Little known fact. If you dig into a current Windows 10 ISO file (mount it into your local filesystem, that is), you will find a file named gatherosstate.exe there (look in the sources folder). I changed the capitalization in the article title to make it a little easier to read. This little puppy is magic. If you copy it to the desktop of a Windows 10 PC, then right-click the icon and select “Run as administrator,” it produces a file named GenuineTicket.xml. The lead-in graphic for this story shows a truncated version of that file’s contents inside Firefox. (Note: this technique works only on copies of Windows 10 that have been activated, and can be used later on to re-activate the OS after a clean install. Also, it only works on the same PC where the ticket was generated.)
Next: A Clean Windows 10 Install
As long as you save a copy of the GenuineTicket.xml file to another drive or a USB flash drive, you can use it for validation after a clean OS installation (wipe the drives, and start with a fresh, new copy of the OS). During the install process, when a product key is solicited, click the Skip option instead. When the OS install is done, you can activate your fresh new copy of Windows 10 simply by dropping a copy of the GenuineTicket.xmlfile into the right folder. By no coincidence whatsoever, that folder is named %ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\ClipSVC\GenuineTicket (on most systems that expands to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\ClipSVC\GenuineTicket).
The next time you restart your PC, this file will have done its magic. If you click Settings → Update & Security → Activation (or simply type “Activation” into the Windows 10 search box), you should see that your clean install shows something like this:
This PC runs Enterprise, and shows it as “activated with a digital license linked to your MS account.” That’s the info inside the GenuineTicket.xml file doing its job!
Sometimes, a second restart may be required before the activation status registers on Microsoft’s servers. If it doesn’t work on the first try, restart again. If it doesn’t work after a second restart, further troubleshooting will be needed. Then, it’s time to return to Settings and search on “Troubleshoot activation.” This should fire up a helpful troubleshooter to guide you through subsequent repairs (or to contact with Microsoft Support, should that prove necessary, to straighten things out).
Note: I learned about the gatherosstate.exe program earlier today at TenForums.com, in reference to something a poster called the “gatherosstate dance.” I’d never heard of this before so I found Shawn Brink’s excellent tutorial at that site “Clean Install Windows 10 Directly without having to Upgrade First.” This told me everything I needed to know, and almost everything I’ve shared with you, in this story. Hopefully, you’ll find it as interesting and potentially useful as I did.
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.