Occasionally, when working with older PCs that have been upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8.x, one may be required to re-activate Windows 10. This should be a routine thing, provided that the PC has already been recognized by the Windows Activation Servers. Here’s what this looks like on my 2012 vintage Lenovo X220 Tablet, which has been upgraded 85 times now after starting out with a Windows 7 OEM key. SuperFly’s excellent ShowKeyPlus tool tells the whole story, for those who know how to read its output, as shown in the lead-in graphic for this story.
As you can see, it shows that Windows 10 Pro is installed on this PC with the default, generic Windows 10 Pro key (VK7JG-…). It’s marked with an asterisk, just to remind users that this key is not a valid retail, OEM, or MAK key. Rather, it’s tied to a Digital License that was granted when this machine registered with the Windows Activation Servers after its first upgrade to Windows 10 back in 2014.
Still in Doubt? Try Slmgr
Slmgr.vbs is a built-in Windows 10 tool. In this case, Slmgr stands for “Software Licensing Manager.” It is ready-to-run at the command line with any of a number of arguments. Because the information it can display can be sensitive, it is best run from an administrative PowerShell session or an administrative command prompt (cmd.exe). For some odd reason or another, I can’t find a complete slgmr command reference on the Microsoft website, not in DOCS or anywhere else.
But I did find a gem at an English-language German website named blog.pemato.de. It’s entitled Windows Activation KMS and slmgr.exe (I just checked, the real program name is indeed slmgr.vbs, title notwithstanding). This item includes all of the switches and options that slmgr.vbs accepts. In this case, you want to use the -xpr option (see below) to have it show you an expiration date for the license if one exists. Here’s what most people who’ve upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.x should see:
Once a valid Windows 7 or 8 license has been upgraded to 10, it should be “permanently activated” — that is, no expiration date.
[Click item for full-sized view.]
Shady licenses will often show up as MAK (multiple activation keys). If your Windows 10 license deal was too good to be true (cheaper than US$90 or foreign currency equivalent), chances are good you’ve got a MAK license. This will work, but is technically illegal (MAK keys are not supposed to be resold for individual use). MS can decide to cancel that key, and thereby deactivate your Windows 10 install, at its sole discretion. You’ve been warned!
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.