For more than a decade, Microsoft has lost money because of the way its activation program worked in Windows. ‘Activation cracks’ for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 have been readily available on the Internet, allowing anyone to bypass authenticity checks and essentially use Microsoft’s desktop operating system for free. Microsoft has quietly updated this mechanism in Windows 10 in order to help prevent unauthorised usage or piracy of the desktop operating system.
There are several tools available online designed to let you retrieve the product key of your installed copy of Windows. However, if you try using any of them on Windows 10, you will be surprised to learn that the keys they return are generic. This is because of a fundamental change to the underlying activation mechanism in Windows 10, something Microsoft hasn’t discussed publicly.
Prior to Windows 10, activation relied on a unique ID which was generated from hashes of your hardware and your product key. This allowed Microsoft to recognise your computer if you tried reinstalling the operating system using the same licence key, even with minor hardware changes.