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The complexity of the validation used, however, has increased over time. Today, Microsoft has online activation servers that must validate your installation key, and your installation key is often tied to your computer. Installing a copy of Windows with the same key on a different computer can cause issues, but it’s possible to get around them.
Understanding Different Versions of Windows
The conditions under which you might need to hassle with Windows activation vary depending on the version of Windows that you own. Microsoft sells its operating systems with different licenses attached, and those licenses impact how validation works when you try to remove Windows activation from one computer and install it on another.
If you go to the store and buy a copy of Microsoft Windows you’re likely buying a standard retail license. A retail license lets you install Windows on one computer. If you try to install it twice, Windows activation can tell (so long the computers have a connection to the Internet) and will call foul.
However, it’s likely you instead have an OEM copy of Windows. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, and this label is slapped onto software that comes pre-installed or packaged with a computer. OEM copies of Windows come with a license that only allows Windows to be installed on the machine the manufacturer shipped. You can’t take the OEM copy and install it on any other computer – if you try, Windows activation will notice.
Finally, you may end up with a volume license which makes it possible to install Windows on multiple machines at once. The Windows 7 family pack is a good example of this; the activation keys that come with the family pack can be used on three computers simultaneously.
Removing Windows Activation
Unfortunately, there is no Microsoft tool that lets you remove your Windows activation from a computer once you have installed the operating system. This is not surprising when you think about it; if you could simply remove your activation, there would be no point to the OEM license. There are cracks, of course, but these are not difficult for Microsoft to counter over time by releasing new updates. If you want your copy of Windows 7 to work reliably you need to legitimately install Windows with an activation key.
So What Do I Do?
Pick up the phone!
Oddly, Microsoft is not strict about making sure you obey the terms of their software license. They are often happy to help you activate a copy of Windows on a new or upgraded computer even if you have an OEM license. They just want to talk to you about it in person.
The process is simple. Install Windows on a computer and insert the activation key as normal. When Windows starts and you connect to the Internet you will receive an error message letting you know that your copy of Windows is not genuine. Click on the text link that lets you solve the problem online and try to activate the key again. When it fails once more, you are given the chance to call into Microsoft support.
Do this. You will end up speaking to a representative who will ask you the circumstances of your installation. While these representatives are likely to let you activate even if you’re blatantly moving an OEM license, a simple white lie can help smooth the gears. Just let them know that you’ve upgraded your computer, causing the activation to flag. They’ll press a few buttons on their end and presto! You’ve just activated your Windows key on a different computer, and since it’s 100% legit, you don’t need to worry about a new Windows update messing with your PC.
This is effectively a method of removing your Windows activation from the computer that your copy of Windows was originally installed on, because the key will no longer work on the original PC. If you do boot up the original PC and allow it to connect to the Internet you will soon be hit with an error message letting you know your copy of Windows is no longer genuine. Which is correct, because your activation has been transferred.
To be absolutely clear; this DOES NOT duplicate your Windows activation.
Also, be warned that Microsoft does keep track of how your activation key is used. They will take notice if you’re calling into their hotline once a week to transfer an activation key. Microsoft could be more strict about this process than they currently are. Don’t give Redmond a reason to change its policy.