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Microsoft's latest Windows 10 Insider build offers alt activation approach

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 13, 2015
Monday's build 10565 lets users activate OS with prior editions' product keys.

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Microsoft yesterday shipped the latest Windows 10 preview to its Insider testers, with improvements to the Cortana assistant and the default Edge browser, and betas of the "universal" Skype apps for messaging, audio calling and video conferencing.

Monday's build, tagged as 10565, was the first issued by Microsoft to the Insider ring -- the public preview of all Windows 10 changes -- since Sept. 18.

Build 10565 also made significant changes to how Windows 10 is activated, Microsoft's term for proving that it's a legitimate license.

"We have received a lot of feedback from Insiders on making it easier to activate Windows 10 on devices that take advantage of the free upgrade offer to genuine Windows by using existing Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 product keys," wrote Gabriel Aul, engineering general manager for Microsoft's OS group, in a Monday post to a company blog.

When Aul said, "a lot of feedback," he wasn't kidding: Microsoft's Windows 10 support forum dedicated to activation, among other topics, sports some threads with hundreds of thousands of views and hundreds -- in one case more than a thousand -- of posted messages.

Not all of those users complained about trouble activating Windows 10 outside of the OS's new process -- which originally did not rely on actual product keys, the alphanumeric codes issued with legit licenses -- but many were stymied if Windows 10 didn't do its job, or if they had done an install-from-scratch without first upgrading a Windows 7 or 8.1 device. They were mystified why there wasn't a way to enter a product key from their previous edition of Windows, as had been possible with pre-10 versions.

According to Aul, that's now possible in build 10565. Assuming it meets the grade with the Insider guinea pigs, it will likely be pushed to all Windows 10 users at some point.

"If you install this build of the Windows 10 Insider Preview on a PC and it doesn't automatically activate, you can enter the product key from Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 used to activate the prior Windows version on the same device to activate Windows 10," said Aul [emphases added]. Aul told users to call up Settings from the Start menu, then select "Update & security" and "Activation." Clicking the "Change product key" launches an app that lets users type in the product key from their earlier edition.

"If you do a clean install of Windows 10 by booting off the media, you can also enter the product key from prior Windows versions on qualifying devices during setup," Aul added.


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