How to backup and restore Windows 10 license? (with home/pro switcheroo)

Discussion in 'PC Hardware, Software and Displays' started by orangpelupa, Oct 12, 2020.

  1. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    So... its me again, with the usual habbit of buying bottom-of-the-barrel cheapest stuff...

    I'm buying a gemini lake tiny PC to act as a server for my home, replacing my sony vaio tap 11 tablet. the problem:
    1. the tiny PC have windows 10 pro license
    2. my sony vaio tap 11 tablet have windows 10 home.
    I'm planning to simply mirror my vaio tap 11 SSD to tiny PC. Thus wiping its windows 10 pro, and it would became windows 10 home with incorrect license.

    So the next step is upgrading windows 10 home to pro (i assume i can simply do in-place upgrade using windows 10 iso, as usual). Now the issue:
    1. I am not sure this tiny PC will properly auto repair the license after connecting to the internet. Years ago on windows 8 era, i have bad experience with a laptop that lost its license after upgrading to different windows edition. After goes back to the correct windows edition, the license still gone. Fortunately someone made a UEFI SLIC extractor tool or something, and i managed to modify it to work with the problematic laptop.
    2. Googling around, i cant find any tool (other than very old tool from 2016) to backup and restore windows 10 license. I also cannot find the UEFI slic dump tool i used many years ago.
    3. Theoretically i should be able to simply call microsoft to fix the licensing issues that may crop up. But i have bad experience years ago (i need to call them 3x to get lucky with the customer service agent that willing to fix my license issue)
    so any idea how to backup and restore windows 10 license?

    as a precaution, i'm planning to backup the original SSD on the tiny PC. so i can restore it back if something goes wrong (and hopefully also fix licensing issues if it happen). Any other precaution i should take?
     
  2. WhiningKhan

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    AFAIK there is nothing you can locally back up, the activation is cloud based nowadays which should auto-activate on valid system in case of fresh install. But if your license is not eligible for transfer to different hardware, it won't...
     
  3. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    hopefully MS fixed the issue i faced years ago on W8. So it will auto activate with no issue.

    hardware A have license for W10 pro
    hardware B have license for W10 home

    im cloning B SSD to A. Then upgrade its W10 home to pro.
     
  4. tongue_of_colicab

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    Can't you just call Microsoft activation and do it that way if it really doesn't want to activate?

    Also, if its a headless server and you just need to RDP in for setting things up/maintenance from time to time, why not run an unactivated system?
     
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  5. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    lol omg. haha you are right! i can simply let it unactivated if it have activation issues. hahaha. thank you! awesome :D :D :D

    as for MS call, i have bad experience with them. Needing to call the U.S. branch (because the one on Indonesia did not understand the issue at all, and the robot activation did not work) multiple times to get lucky with the customer service rep. They do finally fixed my activation issue tho.
     
  6. DmitryKo

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    First of all, why would you need to copy your entire old disk, instead of backing up and restoring your user data/settings then reinstalling your software applications? For starters, you'd need to remove all drivers and junkware/support apps that came with your Sony VAIO notebook, and install new ones required for the different hardware in the new desktop PC, and preferably repartition the disk according to most recent WADK guidelines - all of that can take much more time than just moving your files and reinstalling your essential programs.


    Nevertheless, your stated goal can be achieved, and you don't need to backup or restore anything or call phone activation. Since your mini PC comes with Windows 10 Pro preinstalled (i.e. OEM license), you will simply have to upgrade your Windows 10 Home installation to Windows 10 Pro edition. This can be done in two ways:
    1) You can use a generic (default) Windows 10 Pro product key in Settings - Update & Security - Activation to upgrade the Windows edition on the fly, or
    2) You can upgrade/repair install Windows 10 Pro from within your working Windows 10 Home system - choose to "Upgrade" and "Keep personal files, apps, and Windows settings" , and when asked for product key, either use a generic Windows 10 Pro key, or skip it and choose "I don't have a product key".

    That's about it - your copy of Windows 10 Pro will activate automatically.


    This is possible because certified Windows 10 PCs use OEM Activation 3.0, where the unique product key for your specific device is permanently stored in the BIOS firmware and you cannot lose it even when you clean install the OS - unlike how it was with Windows Vista/7 certified OEM PCs where the SLP 2.x activation does not involve unique device-specific product keys, and relies on the system builder to 1) apply the OEM certificate file that matches the SLIC table in the BIOS firmware; 2) apply the generic Windows product key for the specific OEM vendor and Windows 7 edition.

    Typically you don't even know your real Windows 10 OEM product key stored in the BIOS firmware - it's not printed on the COA sticker anymore, and your Activation page will only show the generic product key. You don't need to enter it manually - instead a "digital license" for your hardware will be automatically created and permanently stored on Microsoft activation servers when you first boot into OOBE setup.

    Similarily, if you have upgraded to Windows 10 from a properly activated Windows 7 or 8.x OEM system, or used a valid retail Windows 7/8.x (or 10) product key to activate your copy, Windows will create a "digital license" (previously "digital entitlement") for your hardware configuration, and you won't have to enter product keys to activate your copy of Windows 10 anymore - unless you have a retail license which lets you upgrade your motherboard, then you will need your original product key to reactivate on the new hardware, provided that you've linked the digital license to your Microsoft Account (though total number of possible reactivations seems to be limited).


    If you've chosen to do a repair install, then unfortunately OEM versions of Windows do not come with bootable setup media that can be used for upgrade installs. Typically there is an OEM recovery partition which hosts an OEM-customized OS image with preinstalled applications and built-in drivers, but it can only be used to reset your Windows partition to the factory default state, or refresh it by removing user apps, drivers and Windows settings.
    Therefore you will need to download a bootable ISO media for Windows 10 Pro 20H2 using either uupdump or similar tools, like Microsoft Media Creation Tool (or a direct download from Microsoft website).
    Boot your new PC from your Windows 10 Home disk, then mount the downloaded ISO file in the File Explorer and run Windows Setup from that mounted virtual disk.

    You might want to run Disk Cleanup (cleanmgr) to remove backup files for the previous version.
     
    #6 DmitryKo, Oct 13, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
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  7. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    Yup! im too lazy to install and setup everything lol. I just want to clone the thing and then BAM, done. no need to setup anything. Windows update will sort all the drivers issues. i'll probably let the vaio software stays there unless it have ridiculous cpu usage.

    yeah normally windows will auto activate. But years ago, on a windows 8 laptop, it fails to auto activate and i need to manually grab the license from the UEFI dump then manually input it to windows activation. I hope W10 will be fool proof, but i have really really bad luck with electronics all my life :lol:, so i want to be extra safe.

    as for home to pro, i'm planning to do inplace upgrade using W10 iso. so it should be faster.

    the issue i described with calling MS was with W10 digital license from W7. Luckily the 3rd customer service person managed to fix my license.
     
  8. DmitryKo

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    Unless you have several dozens of applications, reinstalling your software will probably take less time than an in-place upgrade of Windows.

    You can use the free LapLink PC Mover Express, as recommended by Microsoft, or the Windows Easy Transfer wizard (you can find a rip from Windows 7/8.x) to transfer your documents and settings beforehand; the commercial PC Mover Professional edition also lets you transfer your applications, and there are other paid tools that can move both your settings and apps.

    Well, by design you have to use generic (default) product keys if you want to trial-install / upgrade / change to a different edition (from the one that is licensed by your OEM vendor or was installed using retail media). Windows 10 Setup does it automatically when you skip the product key, but you have to double check for correct generic key when you change your Windows edition with Settings - Update & Security - Activate.

    Such default product key allows you to install that specific Windows edition, but not activate - you will need to either activate it by entering a valid unique key from the retail box/card or the Microsoft Store sales confirmation email, thus creating a "digital license" for your current hardware config, or you just skip the whole activation step altogether and let Windows pick up an exising "digital license" created on previous activation of that specific edition.

    OEMs may also include their generic (default) OEM product keys on COA stickers, which you can use with retail install media (OEM-customized factory reset media already includes this generic OEM key). This has a similar purpose of letting you restore your specific OEM Windows edition, which will activate automatically at the OOBE stage using a digital license created from your device-unique key in the BIOS firmware.


    So far Windows 10 "digital licenses" have been foolproof for me - I ugraded several PCs from Windows 8.1 Core and Windows 7 Professional, and I'm able to install multiple copies of the same OS edition into different disks/partitions on the same PC.

    Upgrading your PC with a new motherboard, and/or booting an activated Windows edition on a different PC which was not activated for this specific edition, is indeed a border case that can trigger anti-piracy mechanisms, because you're essentially using the same license on two different PCs at a time.

    Thankfully, Microsoft now provides a way to troubleshoot activation issues in recent versions of Windows 10. You will have to link your license to your Microsoft Account in Settings - Update & Security - Activate, and this allows you to restore activation on your current device and deactivate other devices which you do not use. Previously this was only possible when you phoned Microsoft automated activation system in your country, or directly called Microsoft Support.
     
    #8 DmitryKo, Oct 14, 2020
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
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  9. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    THANKS!

    the restore license from MS account works really well! It even works just fine with 1 windows on 1 ssd being swapped to multiple different computers.
     
  10. DmitryKo

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    It works since you have an personal product key in your OEM BIOS installed at production.

    I would avoid booting retail OS license to a different retail motherboard, because activation troubleshooter has an yet-undisclosed limit of possible deactivations. This is where a default (generic) key comes handy.
     
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  11. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    Thanks! I didn't know there's a limit on the re activation. Next time I'll just keep it unactivated.

    The ssd with windows was used to quickly check if an issue in a computer is a hardware or software issue. So it get swapped multiple times to different computers.
     
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