Why can't I activate Windows 10?

If you received a message saying that Windows 10 couldn't be activated, here are a few reasons why it might not have worked, and some things you can try to fix the problem. For more info about activation errors not listed on this page, see Get help with Windows 10 activation errors.

For additional help with the activation process, go to the product activation article.

You upgraded to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1 Update

If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free and ended up in a non-activated state, try following these steps:

  1. Go to Start Start button icon, then select Settings > Update & security > Activation.
  2. If your activation state says Connect to the Internet to activate Windows, it might mean you're not connected to the Internet or the activation servers are busy.

    If you're connected to the Internet, Windows 10 will be automatically activated. You can also select Activate to try and manually activate Windows. If the activation servers are busy, you might need to wait a while and then try again later.

  3. If your activation state says Windows is not activated, select Go to Store, and check to see if a valid license for Windows is available for your device.

    If a license isn't available, you'll need to buy Windows from the Store or go back to your previous version of Windows, make sure the previous version is activated, and then upgrade to Windows 10.

Note

  • If you continue experiencing problems activating Windows 10 after upgrading from an activated copy of Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update, contact customer support.

  • For more info about how to go back to a previous version of Windows, see the section in Recovery options in Windows 10.

You created media and performed a clean installation of Windows 10, instead of first upgrading from your previous version of Windows

In order to upgrade to Windows 10 using the ISO image or upgrade media you created using the media creation tool, you need to select the Upgrade this PC now option.

If you performed a clean installation instead of an upgrade, you'll be asked to enter a Windows 10 product key or buy a new license in order to activate Windows 10. This is because we weren't able to register your free upgrade entitlement with the activation servers because you didn't upgrade to Windows 10. To fix this, you'll need to go back to your previous version of Windows, make sure the previous version is activated, and then upgrade to Windows 10.

Note

  • For more info about how to go back to a previous version of Windows, see the section in Recovery options in Windows 10.

  • If you created installation media using a USB, after your PC has restarted, if you see a message that says "Install Windows" instead of installation progress for your PC, you'll need to disconnect the USB and then restart your PC again. Don't select Install now—this option will start a clean installation of Windows instead of an upgrade.

You upgraded to Windows 10, but didn't have a previous version or the correct edition of Windows installed (error 0xC004F061)

If you see error 0xC004F061 when you try to activate Windows 10, it means one of the following:

  • You're using a product key to upgrade to Windows 10, but a previous version of Windows wasn't installed on your PC. To update, you need to have Windows 8 or Windows 7 already on your PC.

    If you formatted or replaced your hard drive, you won't be able to use a product key to update to Windows 10. You'll need to install your previous version of Windows, and then reinstall Windows 10.

A different version of Windows or the product key might have been used as part of a repair

If you took your PC to a repair shop or to someone who builds and fixes PCs, it's possible that a different version of Windows was installed to complete a repair. Or, if a different product key was used for your PC during the repair, that key might be blocked if it was used on more PCs than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow.

If Windows was activated before your PC was repaired or rebuilt, then re-entering the product key that came with your PC or original copy of Windows might solve the problem. You can also try reinstalling your original version of Windows.

One copy of Windows might have been installed on multiple PCs (error 0xC004C008)

If you have one copy of Windows and installed it on more than one PC, activation might not work because the product key has already been used on another PC, or it's being used on more PCs than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow.

If your product key is being used on more PCs than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow, you'll need to buy a new product key or copy of Windows for each of your PCs in order to activate them.

Counterfeit software

If you have a counterfeit copy of Windows that wasn't published and licensed by Microsoft, activation won't work because Microsoft won't be able to create a match between your PC's hardware profile and your 25-character product key.

The How to Tell webpage on the Microsoft website can help you figure out if your copy of Windows is counterfeit. If it is, you'll need to buy a new copy of Windows.

Used PC

If you bought a used PC with Windows already installed on it, it's possible that the product key is being used on more PCs than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow.

You might need to ask the seller you bought the used PC from for the original Windows DVD and product key. If the DVD and product key aren't available, or if you tried them and still can't activate, you'll need to buy a new key or copy of Windows.

Hardware changes

If you made substantial hardware changes to your PC, such as replacing your hard drive or motherboard, Windows might no longer be activated on your PC. For info on how to activate your PC, see the product activation article.