Windows 11 activation problems arise after closing 7, 8 keys loophole

Windows 11 and 10 devices may get deactivated if they're previously activated with a 7 or 8 product key. Microsoft is investigating.

Windows 11 Surface laptop
Windows 11 Surface laptop / Image: Mauro Huculak
  • Microsoft is aware of deactivation problems on Windows 11 and 10 devices.
  • The problem occurs when significant hardware changes are made to the system.
  • The company is investigating the reports from devices activated using Windows 7 and 8 product keys.

Microsoft has confirmed that Windows 11 (and 10) are having activation issues, and the problem seems to be related to a recent change that blocks users from activating a setup of Windows 11 and 10 using a product key from an older version of the operating system, including Windows 7 and 8.

According to a report from The Verge, some users may notice that their installation could be deactivated after significant hardware changes, such as replacing the motherboard or updating the system firmware (BIOS or UEFI).

I personally haven’t noticed this problem, but it’s not uncommon for devices to get deactivated after a hardware change. However, Windows 11 comes with an activation troubleshooter to resolve the issue. The problem in this case is that users are reporting that it’s no longer possible to reactivate the operating system after the device runs Windows 10 or Windows 11 if the product key was originally from Windows 8 or 7.

The report points out a specific case where a person noticed that the automatic activation didn’t work after a hardware change. This person then contacted Microsoft technical support, and they said that because his “Windows 10 license had been upgraded from Windows 7 and that they had discontinued support for Windows 7 product keys, they could not continue my license for Windows 10 Pro after the hardware change.” Furthermore, technical support also confirmed that “changing the hardware is not a violation of the Windows license,” meaning that there isn’t a valid reason for the product key to stop working.

Microsoft has said that it is aware of the reports and is investigating, but the company isn’t saying what will happen to those affected customers.

When the software giant originally launched Windows 10, as part of the effort to get as many devices as possible to the next version, it offered a free upgrade deal to make the jump from Windows 8 or 7. Although the offer expired after a year, Microsoft kept the doors open, allowing users to upgrade to Windows 10 using a product key from one of the supported versions. Furthermore, even after Windows 11 launched, users were still able to activate using product keys from Windows 10, 8, and 7. However, the free upgrade using the older product keys finally came to an end on September 20, 2023.

The logical move might have been that devices that were already activated would remain activated. However, it appears that this is not the case, as it seems that Microsoft is treating a reactivation as a new activation, and under their rules, users can’t use a Windows 7 or 8 key to activate their systems.

It’s important to note that activating a clean install of Windows 11 with a Windows 10 product key is still possible.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 15 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 21 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].