Windows 10’s activation will require a product key in some scenarios
We have already reported how Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10, does not require the user to enter a license to validate the authenticity of the license, even after a clean install.
Microsoft makes this possible by storing a hash of the computer’s hardware, on its servers, once Windows 10 is installed and activated once before the system was formatted.
Users can clean install Windows 10, any number of times, and get their copy activated automatically. But if the user changes a major component of the PC, it will break the activation procedure, as the change makes it appear as if Windows is installed on a different PC, one on which the operating system has not been activated. To resolve this, the user must call Microsoft and explain about the hardware upgrade.
If a user upgraded to Windows 10 from an eligible copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, or bought a new license for Windows 10 from the Windows Store, (also applies to the Windows 10 Pro Upgrade) and activated it. Members of the Windows Insider Program, who have previously activated Windows 10, and have upgraded to the latest build of Windows 10 Insider Preview.
And this is where Windows 10’s activation will require a product key in some scenarios.
If a user bought a physical or digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized seller, or has bought a new device with Windows 10 pre-installed on it. This scenario applies to regular users, but business users have a different criteria. Companies don’t buy individual licenses for Windows, since they would have hundreds or thousands of computers. So, instead they buy them in bulk from Microsoft using either a Volume Licensing agreement or a subscription to the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN).
This is actually very surprising, since we were led to believe that all Windows 10 activations were similar, in that all you needed was to activate Windows 10 once, and forget about the product key. However, it is now clear, if you have an old computer which has been upgraded to Windows 10 and activated, the operating system, you’re good to go.
It certainly is a bit disappointing to see that new users will have to manually enter the product key, especially after clean installs. Perhaps, Microsoft is doing this to calculate how many users are upgrading using the free offer which is valid until July 2016.