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I recently purchased a refurbished HP laptop that came with Windows 10 Pro installed and has a "WINDOWS 10 PRO FOR REFURB PCS" product key sticker. I then installed an SSD into the laptop and did a clean install of Windows 10 using an ISO image downloaded from Microsoft. However, the new install of Windows 10 automatically activated itself with a Windows 10 Home key that is apparently embedded in the laptop's BIOS.

Is there any way to get back to Windows 10 Pro using the product key on the sticker? I already tried following Microsoft's directions by entering that key in the Activation page of Settings, but Windows says it is invalid.

Answers to a different question state that with a retail Windows 10 Pro key, one can modify the installer ISO to use that key automatically, and it will take precedence over the key in the BIOS. This is a possible solution, but one which I have not had time to try yet.

The answer I am looking for is a solution that is specifically known to work with a refurbisher's product key. If you don't know of such a solution, then simply leave the question unanswered. I am not looking for more suggestions of "try reinstalling this way, maybe it will work".

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I'm going to take a stab at this.

There is some important missing information in your question. Which edition of Windows 10 did you install?

Windows 10 will automatically activate using a digital entitlement that is stored on Microsoft's servers and it is recognized as belonging to your system by a hash of various hardware and software components. It is one of the nice new features about Windows 10 that eliminates keeping track of the product key. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12440/windows-10-activation

But, it won't automatically change editions. Instead, if Windows can find a matching digital entitlement, or a product key in the BIOS, it will activate with that. Otherwise, Windows will require you to enter a product key matching the edition of Windows that was installed. You need to re-install with the proper edition.

I'm assuming you downloaded your .iso using the Windows Media Creation Tool? If not, download it and use it so you have a proper Windows setup disk or usb drive: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10

If you follow the instructions below and Windows setup doesn't ask you which edition of Windows to install at Step 3, then you probably have a product key embedded in your BIOS. Here are instructions on how to modify the installation media so it will always prompt you for what edition of windows to install (thanks to Daniel B for pointing this out): http://www.intowindows.com/how-to-select-pro-edition-while-installing-windows-10/

To install with pro (or home):

  1. Boot the newly created disc or usb drive you made for Windows 10
  2. When you are prompted to enter a product key choose,"I don't have a product key." You might not see this step if you have an embedded product key in the BIOS.
  3. Next, you will be asked to choose which edition of Windows to install. Choose 'Professional' edition. If you don't see this, then modify your installation media as posted above.
  4. Complete the installation, Windows will automatically activate with it's digital entitlement if this same hardware has previously been activated with Windows 10 Pro.

This is how Windows works, and I'm confident Windows will activate automatically. However, if necessary, after being sure you installed Windows Pro (instead of home like you have), you can activate by entering any previous Windows 7 Pro, Windows 8 Pro, or Windows 10 Pro (even refurb) license key. Sometimes stickers for older license keys are still present on refurbished computers. As of the date of this posting, yes, you can still upgrade for FREE from a previous OS to Windows 10, and that will likely never change.

Changing only the hard drive will not impact Windows digital entitlement validity.

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    He won’t be prompted for a product key though. Because Setup retrieves it automatically from the firmware. – Daniel B Jul 22 '17 at 17:46
  • Are you sure about that? I don't remember Windows 10 doing that. During the initial setup, Windows 10 will use the product key you typed in to choose which edition of Windows to install. Or, you can skip entering a key and choose which version. Windows 10 will NOT use that key to activate Windows. After the initial reboot, and during OOBE, Windows 10 will check the firmware or use the Digital Entitlement that matches the version of Windows that was installed and activate automatically. I can give it a test again on Monday, just to confirm. – Appleoddity Jul 22 '17 at 18:13
  • If memory serves, @DanielB is correct, I was never prompted for a product key during installation (due to the key embedded in the firmware). – John Lindgren Jul 23 '17 at 1:51
  • @Daniel you were right. I tested it out and have modified my answer with additional instructions. I started thinking, and realized I hardly ever install Windows 10 on a real computer. I usually install on a virtual machine and build a custom image to be deployed to a large number of computers. So, I never noticed the difference. Thanks for pointing that out! – Appleoddity Jul 23 '17 at 17:49
  • "Are you sure about that?" - I am 100% sure this is the case. So you should remove the commentary about not wanting comments and the part of your answer that isn't applicable to the author's question. Be sure to use quote blocks... – Ramhound Jul 23 '17 at 19:15
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There is a faster and easier way to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro if you have the product key for Windows 10 Pro For Refurbished and your Windows was activated as Windows 10 Home.

  1. Go to Start > Options > Update & security > Activate > Change Product Key
  2. Use the default Windows 10 Pro key.

VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T

This key is used from Windows 10 Pro when installing. It will not activate.

  1. The Windows will upgrade to pro and request a restart.
  2. After the restart open an Command Promed with Administrators privilege and execute the commands bellow.

slmgr /upk

This will remove the previous Product Key

slmgr /ipk XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX

This will install your product key. Where XXXX is your product key located in the sticker of WINDOWS 10 PRO FOR REFURB PCS

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The problem you are having is because you are probably using a install disk meant for a OEM install. The refurbished license will only work with an install using media made for refurbish license. Get your hands on a disk labeled "Preinstallation disc for Microsoft Refurbishers."

  • Windows 10 doesn't have "OEM" disks. You make a suggestion but don't tell the author HOW to do that suggestion – Ramhound Jul 21 '17 at 23:19
  • This is inaccurate, there are not different types of discs, Windows 10 installation media is universal. – Appleoddity Jul 22 '17 at 16:40

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