Microsoft Quickly Fixes Windows 10 Activation Issue

Posted on November 9, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 18 Comments

Yesterday, many Windows 10 Pro users started seeing erroneous activation issues. But Microsoft quickly fixed the issue.

“We’re working to restore product activations for the limited number of affected Windows 10 Pro customers,” a Microsoft statement obtained by Mary Jo Foley notes. That statement arrived in mid-afternoon on Thursday. And Microsoft fixed the problem by the end of the day.

As you might imagine, given the way things have been going with Windows lately, there was an instant rip of outrage and criticism of the software giant for this latest gaffe. But without knowing what caused the problem yet, we can at least take solace in the fact that Microsoft did fix it very quickly. And it’s not like anyone lost data or functionality during the downtime, which lasted less than a day.

For those curious about the error, it impacted Windows 10 Pro only. Users were incorrectly informed by the OS that their legal copy of Windows 10 Pro was unauthorized or unactivated.

If you did experience this problem, it’s fixed: You can open Settings (WINKEY + I) and navigate to Update & Security > Activation, and then select “Troubleshoot” to run the Activation Troubleshooter to manually make everything right if it didn’t happen automatically.

So, yes, I’m wondering what went wrong. But in the scope of other issues coming from the Windows team these days—like the fiasco that is the October 2018 Update—this was a relatively minor problem, now fixed.


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Comments (18)

18 responses to “Microsoft Quickly Fixes Windows 10 Activation Issue”

  1. madthinus

    This is what happened when there is no one in charge of the product. You have fires everywhere with no one accountable.

  2. antdx316

    Never do preview insider probably lol. They might release bugs that would ruin your PC forever.

    Also, I've found the PC runs smoother if you do a "reinstall". I assume they cannot fix everything entirely with service packs and updates. The only way to truly make everything run how it should be up-to-date is to reinstall so everything that was "inuse" is overwritten down to the partitions.

  3. Ron Diaz

    Windows 10, the OS that keeps on giving... me hemorrhoids

  4. John Jackson

    All 3 of my oldest machines de-activated for half a day.

    Their common feature is that being old they originally came with W7 Pro, were upgraded for 25 a pop to W8(.1) and then for free to the wonderful service which is W10.

    Guess there was a bug in the licensing server check.

    Minor annoyance only.

    Which brings to mind an issue which has never been clarified (and probably never will be).

    The free upgrade to the wonderful W10 as a service came with future releases whilst the underlying hardware was still in support. How does the licensing server resolve this provision?

    Maybe MSFT were testing their idea of 'out of support' ;-)

    Maybe MSFT think I'm crazy for having lots of old PCs? (The oldest is one of the early CORE 2 DUO Dell machines - the floppy drive still works!)

    • Jarrett Kaufman (TurboFool)

      In reply to JackoUK:

      They're not going to deactivate hardware that's no longer in support. All it means is that at a certain point, as we've already seen with a few chipsets, that they'll stop supporting newer updates to Windows 10 on that hardware. You'll still have Windows 10 up to the version that was supported. Just no further upgrades.

  5. DaddyBrownJr

    "And it’s not like anyone lost data or functionality during the downtime, which lasted less than a day."

    I wonder how many people tried to reinstall Windows thinking that it was a real problem that they needed to fix? Every day brings another reason to try to find alternatives to the frustrations that Microsoft adds to our lives.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to DaddyBrownJr:

      That's nothing compared to the activation and licensing issues of other products. I do the IT for my company and I'd say 80% of the problems my users have is activation and licensing related.

    • gerardt

      In reply to DaddyBrownJr:
      not sure where "less than a day" is coming from, perhaps I am missing something. I have new computers that remain with proper activation today. I have rebooted multiple times, clicked on troubleshooting. Nothing has resolved the issue. I have spoken with Dell twice and they have informed me that Microsoft still has an issue.

  6. waethorn

    I wonder how many customers Microsoft suckered into paying for licenses that they already owned with this little stunt?

    Just FYI: The "Troubleshoot" option didn't work yesterday, and the affected computers were just "magically" activated today, automatically.

    "it’s not like anyone lost data or functionality during the downtime, which lasted less than a day"

    Speak for yourself!! I had clients calling me, wasting my whole day and theirs to try to get me to fix Microsoft's f*#$ up. I have better things to do than to try to hold client's hands looking for an answer for a problem I ultimately can't fix. Microsoft Support could've left a pre-recorded message on their activation hotline indicating the problem, but instead customers were left on hold in telephone hell to try to get these issues resolved.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to Waethorn:

      How do you know this was a stunt? Mistakes happen. Microsoft employees aren't gods. They make mistakes just like you and me.

      So you are telling me the fix didn't work before they fixed the issue. I'm surprised.

      • waethorn

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Besides, what motivation do you have to defend Microsoft in this scenario?

      • waethorn

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Whether or not this was intentional is not the point. I would bet there are some people out there that got convinced that their license was invalid and paid Microsoft to fix it - just like one of those Indian tech support scams. Did Microsoft refund those customers, or issue warnings to them stating that they probably don't need a new license?

        I was also saying that running the "Troubleshoot" option was not the solution from what I was seeing. Moreover, a reboot today was a simpler fix, although the simpler fix would've just been for Microsoft to not dance around the license cost and just eliminate the DRM in their software. They make money in their monetization from ads, Windows/Microsoft/whatever-you-call-it-today App Store commissions, and from royalty OEM's that pay for logo certification, as well as volume license agreements and software assurance, which have gone up in price in recent years along with their subscription offerings.

        • Jarrett Kaufman (TurboFool)

          In reply to Waethorn:

          Comment threads on other articles about this had at least one person indicate that he did, indeed, take the complaint seriously and went out and bought a new license. So while I don't think Microsoft did this remotely on purpose, you're correct that it cost people money. I got lucky and saw the articles early, before I even found the error on my own computer, much less before clients started calling me, so I already knew what I was dealing with and nobody was put out on my side. Had I been any less involved in the news cycle this could have been a major disaster.

  7. BoItmanLives

    "Quickly" fixes? LOL

  8. gerardt

    Running the troubleshooter does nothing. Still met with bold red lettering that computer does not have a valid digital license. I have several new Dell computers affected by this issue this AM. Contacted Dell directly and they have no solution except to wait for Microsoft.

    Tired of Microsoft.

  9. djross95

    Now that Terry's gone, who is the "Windows guy"? If I recall correctly it's split between Belfiore and some other guy, which is never a good thing.

  10. ivarh

    This is one of the reasons I prefer macos. No activation crap. No problems with repartitioning and reinstalling on new hardware after physical hw has changed. If I have the choice of 2 functional platforms/apps I will always go got the solution that does not inflict problems on it´s paying customers to try to prevent non paying customers from using their products.