A friend of mine bought an Acer Aspire E 15, which came with Windows 10. What I was surprised to see it didn't come with was any sort of product key--no sticker on the bottom like I was used to with Windows 7, no little mini-manual, no CD or DVD of any kind.

I went into the disk manager, and saw that besides C:, there were two partitions: UEFI (100 MB) at the beginning and what appears to be a recovery partition at the end...but it's only 500 MB. Isn't Windows 10 a DVD-sized affair, i.e., couldn't possibly fit into 500 MB?

1) Suppose we want to partition the computer into a dual-boot setup. If I get a stock OEM Windows 10 image online and install it, how can I activate it without a product key? Do the good folks at Microsoft already have this laptop's hardware signature in their database, and they'll activate it for me automatically online without any trouble? I read that now it's stored in "UEFI firmware"...does that mean if I repartition and wipe out the UEFI partition, that I cannot activate a newly reinstalled copy of Windows? What if I wipe it but I first obtained the key using something like ShowKeyPlus?

2) Suppose we don't need a dual-boot, but the system gets corrupted and needs rebuilding. How does the recovery work given it's only 500 MB and this is Windows 10?

3) In case either of the above scenarios is trouble, is there any way, as in the not-so-old days, to burn a system recovery DVD or make a USB stick (specific to this laptop), and would it then help us to avoid Windows activation trouble after a recovery? (The user's data is all loaded on the system so it's too late to forget any Acer-specific tools and just do a clone myself.)

So what happened to the recovery ecosystem? Having gone from CD to DVD to recovery partition and now to...something that doesn't seem to add up?

  • @duDE Thanks, I put that for context only to give an indicator of my probably level of understanding. Also why I would say "seems to be a recovery partition"--language issue. Anyway, I agree with your edit and left it, people can ask for clarification if need be. – Kev Jan 19 '17 at 13:56

You don't need either. The system already has a digital licence, and will activate. All you need to do is download new media, boot into it. Skip the key and install it.

Your licence is tied into the hardware and it will just activate.

Reinstalling can be done with the new "refresh" and "restore option" - with this, oldschool image based backups are called "windows 7 backups" and the normal backups are through file history. I just use a third party tool.

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    If you are referring to the Reset or Refresh from within Windows, I'd definitely never recommend these. I had a brand new Dell with 10 minutes on a fresh new 1st time user. Tried that as recommended with a Dell tech, and it bricked my system. Hours later, I restored the FACTORY image in 10 minutes from recovery console. The Acer's we have, don't have room for the ~13 GB factory recovery partition, so all you have to do is use WINDOWS image backup, which still ships with Windows 10 and is free. – DaaBoss Jan 19 '17 at 14:50
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    I've gotten reset to work fine on a healthy system - I've mentioned image backups but I think what MS expects people to do is refresh or reinstall and bring in backups from file history. – Journeyman Geek Jan 19 '17 at 14:51
  • Licensing is undergoing changes, but it should be tied to the hardware as stated. However, if it isn't for some reason, bust Microsoft's chops until the reauthorize this OEM PC it they give you grief. – DaaBoss Jan 19 '17 at 14:53
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    Agree reset should work. However, my system was a brand new Alienware. After research, often Windows updates messes up you new install. then the "Windows reset" attempts to put the FILES that it thinks you need, back, and OFTEN gets royally confused, after which, complete reinstall of the OS, then all the drivers, then any apps -- a nightmare, IMO, and totally unnecessary if you simply have an old school image, which take less that 20 minutes with today's hardware. – DaaBoss Jan 19 '17 at 14:58
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    The 500 MB partition is so you have recovery console, and a subset of Windows, so you can get to repair, a command prompt, restore an image from external drives or from an internal factory image, (if you have one), etc. UEFI of course makes secure boot work. The keys in Windows 10 have been migrated around, but the ultimate location will likely be a fingerprint of your system when you do Windows updates. But, they are NOT accessible anymore in Win-10 -- Google around to learn the latest on keys. – DaaBoss Jan 19 '17 at 17:10

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