How To Make Your Windows 7 PC Genuine Again After a Hardware Upgrade

Chris Hoffman 09-10-2013

When you purchase a computer that comes with Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows 8, that copy of Windows is tied to your computer’s hardware. It’s an OEM copy, which means it can only be used on that computer. Even if you purchase a retail, boxed copy of Windows and install it, that copy of Windows will become tied to your hardware after it activates itself with Microsoft. If you change your hardware later, your copy of Windows may become “non-genuine,” turn your desktop background black, and start pestering you to use a genuine version of Windows.


You’re allowed to make certain hardware changes under the Windows license agreement, but even making allowed hardware changes may turn your copy of Windows into a “non-genuine” copy that requires reactivation with Microsoft.

Why Windows May Become Non-Genuine

Windows becomes non-genuine after some hardware changes to prevent you from taking a copy of Windows tied to one computer’s hardware and move it to a new computer. This sounds simple, but, in reality, it’s hard to define exactly what a single computer is. Is your computer still the same computer if you change its graphics card? Sure, probably. What about the motherboard and CPU? Maybe. What if you change the motherboard, CPU, memory, and everything but the hard drive? Where exactly do you draw the line between the old computer and a new computer?

Microsoft doesn’t spell out the exact hardware changes that can cause a Windows PC to become non-genuine, but we know that changing the following hardware components can cause this: The motherboard and CPU Hardcore Hardware Upgrades: How To Install Or Replace Your Own CPU The processor remains one of the most important components in a modern computer. Upgrading it can provide significant benefits in certain games and applications, particularly if you are switching from a dual-core or quad-core model,... Read More , hard drive, network card, graphics card How To Choose The Right PC Video Card [Technology Explained] Read More , and RAM How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAM Laptops are not as easy to upgrade as desktops. Many components are simply soldered on to the motherboard and others, though technically replaceable, are restricted by technical skill and cost. There are, however, two upgrades... Read More . Changing a single component or even two components may be fine, but changing several components may upset Windows. In some cases, changing a single component — like imaging a failing hard drive How to Use Clonezilla to Clone Your Windows Hard Drive Here's all you need to know about how to use Clonezilla to clone your hard drive in the easiest way. Read More , replacing the hard drive How to Install a New Hard Drive to Replace an Old One Want to replace your computer's hard drive? It's fiddly, but straightforward. Here's how to replace it and install a new HDD. Read More , and then re-imaging your copy of Windows to that hard drive — may result in Windows becoming non-genuine.

windows activation remove

Allowed Hardware Upgrades

Before you continue, it’s important to bear in mind what’s allowed and what isn’t. This will depend on whether you have an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer What Are OEM Products and Why Are They Cheaper? OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer. Should you buy OEM products, or is there a catch that'll set you up for trouble? Read More ) or retail copy of Windows installed on your computer.

  • OEM Copy: If your computer came with Windows, it likely has an OEM copy. An OEM copy is tied to a specific computer and can’t be moved to a new computer. While you’re free to upgrade a PC’s hardware components or replace a failing hard drive, you can’t move your OEM copy to a new computer.
  • Retail Copy: If you purchased a boxed copy of Windows, it’s likely a retail copy. A retail copy of Windows can be moved to a new computer, but you’re only allowed to use that copy of Windows on a single computer at a time. That means you’d have to uninstall the old copy of Windows before you moved it to a new computer.

It’s important to understand these limitations. For example, if your computer is non-genuine because you’ve attempted to move a hard drive containing an OEM copy of Windows to an entirely new computer, Microsoft won’t help you make that copy of Windows genuine again. Even if you have a retail copy, you’ll want to ensure it’s only installed on one computer at a time.

Many online stores seem to sell OEM copies of Windows in boxes. This isn’t technically allowed via Microsoft’s license agreement 8 Ridiculous EULA Clauses You May Have Already Agreed To Here are some of the most ridiculous terms and conditions in the EULAs of popular services. You may have already agreed to them! Read More , but if you do buy such a box, you won’t be allowed to move it to a new PC after installing it on a PC.

This is all the way it’s supposed to work, according to the Windows license agreement. However, if you call and ask nicely, Microsoft may allow you to move an OEM version of Windows to a new computer — that’s their prerogative. Many people have noticed that Microsoft is more flexible than the language in their license agreements would lead you to believe.



How to Make Your PC Genuine Again

If you do find yourself with a non-genuine version of Windows after performing a hardware upgrade, replacing a failing component, or — in an extreme worst case scenario — upgrading a hardware driver or firmware that causes Windows to think you’re using a new component, you’ll need to activate Windows again with Microsoft.

To re-activate a Windows 7 PC, you’ll need to open the Windows Activation tool. To do so, click the Start button, type “Activate” into the Start menu, and click the Windows Activation shortcut. Select the “Show me other ways to activate” option and go through the wizard, selecting the “Use the automated phone system” option. You’ll then be given a toll-free number you can dial. If everything goes properly, you’ll be given a confirmation ID you can enter into the Windows Activation tool to make Windows genuine again. If the automated system fails, you’ll be put on the line with a Microsoft customer service representative. Explain your situation and they’ll hopefully allow you to re-active your installed copy of Windows, making it genuine again.


Of course, there are also other unofficial methods, one of which James covered here in the past How to Fix the Windows 7 Activation Countdown After Installing the SP1 Update If you had previously applied an activation hack to your Windows install to get around that restriction, you may be shocked to find that the recent Service Pack 1 update from Microsoft nullified that hack... Read More . These hacks may allow you to bypass the Windows activation system. We don’t really recommend using them. For one thing, it’s against Microsoft’s license agreement. What’s more, such tools may not be completely secure — you’re downloading and installing a tool that requires low-level access to your system from a shady website that you can’t completely trust. And, if you have an actual legitimate copy of Windows, Microsoft will likely be happy to make it genuine again if you go through the activation process and give them a phone call.


Have you ever had Windows become non-genuine after upgrading or replacing a piece of hardware? Did you have any trouble re-activating Windows with Microsoft? Leave a comment and share your experiences!

Image Credit: Eric Jones on Flickr

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  1. Yves Forget
    September 25, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    I run Windows-7 via VmWare on a Mac. Replaced the Mac with a new one, copied everything. The next day I got a popup that I needed to reactivate Windows after a hardware change. I just clicked "Activate Windows online now" and it worked.

  2. Danny
    September 1, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    I added a sound-card and it was no longer good, called Microsoft they said to bad we do not give support to OEM software, so Some how I do not recall, kept at it on my own and got it OK again, NOW 2019 I use my PC always for making pro music I have ram I must install, but man when I do I know whats going to happen. The nightmare begins.
    My new music software needs min of 8 GB ram, it should have more, my 4 GB is not working as good as it should for PC DAW music anything else fine, and VSTi's esp samplers I have need 8 GB to run smooth. Hello September I am going for it no matter what wish me luck LOL

  3. Vijay Korgaokar
    April 28, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    I went to the activation screen but I don't have a line " see other ways to reactivate windows

  4. Steven Brownlow
    October 28, 2018 at 5:35 am

    I have a Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5 MB: 4x8Gb/1333MHz DDR3 RAM: AMD Phenom II X4 965 CPU : AUSUS Geforce GTX 650Ti +2Gb Graphics.
    It worked well for several years but then started getting Skype hangs and disconnects and other apparently unrelated irregularities. No disc errors detected.
    I changed the CMOS battery (it was dead) and then started getting start-up problems following a single short beep - hanging on the LOGO screen or hanging part way through the POST screen and sometimes booting normally>
    Eventually I decided that although POST said I had 32Mb RAM some of it was possibly not working. I tested the RAM bu swapping in the machine and found 1 stick was definitely faulty and a second was questionable but it would still start on the remaining 2 sticks.
    Shortly afterwards it fell over with no beeps and no video but the activity light suggested it was doing (or trying to do) POST and looping.
    Now I was fairly sure I had EITHER a Motherboard failure plus a false RAM failure OR a MB and RAM failure.
    I replaced the MB and the RAM but retained the original CPU and Graphics card.
    It started instantly and has remained so without Skype and other "features".

    I started to get messages that my copy of WIN7Pro might not be genuine etc and rang the number provided but it was extremely obscure as to which option to select to re-register (The answer turned out to be 1 - 1 -3 -1). The person I eventually spoke to could not have been more helpful but the MS option selection system is a nightmare. He did warn me that if I changed my hardware much further it might no be possible to reactivate. Maybe MS gives out different numbers depending on what type of reactivation is required - perhaps in my type of case to make it is difficult as possible.

  5. Tom carera
    August 6, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    There are questions that goes thru my mind regarding the article.
    In many cases even just an upgrade deleted and nullified my $200-$290 investments multiple times X 300 million users.Most ended up buying it again.
    That is a terrible scam!
    mucrosoft can not declare the "loss " to counterfeit that is a false claim !
    Neither can hide behind it.
    We can alledge that "shady " websites can't be trusted ! can microsoft be trusted??
    What are the the reality check points? The facts are :microsoft playing monopoly HAS ALREADY MADE TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS OUT OF US unfairly and ungratefully!

  6. Brian Mudge
    June 14, 2017 at 9:54 pm

    The date on my PC c hanged back to year 2007, so I changed the BIOS battery. When PC switched on, it showed black screen & a message bottom right stating the windows operating system was not genuine.

  7. L Taylor
    May 27, 2017 at 6:09 am

    This morning I got some sort of message about an unauthorized change to Windows and it wanted me to go through some sort of fix process that was supposed to give me the option to either run or save, and I should pick run. I did not get a run option, only a save, and I have no idea what is saved, or where. Anyway, now later today it's telling me I have to activate WIndows, but it won't let me. I tried the method you describe here that seemed to fit, but the "show other ways to activate" link was not active so I could not use it. I am not particularly computer savvy. Help!

  8. Martin Seebach
    May 26, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    They don't spell out what will, might nor won't phu* it up. Sounds a tiny step off extortion. In my case had hdd fail with spares already in case. Installed on diff drive and able to pull failed drive back up. All good till a month later when first kind hint from pirates in redmond shows. Rearm works fine mostly. OEM tied to hardware is clear BUT dammit n/m M$not does as they please as do we all. Better to walk in the mud barefoot; easier to clean off.

  9. TimmyPee
    April 11, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    Phone activation worked perfectly thanks (and didn't even have to speak to anyone)

  10. S Ellison
    March 26, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    I had (still have) this issue. I was running a genuine Windows 7 Ultimate. I did the free upgrade to Windows 10 last year - thought I'd try it out. Didn't like it, and then noticed that it would allow me to roll back to Win 7, which I did. Within an hour, and every frikkin hour since then, I have been nagged by the Windows is not genuine message. Tried all the suggested steps for fixing the problem, none of which worked, and I am stuck with the nag messages.

  11. Anonymous
    July 22, 2016 at 1:53 am

    Recently i got a Office 2016 Product Key from a page. The key is working properly and it's genuine. Shared to you:

  12. K G Smith
    June 4, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Ok.. After installing a 1tb hybrid hdd on an hp a few years old.. this happend to me. I read all of this and that and even if i go to the validate and it succeeds it still comes back later that it is not genuine even if the system properties says so. I also experienced windows update problems. Here was my resolve.

    uninstall intel matrix storage manager, It doesn't work right with 4k sectors.

  13. Chrisatvac
    April 6, 2016 at 8:03 am

    I have an OEM license. The file "system.dat" became corrupted requiring a complete re-install of windows. No hardware (none at all) was changed. Same cpu, disk, Graphics card, MOBO, memory, case, PSU, fans, cdrom, leds everything the same. DELL OEM license would not validate. The phone call was automated. Its a windows xp SP3 system which I need for C++ and VB programming. It's off the internet for now. I re-install everything once a month until the license fails 21 to 28 days before failing. The plus side is I'm good at re-installing (4 hours or less). Also there is little chance orf being hurt by malware viruses etc. since I'm off-line.

    Since XP isn't supported anymore I assumed Microsoft simply wasn't answering their phone anymore. Who would you call to attempt to re-use an oem license anyway?

    This system was originally installed in 2011 to replace a system with a burn't cpu.

    I may have an extra unused oem license which I was saving. Or I may just try to get a license
    thru Microsoft. I'm considering looking for a group of xp pro or server licenses for a discount
    to allow for inevitable MOBO, CPU, DISK changes in the future.

    My windows 7 system (2011 install) also uses an OEM license. I'm looking at backup software which allows Windows 7 to install on the same system with a cloned backup disk.
    The disk partitions are possibly tied to an identifier tied to system restore or the license which seems to be another way to invalidate your license.

    After losing 4 systems in two years due to (1) hard drive failure, (2) cpu failure, (3) Microsoft XP system.dat failure (crash), and (4) computer virus attack I'm looking at other options.

    I'm stabilizing, cleaning, reducing usage, backing up, and minimizing internet access.
    Working offline except thru a heavily protected system.
    I need better warnings aboput bad web sites.
    I need better sites to offer windows tools.
    I need fewer internet ads.
    I need fast, clean information.

    -- programming since 1976
    - Z

  14. Sean Owens
    March 17, 2016 at 10:12 am

    After I replaced a hdd with a sdd I was getting the validation messages. Your last method using the activation tool worked. My os is windows 7 64bit.

  15. Ken
    February 20, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    After hard drive crashed and was replaced I contacted Microsoft. I explained everything and they said they'd be happy to sell me a new copy of windows...

  16. Anonymous
    July 19, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    To add to my last comment. Although Windows confirmed my activation was successful and I am running a genuine copy of Windows 7, the computer is still giving me messages that it is not. Seems Windows doesn't know what it is doing!

  17. Anonymous
    July 19, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I replaced my two hard drives and, as a responsible computer owner, having used an automatic back-up program, I reloaded the back-up I had from an external hard drive. I lost nothing and all my programs, files etc were back as before. However, I kept getting the 'your Windows product is not genuine message'. I managed to get hold of a really helpful Microsoft help guy who thought he had removed the offending file but he had not. I have looked at loads of sites that give you information but this was the only one that advises you to 'Activate'. All I had to do was type in 'Activate' and I got a message saying my Windows product had been activated and I was now running a genuine copy. Hurray. Thank you so much

  18. Joann V. Sterner
    May 27, 2015 at 3:58 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 m

  19. Chris
    April 28, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Having this issue for two months now. Tried to contact MS and they went thru the process of trying to activate it from their end to no avail. Their suggestion, buy their service plan so that a technician can try to fix this issue that happened after one of their updates. I have not updated any hardware on this computer. This all happened after and official update, had downloaded and restarted my computer. I have tried to reinstall the disc I have, still getting the same message, that my windows is not genuine, when it has been genuine for two years now.

  20. arifur rahman
    March 20, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    install windows xp normally. but when i install windows 7 then after formatting dist when load the windows in the hard disk percentage 0% does not increasing after some time call hardware problem. my hard disk 500GB, ram 2GB, mother board Intel G41 series, processor dual core 2.96Gh

  21. Tom
    March 6, 2015 at 1:28 am

    Tom It has happened to me twice and I only installed a video capture card first time I redid my computer, today it happened I removed the hardware and computer was fine. Kinda of a pain you ask me

  22. up urs
    March 5, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Called some towel head gave me a bunch of shit.He should beselling slushies.

  23. Josh
    January 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    just go to mydigitallife site and it will explain how to flash your bios. Don't worry it's not hard and no cause for worry. In short you flash your bios and upggrade it to a 2.0 or 2.1 slic bios table, then you can put in the rtm- Release to manufacture codes. The same keys that are assigned when you buy a new computer and windows is already activated. Presto, you have told your computer at the hardware level is a rtm auto activated copy. But I would call Microsft first and see if they will help. I run 2 LLCs, one of which I only deal with computer, networking, ect issues and, in my experience Microsoft will usually help you out in this case. Just be very nice and, make sure to explain that it either the same machine, just with upgrades, or it was put into a new tower. But only one key for the machine will be the only one in use. You can also just find your key sticker on your machine and activate it online with that same key. You can almost always get 3 copies of that OS version up and going. 1 will have been taken for the original key that was activated.

  24. Alwin George
    March 10, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Check this below link to make your windows 7 copy genuine.. Methods shown in the link is very informative and easy!!

  25. Richard
    March 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    How to make windows genuine .. Well below video worked for me .. method explained in this video is very easy and effective. hope it may work for you ..:)

  26. siddharth
    February 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Check this below link to make your windows 7 copy genuine.. Methods shown in the link is very informative and easy!!

  27. Jack
    December 13, 2013 at 7:50 am

    I found this link useful in this case. May be your people want to check it out

  28. akash
    December 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    It doesn't work

    • Bryan
      January 8, 2015 at 4:42 am

      Try not to be too specific there : )

  29. Tony Bze
    October 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I have the retail version of Windows 7 and after having problems with my Asus Mobo, I replaced it with an MSI Mobo and at the time upgraded the HDD and when I re-installed Windows 7, I found myself not being able to activate it. I have made numerous attempts with Microsoft to get them to tell me what to do to have it activated I even gave them certain Information that would tell them that the Installation Disc is genuine, but to no avail. I paid at the $700.00 bz or $350.00 US for my copy, now I have a disc that is good for nothing. They keep giving me a call this 0800, but from my country 0800 numbers are not free and I will not sit for 30 minutes or more to speak to someone that will have me run around like a dog chasing it's tail. I pains me to say that I took the alternative, so that I can have my PC work. But Microsoft left me no other option.

    • Anon
      March 31, 2014 at 2:53 am

      Skype can be used to call 800 numbers for free. It's worth a try.

  30. TxBlackLabel
    October 10, 2013 at 5:36 am

    The method I have used is just call.

    Call the toll free number
    Tell the automated call the numbers on the screen
    It asks "is this installed on more than one PC?" my reply is always "no"
    Proceeds to give activation code

    total time under 10 minutes - 6 is the average time.

  31. Rafael Cervera
    October 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Dell said that the PC was out of warranty. I asked how could this be, since I purchased it six months earlier, and the guarantee was for a whole year. They said a year from "manufacture" date, which is different from "Sell" date. To add insult to injury, they also said no way they would ship a CD with the OS on it since it is their policy for you to make a copy from the original with Dell Backup and Recovery or Dell DataSafe Local software. Sounds like Baylin is the original lost Microsoft Fanboy...

    • Baylin
      October 12, 2013 at 1:05 am

      You're careless then. Its your own fault that happened.

  32. Rafael Cervera
    October 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    My Dell had a HDD failure six months after I bought it. When I installed the new HDD, I realized that no replacement OS cd's had come with the package, so I called Dell. The told me that instead of phisically shipping a copy of OS with the new PC, one has to make a copy using software of the original shipped with the PC. I have switched to GNU Linux since then and am much happier.

    • Baylin
      October 9, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      Another neck beard made up story. If you got a replacement hard drive from Dell, they ship a Windows 7/8 CD with it. I know from pass and current experience with Dell.

    • Darren
      February 22, 2015 at 12:12 am

      WAY to go. I love your solution, Just throw the dam baby out with the bath water.

  33. Richard Steven Hack
    October 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Or you can go to MyDigitalLife Web site forums and learn how to bypass this nonsense all together. Windows 7 was ridiculously easy to crack. Windows 8 has been much harder.

    And yes, Microsoft will generally allow you to move your OS from one machine to another, as long as they think the old machine is out of action, since they don't want to tick off even more customers who will then switch to Apple by forcing people to buy Windows again.

    • Crazie Flawed N
      October 18, 2013 at 3:27 am

      dubbed SIR RICHARD HACK.. TY ;)

  34. Steve Costello
    October 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I have not yet had this problem, fortunately.

    As it is probably only a matter of time before it does happen, I am saving this so I will know what to do in that case.