I have a discussion with my friend about windows activation.

Statement 1
Windows activation is always same on the same hardware, meaning you can reactivate windows license unlimited number of times on the same computer

Statement 2
Windows license is valid only for the current windows installation. If you reinstall the windows, you will need to reactivate again your license, and you cannot do that unlimited number of times on the same hardware.

Which is correct?


Windows licence is linked to the PC. After about 3 activations you would be transferred to the MS agent and you have to give some explanation. So Statement 1 is correct. That is if you have the same harddisk, motherboard etc ....

If the hardware stays the same and you reinstall the same PC you would be allowed to activate ... So statement 2 can also be true...

  • I activated my licences more than 10 times without speaking to any agent (only with the automatic robot) – Kedare Nov 3 '10 at 12:44
  • Hmm ok there you got it ... unlimited ... maybe it is just my region that they dont "trust" :-) – Pieter Nov 3 '10 at 12:50
  • This is only true for a subset of Windows licenses. Specifically OEM. This is not the case for Enterprise licenses. – Chris Thorpe Nov 4 '10 at 0:26
  • 1
    @Kedare, you can use the same Retail Key for 3 activations of slightly different hardware without calling an MS CSR. If the hardware hasn't changed at all, you can activate an unlimited number of time (to my knowledge it's unlimited). – Chris S May 19 '11 at 13:09
  • I've installed it on more than 3 different hardwares, using enterprise/datacenter licences. I don't think you need at any moment to speak to an agent (I'm on France, maybe it depend of the country) – Kedare May 20 '11 at 16:22

It varies based on the exact product, terratory and licence agreement you have in place. For instance it's a very different scenario if you're a home user or if you're a corporate user. Best speak to MS with exact details to find out you own answer.

  • Yes I know about volume activations, but for this example I just want to know about single license that you buy in the retail store, or the OEM, that means you can reactivate OEM license unlimited times on the same computer if you don't change the hardware? – Frane Borozan Nov 3 '10 at 11:15
  • 1
    Well perhaps then this question would be better suited to our sister site superuser.com?? – Chopper3 Nov 3 '10 at 12:14

You can make statement 1 always true if you preserve the file that holds the activation data:

How to Reinstall Windows XP Without Having to Reactivate With Microsoft

Note that this is a "legal" hack, IIRC I read about it in the blog of a MS employee.

  • Just because it was in an MS employee blog doesn't make it legal. If it's not in the EULA, it's not legal. – joeqwerty Nov 3 '10 at 23:55
  • @Joe, it's a legal gray area. The EULA says you need to activate the software following the normal procedures at least once, unless the OEM already did it for you. It also says if you make changes to the software or hardware you may have to reactivate. It doesn't explicitly state that if later you get the activation screen on any occasion (like reinstallation) that you necessarily have to follow the standard way of reactivating. I believe it was their intention that you do, and one could argue that since you reinstalled, the previous activation is void, even if you can make it work. – Chris S May 19 '11 at 13:05
  • @Joe By "legal" I mean "safe". Some hacks could lead to problems or side effects, but since this trick one was pointed by an MS employee it shouldn't have that problems (he should know better about this sort of things). Regarding the licensing issue, since this only works for the same machine I don't think that it would be a problem (anyway the purpose of activation is not annoy users but prevent piracy). – Alberto Martinez Aug 31 '11 at 12:00
  • @Alberto: The word legal and the word safe do not mean the same thing. Neither are they interchangeable in any context that I'm aware of. I don't personally know anyone who would confuse the word legal with the word safe, nor use one in place of the other. When someone says that something is "legal" I take it to mean that it falls withing the bounds of applicable law in their county, state, country, province, etc. As such I could only comment on what you did say, which was that it was a legal method. Thanks for clarifying what you meant. – joeqwerty Aug 31 '11 at 12:31

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