Long time StackOverflow user, first time SuperUser. :-)

I have a Dell Inspiron and the motherboard just died. It came with Windows 7 but I upgraded to 10 a few months back. Since I have to replace the motherboard I want to replace the mb, cpu, memory and upgrade my OS drive to SSD (data is on a separate drive)

I know that through Win 7 when it was a Dell machine you needed to use the Dell specific install disk. I have the Win 7 (Dell) install disk and the install key for it but I have a feeling that the install is going to fail due to the fact that I am using a dell key on a fresh non Dell machine, which is what it will be after the new MB etc is installed.

So my question is this: What is my best path to get back to Windows 10? Start with the Win 7 install (and if so is there a way to keep Windows from freaking out about using a Dell key on a now non-Dell machine) or is there any way to go straight to Win 10 without purchasing it? I also have a Non-Dell Win 7 all versions disc

  • I have never used a manufacture OEM (such as your case) so I am not 100% sure if it will work with non-dell related equipment. However, with a normal OEM license, you are able to re-use the key on the same machine and it will activate without issue (I use an OEM key and have re-used it about 5 times on re-installations). In regards to how to go about installing windows, you are able to skip installing windows 7 and download the ISO of WIndows 10 (from their site) and install it directly. Inputting the Win 7 key will activate properly (just did this, this past weekend) Dec 30, 2015 at 16:31
  • Usually standard atx motherboards do not fit Dell cases, do your homework before buying a motherboard. Things like Dell front panel header connectors are non standard also, so any front jacks cannot be used.
    – Moab
    Dec 30, 2015 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


You will have issues activating this (legally, anyway) as you will basically be building an entirely new machine, as far as Windows activation goes, in the same case. As such, the licencing wouldn't cover re-using the same key.


Q. My customer bought a new PC and wants to move the OEM software from the old PC to the new one. Can't users do whatever they want with their software?

A. No, the OEM software is licensed with the computer system on which it was originally installed and is tied to that original machine. OEM licenses are single-use licenses that cannot be installed on more than one computer system, even if the original machine is no longer in use. The Microsoft Software License Terms, which the end user must accept before using the software, state that the license may not be shared, transferred to, or used concurrently on different computers. System builders must provide end-user support for the Windows license on computers they build, but cannot support licenses on computers they didn’t build. This is a fundamental reason why an OEM System Builder License can't be transferred.

Now, whether it would actually work or not, I can't comment. However, the other part of your question, since the Windows 10 November update, you can enter a Windows 7 or 8 licence key to work in Windows 10 (upgrading was always an option, but only since the November update could you actually enter those keys). So it's possible to get a Windows 10 ISO, ideally with the November update already installed, and use the key. I have doubts it would actually pass activation for you though.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. It's a shame I have a "valid" key that is now dead thanks to a dead MoBo. Ah, the joys of computing. :-) Dec 30, 2015 at 18:51
  • @ChrisCummings - You had a valid discounted OEM key connected to the motherboard. If your OEM device was under warranty you would be given a new motherboard and likewise be issued an entirely new license key. An OEM license is tied to the motherboard, there are a few exceptions, none apply to your case though.
    – Ramhound
    Dec 31, 2015 at 21:48

You're correct in your thinking that your old Dell serial will not work. It is linked to your motherboards BIOS. Windows 10 is linked to that hardware as well.

Your best path to get back to Windows 10 will be to purchase Windows 10 from a legit source. Microsoft store is a good starting point. Generally you'll find that Windows 10 is cheaper (as of Dec 2015) than Windows 7, if purchasing a brand new retail license. If you however have access to a legal Windows 7 license, you can still use it to upgrade to Windows 10 for free until July 29th 2016.

Having the disc is one thing. Those are available for free from Microsoft. It's getting yourself a legit license that isn't free, and in your case, you'll need to purchase one.

  • The upgrade offer expires on July 29th 2016, which isn't the last of day of July 2016, you might want to fix your answer or quote your source that indicates it ends on July 31st 2016 instead.
    – Ramhound
    Dec 30, 2015 at 17:30

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