Windows 10 Licensing, upgrading to Pro, and sysprep

In general I have found the following to be true.

There are three ways for a computer to be licensed to use Windows 10

  1. The computer is purchased new with Windows 10 pre-installed (not upgraded). This usually means the license key is in the Bios and the actual key number will not be found on the computer.
  2. The computer is upgraded from a computer with Win7 or Win8.
  3. The license key is purchased separately from Microsoft or a retailer
  4. The licesne key is provided by a computer refurbisher

In any of those cases, once a license key is used it belongs to that computer only. That computer is defined by a combination of devices that at the least includes the motherboard. There is some uniquely defining code that Microsoft finds on the motherboard.

Putting any image of a similar type of Windows 10 (Home, Pro, Enterprise) on a pre-licensed computer will validate through Microsofts servers. This is because the motherboard (and possibly other devices) are defined at Microsofts servers.

The license key becomes meaningless once the computer is registered with Microsoft with a valid license key.

Which means that if I get a refurbished computer with a key on the outside of the box, and I have starte the refurbished computer and finished the Windows 10 installation with that key, then any system image will be valid as long as it is the same type (Home, Pro, Enterprise).

My process is this:

Created a setup with programs (including classic shell) that I liked on a Windows 10 Home laptop.

Made an image of that, to be used when imaging that same laptop or one with same hardware.

Update from Home to Pro so Home image would work on Pro

Updated that Home laptop to Pro, but without the purchased key.

To switch product keys, open Settings and go to Update & security > Activation > Change Product key. Enter the [temporary] product key from Microsoft (VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T) in the space provided. The upgrade process takes quite a while to complete so be patient.

That allowed me to download the Pro stuff and update my Home laptop.

Then I made an image of that setup.

Then I put back the original Home image on the laptop.

I went to my validated Pro computer. I used Double Driver to get the drivers from the validated Pro computer.

I used the image I made in the previous steps (upgrade but not validate Home to Pro).

I then used a program to remove unused drivers from the new Pro setup. This was necessary because a lot of the drivers from the laptop were not necessary and might cause confusion. I also looked for any programs that were laptop specific and removed them. There might be a few programs from the new Pro compute that I didn’t transfer but in my case the Pro computer was refurbished and there were no manufacturer’s software installed.

When I used that image on a computer with a validated Pro key everything was fine because the Pro image validated because the laptop or PC was already validated for Windows Pro.

This technique would not work the other way around … I don’t think you can downgrade from Pro to Home so an image made from a Pro computer wouldn’t install and validate on a Home computer. To do that process sysprep would have to be done.


Unfortunately, sysprep won’t carry over users and user settings … at least not in a way I found.

Here’s link to a user’s successful experience with sysprep.

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