I did a bare-metal Windows 8.1 install on a laptop which had once already been fully activated and licensed as a Windows 8.1 machine.

For fun, I did the install offline with dism from a Windows 8.1 install.wim and ensured I used the appropriate Home index. I also manually created the ESP and bcdboot /w: /s s: /f UEFI.

When I booted the machine, however, it prompted me for a key and simply would not activate based on whatever key it had generated for itself.

Frustrated, I gave up and installed 8.1 on top of it, this time using the installer made with Windows' 8.1 media creator. This activated correctly without me having to enter a key.

How can I manually force Windows Activation to query for the license based on current hardware without running the full Windows 8.1 installer?

  • You can't. The best way to solve activation issues is to use the phone activation.
    – Ramhound
    Nov 10, 2015 at 23:35
  • Can I clarify something. When you got frustrated and installed Windows 8.1 from proper media, activation succeeded even though you were offline (i.e. not connected to the internet)?
    – misha256
    Nov 11, 2015 at 0:30
  • @misha256 I was connected to the internet.
    – Tim G
    Nov 11, 2015 at 0:36
  • @TimG I had to delete my answer, as it was patently wrong. So to paraphrase what you're saying: Using DISM, you are able to install Windows to completion. But, when you try Activate (at which point presumably you either enter the required Product Key, or Windows finds it in your BIOS), the activation fails with an error "key blocked" or to that effect?
    – misha256
    Nov 11, 2015 at 2:56
  • @misha256 Yes, dism apply image works just fine. The unit boots after that, and during initial setup asks for a key. I click skip. It continues out-of-box-setup and I arrive at the desktop with an unactivated installation. Activation subsequently fails and tells me the key is blocked. I reinstall from scratch using the USB windows installer. Automatic activation happens with no intervention and the copy of Windows is "genuine".
    – Tim G
    Nov 12, 2015 at 10:36


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