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We have around 30 desktops and 15 laptops at my workplace. They are all on Windows 7 pro 64bit.

We will want to upgrade to Windows 10 pro in about a years time but at the moment, we use a piece of software that is integral to our business but does not run on Windows 10. This software is being re-written for release in about 9 - 12 months.

How could we go about reserving the upgrade but not actually upgrading?
I do not want to release the update through WSUS that allows users to click the 'Get Windows now' icon and reserve the upgrade that way as I do not trust them to not try to upgrade there and then.

I have thought about the possibility of following the process in this article:-

  1. Back up W7 install
  2. Install W10 and activate license
  3. Revert to W7 backup

Would this be the best way? It seems like a lot of time and effort to do every computer this way.

  • 2
    yes, creating backups is the best solution. After the update to Win10 also create new images – magicandre1981 Jun 10 '16 at 15:20
  • And I guess the only way to keep the license is to backup it with Microsoft account, then you can ever reuse it by login again – Mahdi Rafatjah Jun 13 '16 at 11:16
  • Try to ask Microsoft about this, nobody else really knows how the digital entitlement thing really works. – Vojtěch Dohnal Jun 13 '16 at 11:27
  • @MahdiRafatjah entirely irrelevant. He doesn't want to stay on Win10 but keep the Win7 backups. The opposite – Dr.Ping Jun 14 '16 at 8:46
  • Yes, this method should do what you need. This is what I'd do in your situation. Kinda sad that MS cannot be trusted anymore – Dr.Ping Jun 14 '16 at 8:48
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+50

So you need to obtain a digital entitlement from Microsoft, that upgrades your Windows 7 license to Windows 10 license. It is bound to the computer hardware even in case you had a retail non-OEM version of Windows 7 purchased. I suppose you do not have any corporate licensing model applied (MPSA, Select...).

See Activation in Windows 10

Digital entitlement is a record stored on Microsft activation server that contains the hardware hash and the edition of Windows. Nothing else enters into it. Neither Microsoft account, nor the original product key.

Digital entitlement is created when you upgrade to Windows 10. It is possible to get it even with a clean install by entering the product key from the original version of Windows (if this has not been used recently). Without installing Windows 10 you can not get it.

But you can back up the current status (backup image), upgrade to Windows 10, and after activation you can roll back (via the backup image, or directly using the rollback button in Windows 10).

(Corrected previously given info:) Information about HDD are stored in Hardware hash, but do have a low priority. The hardware hash is what you get by gatherosstate.exe tool. But when you try to activate using a different and pre-installed HDD, as suggested by @harrymc, you run into a risk, that your hardware hash will be different from what you have registered with Microsoft activation server, and you will not find the digital entitlement during activation and will have to buy the Win10 anyway, so all the efforts will be probably fruitless. Also running the same OS image on various computers is not supported by Microsoft. It forced me few times to phone activation in the past.

So one viable option for you is to upgrade, activate and then immediately roll back. If you are lucky, then no backup images will be necessary. So you can simplify the process you have suggested only by using built-in rollback instead of cloning back the image of the Win 7 disk. Of course the rollback can go wrong sometimes.

There is no special tool that would allow you to query the Microsoft activation server's database for your hardware hash except of the activation process itself.

(source link)

  • 1
    This is not a solution - the procedure is already described in the post. – harrymc Jun 15 '16 at 7:23
  • 1
    Not a new solution no, but still useful to me as it gives me a little more confidence in the procedure we have both outlined. Thank you. – Ctrl-alt-dlt Jun 15 '16 at 7:39
  • @harrymc meta.stackexchange.com/a/8893/267497 – Vojtěch Dohnal Jun 15 '16 at 8:09
  • As you mentioned my name in your answer, I remark about my (unproven) method: (1) The system disk is not in the hardware hash, (2) The hardware that counts in the hash stays the same. – harrymc Jun 15 '16 at 13:33
  • 1
    If you roll back after the upgrade, there's a good chance that this will revoke the digital entitlement. Now you could still test this, though: Upgrade, activate, downgrade. Do fresh install without entering any key and see if activation is successful. – TJJ Jun 15 '16 at 22:48
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This is only an idea for the poster. If it works it can save him an enormous amount of time. Please do not downvote, unless you are sure that it will not work (leaving an explaining comment would be appreciated).

Unproven idea :

Put a pre-installed Windows 10 system disk in the computer and change its serial number to that of the Windows 7 installation. The latest Windows 10 version supposedly accepts these serial numbers.

You will need to use a non-activated version of Windows 10 for it to get its digital entitlement and be recorded on the Microsoft servers. An activated Windows version can be deactivated by running in an elevated Command Prompt (cmd) the command slmgr /upk. Or you could use a free time-freeze product such as Reboot Restore Rx to freeze the Windows 10 disk in its inactivated state.

If this works, you will activate Windows 10 on this computer and get its hardware recorded by Microsoft for later on when you decide to move to Windows 10. In the meantime, you can put back the Windows 7 disk.

I have never tried this idea (I don't have 45 Windows 7 computers to upgrade).


Final remark :

The only procedure which is most likely guaranteed to work, is the one you have described in your post.

  • GenuineTicket is generated offline, PC is not digitally entitled until HWID is sent to activation server during online activation. You must install W10 and activate once to claim the free upgrade. – guest-vm Jun 14 '16 at 6:15
  • @guest: You are probably correct. There are more strange factors here. Last post in this thread tells that a GenuineTicket created without an Internet connection was not valid. This post says that the GenuineTicket method does not always work. So one apparently cannot count on it, in any case, before or after July 29. So finaly, not recommended. – harrymc Jun 14 '16 at 7:49
  • There are reported success with GenuineTicket method, I was just saying one should activate before deadline or it won't work. Ticket generated offline didn't work could be due to the fact that when HWID is recorded to the ticket, the NIC is excluded (disabled to stay offline) then online activation of W10 where NIC is included results in HWID mismatch. – guest-vm Jun 14 '16 at 8:04
  • huge misunderstanding in softpedia's attempt as they used a ticket generated from another machine but not the one W10 is freshly installed on! – guest-vm Jun 14 '16 at 8:53
  • 2
    The Windows 10 serial you recieve if you accept the free update is a generic key which cannot be used to install or activate Windows 10. Users who accept the free upgrade DO NOT recieve a Windows 10 license key, they recieve a digital entitlement, tied to that specific hardware. Have you even upgraded to Windows 10 cause I have and my key is the same as TJJ's – Ramhound Jun 15 '16 at 12:36
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some thoughts:
1) GenuineTicket.xml
caveat: unrecognised devices after a fresh install of W10 may cause HWID mismatch. install device drivers before activating.
during preparation phase, gatherosstate.exe should be ran with network adapter on, otherwise NIC is excluded from HWID.

2a) W7 key + W10 on different HDD
Hint to bounty hunters: changing HDD is fine[1].
It doesn't matter if this W10 is already activated as once it's connected to another host, HWID mismatches and thus it deactivates. (that is assuming this was not ever activated with retail key, but just previously activated with digital entitlement then swapped to different hosts to grab free upgrades)

2b) W7 key + W10 on same HDD different partition
W10 has build-in support to dualboot with W7. Easy to set W7 partition back to active under W10 too.

  • please refrain from downvoting. for the most part i'm not seeking the bounty. this is for supplementary purpose instead of a full answer. – guest-vm Jun 15 '16 at 17:51
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All upgraded computers will be recognized by a HWID in the future. No Win 10 serial is needed. What you could do is the following:

Get a spare HDD. Connect it to one of the machines in question, and do a clean install of Windows 10 on it. Use the key from the CoA-sticker to activate Windows 10. Check from "Settings -> Update & security -> Activation" that it shows digital entitlement under Product Key. Now, shutdown that computer, disconnect the drive, connect it to the next computer. On the new computer, the activation of the install on your HDD will become invalid. So, activate on the new computer using the key from the CoA-sticker of the current computer. Now repeat this, until all computers have received the "digital entitlement".

However: You can never be sure that Microsoft will detect that the machine is actually running Win 7 and revoke the digital entitlement. To do this, you would have to take the machines off the internet.

  • How is this different from @harrymc solution? – Vojtěch Dohnal Jun 15 '16 at 12:15
  • There is no serial number to write down after the upgrade. Yes, it is an almost(!) identical answer. – TJJ Jun 15 '16 at 12:33
  • Yes, I see. Do you think that the HWID or HW hash, created with a different disk, clean OS install and without using sysprep, would be usable to match with HW hash generated after upgrade with a different (upgraded) OS on a different HDD? There are too many things that can go wrong. – Vojtěch Dohnal Jun 15 '16 at 12:46
  • Yes. If you fresh install later, the HW except HDD will be the same. Only different HDD will not invalidate the activation. – TJJ Jun 15 '16 at 13:05
  • On that thread I linked (in Czech) one guy shares his experience, that this way fails 100%.- digital entitlement is not found due to fresh installation and HDD change. The only way would be a phone activation in this case. Moreover, the OP asked about upgrade and not about a clean install. But using phone activation it could work. – Vojtěch Dohnal Jun 15 '16 at 13:20

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