Microsoft doesn’t have an official statement on how long you can use Windows without activation.
Still, an annoying issue that sometimes happens for users is that Windows suddenly starts to have activation issues.
Running into errors like, “We Can’t Reactivate Windows on This Device. Try Again Later,” can be caused by different culprits.
In this article, we’ve gathered an exhaustive list of possible causes for your problem and their fixes in the form of a simple troubleshooting list that you’ll have to go through step by step.
What Are The Possible Causes For This Problem?
Here are some of the common culprits that can cause Windows activation issues:
- You or the computer’s manufacturer properly activated Windows on the device.
- Your product key may be invalid, and you’ll have to get a valid key to activate your Windows 10.
- Your product key may be designed for a different Windows version.
- Don’t use a Windows 7 or 8 product key for activating Windows 10.
- You used your product key on multiple computers and exceeded the number allowed by your license terms. If so, the product key is no longer valid for Windows activation.
- You have changed your hardware. Since the digital license associates itself with your device’s hardware when you first install Windows, replacing hardware like the motherboard, CPU, or other important hardware will cause Windows to no longer find a license that matches your device.
- Your new Windows may be fake, and if that has proven true for Microsoft, it won’t let you activate it on your computer.
- A malware or virus infection may be causing your Windows 10 activation to fail.
- Your computer might have damaged system files or registry entries, causing the activation to fail.
- The drivers might be corrupted or outdated.
- The Microsoft account you’re using may not be the one storing the digital license to activate the OS.
Preparations Before You Try The Fixes
Before you attempt any of the mentioned fixes, let’s do some preparations and ensure you’re not wasting your time.
Firstly, make sure the copy of Windows you’re using is genuine and not fake.
Microsoft has no support for copies that come from other vendors.
You can head to Microsoft’s How to Tell website and gather more information if you’re uncertain about the validity of the Windows version you have.
Next, verify that the system files or registry entries are healthy by running the “sfc /scannow” command in the Windows Command Prompt or PowerShell.
Read this article that Microsoft has provided to find out how to deal with corrupted system files.
Ensure that the OEM feature isn’t activated on your Windows, meaning that Windows isn’t linked to your motherboard.
When you purchase a pre-built computer, the manufacturer installs a product key or OEM key on the system.
OEM keys are a type of device-specific product keys, and they can’t work on any other system.
If you’ve changed a hardware component, ensure that your Windows isn’t an OEM version before proceeding.
Lastly, make a complete backup of your system so you don’t lose them if something goes wrong.
Fixes For Windows Reactivation Issues
Let’s see what error messages you might encounter that the list of fixes can solve:
- “Unable to activate Windows. It looks like the hardware on this device has changed. Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and try again later.”
- “Windows reported that the hardware of your device has changed. Error code: 0xC004F211”
- “We can’t activate Windows on this device because you don’t have a valid digital license or product key. If you think you do have a valid license or key. Select Troubleshoot below. Error code: 0x803F7001”
- “We couldn’t activate Windows. Try activating Windows again or contact Microsoft support and reference the error code. You can go to Settings for more information. Error Code: 0xc004f014”
If you’re dealing with any of these error codes or similar statements, move on to the following fixes to get rid of them.
1. Restart The Computer
Since bugs and glitches can trigger the Windows non-activated issue, restarting your computer can help get rid of them and restore your original settings.
Remember that a bug or glitch might come back in the future, but this works as a temporary fix.
2. Just Wait!
Simply waiting for 24 to 48 hours has helped multiple users to activate their Windows without encountering issues.
Especially if you’ve been facing this issue since changing a hardware component, wait for the hardware configurations to be saved on Microsoft servers and try activating Windows again.
You may be tempted to try some of the following fixes right now, and that’s generally fine because most of the mentioned methods are harmless and easy to perform.
However, think twice before purchasing a new product key or reinstalling Windows, and let a few days pass before attempting these fixes.
3. Use The Activation Troubleshooter
If you have a digital license, you can use the Activation Troubleshooter, a handy feature built into Windows 10 version 1607 or later.
Before you start, you’ll need to add your Microsoft account and link it to the digital license for this method to work.
- Sign in as the administrator if you haven’t already.
- Head to Settings and then open the Activation section from the left menu bar.
- Select the Add an Account option.
- Enter your Microsoft account credentials associated with the digital license and then Sign in.
- The Activation status should now change to “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.”
- Now go back to the main interface of Settings and choose Update & Security this time.
- Select Activation from the left pane and then click on the Troubleshoot link.
- Click on the link that reads, “I changed hardware on this device recently.”
- Type in your Microsoft account credentials and then Sign in.
- You’ll now see a list of the devices you’ve registered with this account.
- Select the device with activation issues and then check the box next to “This is the device I’m using right now.”
- Click on the Activate button, so hopefully, Windows goes back to normal on your system.
4. Use Product Key
If you don’t have a digital license, you should use the product key to activate Windows again after a hardware change.
This method applies to users who didn’t purchase a device with Windows installed on it and bought a product key to activate or update Windows before.
- Open the Settings app and head to Update & Security.
- Go to the Activation section and select the Change Product Key link.
- Enter your product key and activate Windows.
If you’ve forgotten your product key, don’t worry.
There’s a way you can retrieve it using the PassFab Product Key Recovery tool.
It’s a capable software that can recover your Windows product key, Microsoft Office license key, Microsoft Visual Studio serial key, and so on.
- Download, install, and launch the PassFab Product Key Recovery app.
- Click on the Get Key button and wait for the app to detect the available keys.
- Once you get your Windows product key, click on Generate Text and save the key.
- Now you can copy the product key and try activating Windows with it.
If you still get error messages, there might be two things wrong with your product key.
A. Current Product Key Doesn’t Match The Purchased Product Key
If you’ve gotten your product key from an authorized retailer, this issue applies to you.
A malware attack might have deleted the product key you’ve installed, preventing Windows from activating.
You need to ensure whether the installed product key and the purchased product key are still the same.
You need to find the current product key first using the following steps:
- Right-click on the Windows logo and select Windows PowerShell from the list.
- Paste this command in the field: “wmic path SoftwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey.”
- Hit Enter to get the product key.
- Verify that this product key is the same as the one you’ve purchased.
If not, head back to the Activation section, select the Change Product Key link, and enter your original product key.
B. The Product Key Has Expired
Microsoft Windows 10 allows users to activate Windows permanently using a valid product key.
If you’ve purchased your key from the official store or an authorized retailer, it can’t expire.
However, if you’ve purchased the product key from unauthorized websites and retailers, they can expire.
To check the expiration date, go through the following steps:
- Open Command prompt or Windows PowerShell.
- Paste this command: “slmgr /xpr.”
- Once you hit Enter, a pop-up window will appear.
It’ll either show you a message reading “The machine is permanently activated” or the expiration date.
5. Use Your Phone For Activation
Activating Windows by phone has worked for many users, and it’s worth a try.
Note that this method won’t pan out if Windows came preinstalled on your computer.
- Type “Run” into the Windows search box and launch the app.
- Type “Slui 4” into the dialog box and hit Enter.
- Select your country or region from the list and hit the Next button.
- The system will provide you with a toll-free phone number which you can use to get your confirmation ID.
- Use the ID to activate Windows.
6. Remove Device From Microsoft Account And Reactivate
If you’ve encountered the issue after adding your Microsoft account to Windows for using the digital license, removing the computer from the Microsoft account and trying again might help.
- Head to the Microsoft Devices management portal and log in with your Microsoft account credentials.
- You’ll see a list of devices connected to your Microsoft account.
Find the one with the activation problems and then click on the Show details option.
- Click on the Manage option underneath the device’s name and select the option that says, “Remove laptop [or device-name].”
- Check the box next to the “I’m ready to remove [this device]” option and hit the Remove button.
- Now head to Settings on your computer and open the Accounts section.
- You should see a link that says Sign in with a Microsoft account instead.
- Click on it, enter your Microsoft account credentials with the digital license linked.
- Complete the login process and try to activate Windows again.
7. Update Windows
There’s a pretty common bug in the Windows 10 Insider Preview that can cause activation issues.
Microsoft releases patches for these issues pretty often, so check if there are any updates available:
- Open the Settings app and choose the Update & Security section.
- Hit the Check for Updates button.
- If you get a pending update message, click on its respective button to download and install it.
- Afterward, you’ll have to restart your PC for the update to be activated.
8. Update Drivers
As mentioned, outdated or corrupted drivers can be troublesome.
Head to Device Manager, expand each driver, right-click on them, and choose Update Driver from the drop-down menu.
Choose the Search automatically for the updated driver software option in the pop-up window.
The process can be time-consuming and also unnecessary because you don’t know which drivers need updating.
Using a utility that can detect faulty drivers and update them automatically to their latest versions can help in this situation.
The Bit Driver Updater is a capable application with the mentioned features, and here’s how to use it:
- Download and launch the Bit Driver Updater software.
- Click on the Scan Drivers button.
- It’ll take the app a few seconds to show you all the faulty drivers.
Hit the Update button next to each of them, or hit the Update All button.
- After the complete auto-installation is complete, restart your PC.
The Driver Easy tool is another driver updater utility that can help:
- Download, install and open the Driver Easy app.
- Click on the Scan Now button in the main interface.
- Find all the flagged drivers on the list and click Update for the automatic installation to start.
- You can purchase the app’s Pro version to update all your problematic drivers by hitting the Update All button.
9. Run Antivirus Software
Some particularly malicious viruses or malware can delete your product key to block you from accessing Windows and its functions.
Some can even fake the Windows activation error messages to mess with you.
You’ll have to do a thorough scan and get rid of the possible infections.
You can use the built-in Windows Defender through Settings > Update & Security > Windows Defender > Open Windows Defender > Full Scan.
To be safe, run a trusted anti-malware suit or antivirus solution to get rid of the worst malware.
10. Contact Microsoft Support
If none of the mentioned methods has solved your issue, head to the Microsoft Support Page to contact the Microsoft support team.
Describe your issue in detail for the representative and tell them about the fixes you’ve tried so that they help you fix it.
11. Purchase Digital License Or Product Key
If you have an OEM installation of Windows, your product key was used on more devices than Microsoft allows, all of the mentioned methods have failed, and Microsoft support couldn’t help you either, you’ll have to purchase a new product key or digital license.
- Head to Settings > Update and Security > Activation.
- Select the Go to Store option.
- Select the Digital License you want to buy and complete the purchase.
12. Reinstall Windows
The errors you’re encountering might be because of an incorrect Windows installation, and something may have prevented your Windows installation from being a success.
Format your hard drive, buy a new copy of Windows from Microsoft, and reinstall the clean version of Windows to fix the problem.
How To Avoid Activation Issues In The Future
If you want to make a hardware change in the future, go through the following fixes first to avoid the same problems with Windows activation again.
First, you need to ensure that Windows is already activated on your device.
To do that, open Settings, head to Update and Security, and then the Activation section.
You should see a message like “Windows is activated with a digital license” next to the Activation heading.
If you find out that Windows has yet to be activated, follow the activation process completing the steps mentioned on the Activation page.
Next, if you’re running Windows 10 version 1607 or later, you’ll have to link your Microsoft account with the Windows digital license on your computer.
This method allows you to reactivate Windows using the Activation troubleshooter after making the hardware change.
Navigate to the Activation page through Settings again and read the activation status carefully.
If it reads “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account,” you’re all set.
However, if it says, “Windows is activated with a digital license,” you’ll have to link your Microsoft account to the digital license using the following method:
- Sign in as the administrator if you haven’t already.
If you’re not sure you’ve signed in as the administrator or not, head to Settings > Accounts > Your info.
You should see “Administrator” under your name.
- The administrator account should also be your Microsoft account.
Your email address should be displayed above as the administrator.
If that’s not the case, log in with your Microsoft account credentials.
- Go back to the Activation page in Settings and select Add an account.
- Enter your Microsoft account credentials and then Sign in.
The Activation status should now change to “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.”