Here's the situation: I own Windows 7 Ultimate, box version, with product key and all. But I DON'T HAVE IT INSTALLED.

I used my only system SSD to test Windows 10 Insider Preview.

I admit I used pirate KMS to activate it, since it refused to activate.

Now I installed official Windows 10 Pro, but it obviously doesn't activate. At least legally, because activating via pirate KMS still works, but it's not what I need. I'm entitled to free upgrade as legal, registered Windows 7 owner.

I've read I have to wipe my HD, install Windows 7, activate it, install ALL updates (which would take all day), then upgrade (and it would activate then).

Since I don't have whole day to waste for it - is there a shortcut? I'm looking for a way to use my Windows 7 product key to activate my Windows 10 upgrade. I'm positive it's possible, but it requires some magic. Any clues?

Here's my guess, when you do normal upgrade procedure you get new product key for Windows 10 based on the product key you had for previous Windows version. The old key has to be validated first. My question is: how to achieve it using only existing Windows 10 installation? Maybe I could install Windows 7 on virtual machine, activate it and somehow get the new product key from VM? Anyone tried that?


The Windows 10 upgrade stores your machine ID on Microsofts servers. This means that if you decide to do a clean install at a later point in time, you do not have to type in any product key and that you can just skip it during installation. After installing it will then activate itself (This may take a while.. Took a few hours and some restarts for me).

I actually decided to test this yesterday when installing, so when I was finished upgrading to Windows 10 I extracted the new product key from my registry and then I tried to do a clean install using that key. Sadly the Windows 10 installer doesn't recognize that key as valid.

In short: It doesn't look like there's any "magic" way to circumvent the upgrade method on the first install, since you need to get your machine ID up on Microsofts servers to be able to activate your Windows 10 installation.

Are you sure you need to get all the updates for Windows 7 first? On my laptop I was able to upgrade to Windows 10 directly on top of a fresh Windows 8 install.

Update: You could try to contact Microsofts support. Apparently a few people have had success getting them to upgrade your existing key to a Windows 10 key - Haven't tried it myself though so I can't confirm it.

  • The key when you do an upgrade from Win7+ is a dummy key, you get this key also if you don't enter any key during the setup. – phk Nov 2 '15 at 12:54

At the meantime two new solutions to activating Windows 10 with a genuine previous install of non-enterprise Win7/8/8.1 have emerget:

  • Starting a certain tool in the Windows 10 setup folder: get a Windows 10 using Microsoft's downloader on a flash drive, then follow the procedure from: https://www.reddit.com/r/Windows10/comments/3i93mp/no_need_for_a_full_upgrade_to_install_10_from/ (copying source\gatherosstate.exe to a directory with write permissions and running it in order to retrieve a "GenuineTicket.xml" file to be copied into a fresh Win 10 Installation without any keys entered during setup. The folder where it has to be copied to being "c:\programdata\microsoft\windows\clipsvc\genuineticket\", after a reboot the installation should be activated.

  • Getting an ISO of the newest Technical preview if you are Windows Insider. This one accepts Win 7/8/8.1 retail and OEM keys directly during the setup and activates right away.


No, you can't avoid the upgrade first, sorry.

However, you might be able to skip the updates, or at least skip a lot of them.

Firstly, install Windows 7 and see if it provides the option to upgrade immediately, if not then you probably will need service pack 1, which can be downloaded directly (see here), after installing that you might be offered Windows 10 immediately - though it might still want to do lots of updates first.

If it still doesn't offer Windows 10 you can bypass Windows Update and download Windows 10 directly (here) - you may need a flash drive or DVD. Once Windows 10 is downloaded then you can run the setup program from within Windows, which will allow you to do the upgrade in place. Note that you might want to disable the option which asks about installing updates first! (It's not clear if this option refers to just the installer or the PC as well.)

It might be possible to run the Windows 10 setup on a fresh install on Windows 7 (i.e. skip installing Service Pack 1), but I can't say for sure.

  • Yes, you can, there are several ways now, one using "gatherosstate.exe" (use this as a keyword for an internet search) and another using simply the keys for the previous Windows versions in the newest Technical preview of Windows. – phk Nov 2 '15 at 12:56
  • @phk - You talk about using Windows 7, Windows 8 , and Windows 8.1 keys to install and activate the most recent Insider Preview builds of Windows 10 but fail to mention that before a few weeks ago it wasn't possible to do that. – Ramhound Nov 2 '15 at 13:04
  • The "gatherosstate.exe" method worked before already. – phk Nov 2 '15 at 13:08

You should first upgrade from current windows 7 /8 to Win 10.Retrieve the key for windows 10 by using a free app (because its changed) and then do a clean install of windows 10 with the new key.

-It will work without needing previous windows presence.

  • This won't work because the key retrieved by those tools in Windows 10 gives you one of several "generic keys" which is not a valid Windows 10 key and cannot be used for activation. – Andre Nov 2 '15 at 8:44

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