Windows 10 Activation and Licensing

I just wanted to see if there was anyone here that happened to have experience with this situation and has found legal verification that it is legit.

So at work I’ve been imaging computers and laptops. Not glamorous work, but it’s alright. We use SmartDeploy, if it makes any difference.

Anyway, we’re an all Dell shop. If you go to Dell’s website you can look up service tags and see the components that were originally installed in the system. It’ll list the original OS, and if you elected to downgrade it’ll list that too. All the computers that came with 8.0 or 8.1 were downgraded to 7. Because they came with 8.0 or 8.1 they all have the license key embedded in the UEFI/BIOS.

Now, if you image Windows 10 over the top of this Windows 7 install, and the system has the 8.0/8.1 key embedded, Windows 10 will see this key and automatically activate with a digital license.

We cannot figure out of this is a legal, legitimate, fully licensed copy of Windows 10. I had two online chat sessions with MS support, both times ended with being told our company legal department would have to contact Microsoft’s legal department and that they couldn’t provide any answer beyond that. We’ve asked Dell, who had no idea what’s going on, and thought it shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Our company legal department has poked at it a bit, but quickly became confused and frustrated.

We’ve got between 200 and 300 systems that will be doing this. A volume license is around $150 a pop, so there’s much that can be saved. And everything needs to be upgraded by year’s end. If you go read the EULA the section regarding licensing is exceptionally vague.

Anyone been in this situation and figured anything out?

If you were to use imaging software, it will unlikely pick up the BIOS/UEFI Key without manual intervention.

Also in a company setting, it is expected that you are using Windows 10 Enterprise MAK or VLK over the built-in key.

Assuming you are actually doing that and you need someway to image the machine and have it pick up the built-in key (to maybe sell off), you are likely going to need a 3rd party tool like RWEverything or something similar but more automated.


While I backup what @Novasty it is technically still legal… Microsoft even today is still allowing windows 7 or 8 keys an upgrade to windows 10 to the SKU that’s equivalent. That being said this means that it a fully legal copy and legitimate however in a business you should always be using a volume license key because of the legality of so many activations and the activation limits set on each SKU of windows. Should you choose to automate the imaging of windows or using some kind of thaw. Then usually a VLK benefits you more and is easier to work with in case the UEFI key is lost or reset… you should consider using the VLK but to leave it at the answer to your question yes if it picks up the key and activates through the genuine process it’s is legal. Microsoft seems to have no intent to bar this from occuring

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The imaging process itself doesn’t grab the embedded key, Windows does. Sometimes immediately, sometimes after a reboot or two. But 9 times out 10 it’ll activate on it’s own without needing to plug in a key manually.

In any case, I’m pretty sure management has decided to just go with the volume key to be safe. Means I have to go back to about a dozen systems and type that in, but whatever.

It’s just frustrating that Microsoft doesn’t explicitly confirm or deny that this behavior is happening, and that they allow it. In a non-corporate environment I’d have no problem just letting it happen and move on. In corporate environment it raises questions.

And getting answers to those questions from Microsoft appears to be very difficult.

From what I know, it isn’t illegal (don’t quote me on this), but it seems like it is heavily frowned upon. No one really wants to say boo about it either, nor does it seem like anyone will be able to give you a concrete answer.

Its actually perfectly legal. I will get you the specific clause added to the end user license agreement on WIndows 10. It discusses these types of upgrades in regards to grabbing the UEFI windows 7 and 8 keys to activate… I know for sure its in there. I am just teaching here in a few minutes so I cant do it now

@Novasty See, that’s the rub. If we get audited, and they find these systems this happens to, we’re afraid they’ll make a big deal of it. “But there isn’t anything saying we couldn’t” we’ll say. “There isn’t anything saying you could” they’ll say. Then we’ll have to buy the volume licenses anyway.

@PhaseLockedLoop Yeah, it’d be cool to see something in writing about this. Whenever you have time.

9 times out of 10 they really just look for the Windows Genuine Activation process not being tampered with. A valid license activation and documentation of the purchase of the license for the previous version of windows that was upgraded.

I wont have some for a while. Perhaps you and @Novasty can start searching it… get the PDF version thats indexed and just have at the haha

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So, just out of curiosity, which document are we talking about? The EULA in Windows 10 is very brief.

Edit: Nevermind. Sections 4 and 5 seem to explain it. We were focussing on section 2a. The sentence in section 5 stating that “Successful activation does not confirm that the software is genuine or properly licensed” is sort of the sticking point I think.

Still doesn’t really explain how to tell if it is properly licensed and genuine, though. Maybe that’s section 4a.

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This is true but as long as you can prove you purchased your key. That in combo with successful activation is enough to prove it’s validity in an audit

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Yeah, I was on the phone with Microsoft support for an hour and a half, getting bounced around between four or five people from regular support, commercial support, and something else. My superiors need it in writing, can’t just interpret the EULA.

Finally the last guy knew exactly what I was talking about, and understood the exact situation we are in. He said absolutely it’s perfectly fine. Said stuff about free upgrade. I still told him I still need it in writing from Microsoft that it’s allowed, since it isn’t explicitly stated that it is. The “free upgrade” period technically ended, and they aren’t promoting this as an upgrade path anywhere. He even said if Windows says it’s activated, then it’s licensed. But I pointed to the EULA and the line that specifically says the opposite.

Anyway, I never got the email from him, so I’ll probably call in again Monday and try to get him on the phone again.

Its because auditors literally never seem to dig that deep. Unfortunately if you never get it in a writing my best suggestion to your superiors is either roll with it or if you cant … move on to purchasing a volume license as is recommended

Activated doesn’t mean licensed.

But in this case, there is a time limited upgrade to windows 10, and from what i know you just need to prove you have do upgrade to windows 10 during the free upgrade window even if you restored windows 7 after the upgrade. I acturelly done this back in time, by upgrading the machine by plug in a hard drive with windows 7 do an upgrade and replug the original drive. But that of course hard to prove or disprove, so the likely hood of runing into trouble is very low.

And ordinary license didn’t have Reimaging rights to do golden image like things. You need at least 1 Windows 10 Pro Upgrade license to gain access to the Reimaging rights which comes with VL media/keys. If you have VL media/keys you shouldn’t suprise to find every machine get activated.