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Windows 8 requires an online activation with Microsoft before every features is available to you. If you’re installing Windows yourself or upgrading your PC’s hardware, you have to re-activate Windows. Some hidden options can be launched via the Run dialog.

Activation 101

You may need to reactivate Windows 8 after upgrading your PC’s hardware Should You Upgrade Or Repair Your Computer? Should You Upgrade Or Repair Your Computer? Computers age rapidly. In one year they mature, in three years they become elderly and after five they are ready for retirement. Both geeks and casual users have become accustomed to – or annoyed by... Read More .

Windows detects changes to the motherboard, hard disk, CPU, and other system components. It deactivates itself after noticing a few too many changes — in that case you have to re-activate it afterwards.

you'll-need-to-activate-windows-before-you-can-personalize-your-pc

We covered this when we looked at how to make a Windows 7 PC genuine again How To Make Your Windows 7 PC Genuine Again After a Hardware Upgrade How To Make Your Windows 7 PC Genuine Again After a Hardware Upgrade "Your activation period has expired. You must activate Windows." Triggered by a hardware upgrade or following a fresh installation, this is Microsoft's way of ensuring you use Windows according to its licensing terms. Read More — a de-activated Windows installation may be considered “non-genuine” if there’s a problem with the product key.

If you’re installing Windows 8 How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More from scratch, you’ll need to activate Windows yourself. You may also have to reactivate Windows if Microsoft discovers your key is pirated or in-use on multiple PCs. This system is designed to ensure you’re using a legitimate Windows license and that you’re not using it on many different PCs.

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Reactivating Windows requires a legitimate key. You’re allowed to upgrade your PC’s hardware and you’re also allowed to install your Windows license on a new computer as long as you’ve removed it from previous computers first. These actions will prevent automatic activation, so you may need to call a Microsoft representative on the phone.

How to Activate Windows

You can activate Windows from the PC settings app. Press Windows Key + C Every Windows 8 Shortcut - Gestures, Desktop, Command Line Every Windows 8 Shortcut - Gestures, Desktop, Command Line Windows 8 is all about shortcuts. People with touch-enabled PCs use touch gestures, users without touch devices must learn the mouse shortcuts, power users use keyboard shortcuts on the desktop and novel command-line shortcuts, and... Read More or swipe in from the right to open the charms bar, tap Settings, and tap Change PC settings.

You’ll see an Activate Windows option here if Windows isn’t yet activated. You can also navigate to PC and devices > PC info to see whether Windows is activated.

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Use the Activate button to attempt to automatically activate your Windows installation with Microsoft over the Internet. If an error is preventing Windows from activating, you can see more information about it here. Perform a web search for your specific error message if you need to find more specific information.

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If you can’t activate Windows online, you can call Microsoft and activate by phone. You’ll be asked to provide information and explain your situation. For example, if you’ve upgraded your hardware and Windows is no longer activating, describe what you’ve done when they ask. They’ll provide you with a code you can enter on your PC to re-activate Windows.

If you don’t see the activate by phone option, you can skip directly to it. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog. Type Slui 4 into the Run dialog and press Enter.

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Choose your country and Microsoft will provide you with a local phone number and an installation ID. Call the phone number How to Call Phones From Your Android Tablet How to Call Phones From Your Android Tablet Love your Android tablet, but wish it could make phone calls? Stop wishing: all you need is the right software. You'll be making calls to phone lines and mobile phones in no time (but it... Read More and provide your installation ID.

This process is normally automated, but you’ll be able to talk to a Microsoft customer service agent if you need to.

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How to Change Your Product Key

You may need to change your installed Windows product key Four Places to Find Your Windows 8 Product Key Four Places to Find Your Windows 8 Product Key With Windows 8, finding the 25-digit product key got harder. But you still need it to download installation media or install on a machine that didn't come pre-installed with Windows 8. Read More in some cases.

Use the Change product key button on the PC info pane to enter a new product key for Windows. You’ll be able to activate Windows normally afterwards.

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This button may not always appear. If you can’t change the product key from here, take the command route. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, type Slui 3 into the Run dialog, and press Enter.

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Enter your new product key. You can activate Windows normally afterwards.

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Most Windows Users Won’t Need to Do This

This isn’t something most Windows users will have to deal with. You’ll usually only need to activate Windows yourself if you install your own copy of Windows or upgrade your PC’s hardware. This should be fairly easy — even if the activation process is failing, you can talk to a customer support agent and have them activate Windows for you.

There are third-party tools that attempt to bypass Windows activation available online. You shouldn’t use these. These tools are against the license agreement, could break as Microsoft introduces new updates to Windows, and may include malware 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More if you download them from shady file-sharing sites.

Do you have any experience with Windows activation, or any tips for navigating the activation-by-phone system? Leave a comment and share them!

Image Credit: Karl Baron on Flickr

  1. Amanda Green
    July 22, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Activate windows 10 key I suggest you click here: #plus.google.com/113990216221163079769/posts/iuuYmjB12Jv My windows activator here and activation successful.?

  2. Barry Cooper
    July 19, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I changed ssd and did a clean install of win 8. Now activation wont work. I went on chat with ms and let them take remote control of my pc and after a while they said because i changed my ssd i need to buy a new license. I know this is lies as I have reinstalled fresh before with no issues. The guy just left chat and now im stuck. I own a physical OEM copy of win 8 so there should be no issue. I dont know what to do.

  3. Joann V. Sterner
    May 27, 2015 at 3:59 am

    Hey,guys just wanna share a site with u,it's about windows keys,they're legal&genuine,cheap and easy to use.i just get mine and activated succeed,check it key4cheap.co m

  4. lydia20155
    May 12, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Thanks for sharing. I have activated successful,the process is so simple,just search for it from bing ^^^windows 8.1 key sale on bing^^^ you'll get it,go for it!

  5. houch
    January 5, 2015 at 10:03 am

    if i change SSD drive on my computer with windows 8.1 license it can affect on license windows or not?

  6. BigFella
    December 30, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Changed a motherboard and various parts and had to reactivate Win8. MS told me that their records showed that my license had been moved to different machines too many times and that it would cost me more than a license to reactivate. The next sound they heard from me was "click". My purchase, my license, perfectly legal, and now totally useless. Thanks MS!

  7. Greg
    December 2, 2014 at 3:06 am

    COA dont apply with Win 8/Pro because the key is saved and encrypted in the bios

  8. gzylo
    June 19, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Howard B - yes you can copy OEM license, please research. :)

    • BSlug
      October 21, 2014 at 2:21 am

      Howard B is correct. OEM system builder licenses live and die with the system they came with. You CAN transfer the system, license, ET AL. to another owner, but you must give them the COA, manuals, DVD (if retail).

  9. Howard B
    June 18, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    "...you’re also allowed to install your Windows license on a new computer as long as you’ve removed it from previous computers first." This is only true if it's a retail license (i.e., from a boxed copy of Windows); if it's an OEM license (i.e., preinstalled on a PC like an HP, Acer, etc.), it's attached to the PC you got it with forever.

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