Surprise Reactivation Results

Mark Phelps

Active Member
I'd read from lots of sources that an OEM version of Vista can only be activated once, so you can understand apprehension when the 4 year old hard drive in my Tablet PC started acting up lately and I decided to replace it.

I regularly image the machine, so I hooked up the new drive, booted from my Acronis disk, restored from an image backup, removed the CD, and rebooted.

As I expected, upon Vista startup, it complained that I had three days to activate. But, I clicked the Activate Online link and -- surprise -- it reactivated!! Not being confident in that, I rebooted the machine cold, checked activation, and it was still activated!!

Now, several days later, it is still activated.

So, apparently, either you could reactivate an OEM copy all along (and I had been misinformed), or MS has relaxed the rules and allowed for reactivation.

It was a very pleasant surprise!
You may activate the license under one set of hardware. Since all you did was replace the hard drive, the hardware check was fine so it was approved. In addition since it was an image the activation mechanism had already completed once before so having to re-activate probably simply validated it. If you try activating on a computer with significant difference in hardware it won't re-activate. This is why a OEM version is signifcantly cheaper than retail as its attached to the computer it was shipped with.
There's a calculation of just how different the hardware is. I've moved my OEM Vista to a new HDD and it validated without question. MS recognizes that putting a new HDD in a PC doesn't mean that the PC has changed substantially. Ditto with 4Gb extra RAM.
There are differences that will stop validation. Principally the mobo. If you are unfortunate enough to have a mobo fail and need a replacement, validation will need to be done on the phone and will probably only be authorized if the mobo is a like-for-like swap and all the other kit is the same.