch back to a local account:

  1. Click Start
  2. Type: account
  3. Click: Your account picture or profile settings
  4. Click the link: Sign in with a local account instead

You’ll need to enter your Microsoft online password, and enter a Local Account password – which can be the same one you were using before your upgrade.

Voila! You just upgraded your puter without reinstalling Win 10 + everything else!

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