Linking Windows 10 licenses to Microsoft Accounts

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 23, 2016
Updated • Jul 5, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

Microsoft introduced a new feature in windows 10 Build 14371 that allows you to link the digital license of the operating system to a Microsoft Account.

Even though Microsoft stated in the announcement that the feature is available starting with Build 14371, things look different currently than how Microsoft describes them.

Considering that this is a preview build after all, you can expect the feature to become available with the Anniversary Update at the latest.

Microsoft describes the feature in the following way:

Based on Insider feedback, we are also introducing the ability to link your Microsoft account (MSA) to the activation digital license with this Insider Preview build. If you already used an MSA to log in to your activated Windows 10 Home or Pro device, your MSA will be automatically linked. You can use this MSA linked digital license to re-activate your Genuine Windows 10 device by running the Activation troubleshooter, if you run into Activation issues caused by hardware changes.

According to the announcement, Microsoft Accounts will be automatically linked to the license when used to sign in.

The Activation Troubleshooter is another new feature introduced in the same build. Basically, it allows you to run it to re-activate a system under certain circumstances. Microsoft mentions hardware changes but also when the wrong version of Windows is installed on the device.

Using the Activation Troubleshooter

  1. The Activation Troubleshooter will be available in the Settings application under Update & Security > Activation. There you need to select the troubleshoot option to run it.
  2. The Troubleshooter attempts to activate Windows and if that works, you are done and the operating system should be activated.
  3. If that fails, it displays the message "We weren't able to activate Windows on this device".  A link to "I changed hardware on this device recently" is provided on the screen. Click on it to start the new activation process.
  4. You have to enter your Microsoft Account username and password, and sign in to the account. You may also have to enter the local account password if you have not linked the Microsoft Account to the system.
  5. From the list of devices that appear, select the device that you are currently using. Check "This is the device I'm using right now" and click on the activate button.

Activation questions

The process seems straightforward enough: sign in with a Microsoft Account, get the digital license linked to the account so that you can run the Activation Troubleshooter at a later point in time to fix activation issues without having to contact Microsoft.

Microsoft has a habit of revealing only some information, and this is one of those situations where an announcement raises more questions than it answers.

First of all, is the license linked to any Microsoft Account that signs in on a device? Or is the license only linked to the first Microsoft Account? If it is linked to every Microsoft Account, can you get multiple licenses assigned to a single account? Can you even collect them by signing in on devices with a Microsoft Account?

Second, does the linking to Microsoft Accounts remove the license link to the single PC? Can you install Windows 10 on another device after linking an upgraded copy of the operating system to a Microsoft Account, sign in with that account on the new device, and get it activated using the Activation Troubleshooter?

Or is the linking to the Microsoft Account used solely for reactivating the license on the same device? This would however require the linking of device information to the Microsoft Account.

Third, Microsoft mentions on the Feedback Hub that there is a reactivation limit, but fails to mention it. In the best case, this would mean that you cannot use the Activation Troubleshooter to activate the copy of Windows 10 on the device, and that you would need to contact Microsoft for that.

Fourth, does the linking of the license to a Microsoft Account affect selling the device or handing it over to someone else? Can you remove the link between a license and a Microsoft Account? Can you reactivate a new device with that license after selling an activated PC?

Linking Windows 10 licenses to Microsoft Accounts
Article Name
Linking Windows 10 licenses to Microsoft Accounts
Microsoft introduced a new feature in windows 10 Build 14371 that allows you to link the digital license of the operating system to a Microsoft Account.
Ghacks Technology News

Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Agent Smith said on June 24, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Nice recommendation !

  2. elderly lady said on June 24, 2016 at 6:42 am

    i just took the plunge an install win 10.Whats the best few stop tracking apps that you would recommend from you list last month?I tried DWS lite and Safer networking anti beacon.Would you say thats enough?

    1. Gabriel said on June 24, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      O&O ShutUp10 is my preferred choice.

      1. john said on November 1, 2020 at 6:30 am

        what setting are you using for this program (O&O ShutUp10) to remove the app tracking

  3. sunny said on June 24, 2016 at 1:23 am

    Only For Windows 10 Home or Pro users?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 24, 2016 at 4:52 am

      Yes, it seems to be limited to Home and Pro.

  4. Corky said on June 23, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    WTF is with Microsoft and their incessant need to do things automatically for people?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 23, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Could help them reduce phone support calls.

      1. kalmly said on June 26, 2016 at 3:26 pm

        Phone Support. Is that what they call it? The only time I called for support, I was connected to a very nice man whose English I could not understand, nor could he understand mine. All I got for my trouble was a phone bill for almost $300, and my problem was not fixed.

      2. Corky said on June 24, 2016 at 7:16 pm

        The automatic thing was in reference to how they automatically link license to the Microsoft Accounts, and all the other things they do automatically for end-users like setting all privacy settings to their most permissive settings.

  5. bob said on June 23, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Excited for this. It would make changing hardware, like upgrading mobo and cpu, a much better process. Hope it works!

    1. Kevin said on June 24, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      It would also make tracking you and associating information that is collected with a real name and identity much easier. Don’t forget that by default, Windows 10 wants to send browsing history to Microsoft. There is telemetry that can’t be turned off, a unique advertising ID, and so-fourth.

      You might be clued in enough to turn as much of this stuff off as you can, especially the bit about browsing history, but think of the millions of people who aren’t.

      1. Hahayeahokay said on July 29, 2016 at 7:43 pm

        Why are people so paranoid..

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.