Some Windows 10 Pro licenses are mistakenly deactivated

Some Windows 10 users are having problems with their Pro licenses today, as users on the company’s Community Forums and Reddit are reporting that their Windows 10 Pro systems are saying they are not activated, and telling users to install Windows 10 Home instead. Most of the reports appear to be coming from users who obtained the Windows 10 license thanks to the free upgrade path Microsoft offered back in 2015, suggesting that the issue is somehow related to it.

According to some of the reports, while the system says that users have a Windows 10 Home license, the Microsoft Store link in the settings page blocks them from attempting to buy a Pro license.

This happened to my workstation today, and it was a bit of a frightening moment – I earn my living using this machine, so seeing the big “Windows not activated” watermark certainly made me feel quite uncomfortable. Luckily, a reboot fixed it, but it does highlight just how problematic Microsoft’s activation systems can be. I begrudgingly understand that Microsoft needs some way of determining the legitimacy of Windows installations and that it needs to deter piracy, but major bugs like this really shouldn’t happen, ever.

Update: as it turns out, the reboot didn’t fix my issue at all. After running for a little while, my machine again reverted to a deactivated state. This means a watermark on the desktop interfering with things like video games, and all personalization options – colours, backgrounds, etc. – are disabled. It also seems this issue is quite widespread.

Microsoft has not provided any official statement (!), and all we have to go on is an unofficial statement on its support forums that reads:

Microsoft has just released an Emerging issue announcement about current activation issue related to Pro edition recently. This happens in Japan, Korea, American and many other countries.I am very sorry to inform you that there is a temporary issue with Microsoft’s activation server at the moment and some customers might experience this issue where Windows is displayed as not activated.

Our engineers are working tirelessly to resolve this issue and it is expected to be corrected within one to two business days.

This is clearly unacceptable. Users’ machines currently have functionality disabled, and a big watermark is interfering with everything you do on your computer. Microsoft is basically saying “yeah just deal with that for a few days”, which is entirely, utterly, and completely unacceptable.

Sadly, there’s absolutely nothing users can do about this. As always, software is special and not held to the same standards as other products, so nothing will come of this – no fines, no government investigations, no lawsuits, nothing. If this happened to a car or even a goddamn toaster, recalls would be all over the news and heads would roll. Not with software, though – because software is special, and releasing garbage software under pressure from managers is entirely normal and acceptable, and repercussions and consequences are words entirely alien to consumer software companies.

Sadly, it is what it is.

Update II: the issue is now truly fixed. Affected users can go to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and click on the troubleshooter.

53 Comments

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