Why is my Windows not activated?

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Sometimes when starting up your PC, whether it be a new system or a PC you’ve had for some time you may encounter the Activate Windows watermark on your screen.  If you suddenly see this and find yourself unable to change your system’s background, don’t panic!  This may simply be an error that is fairly easy to resolve.


To start, it is recommended to check the Activation settings in Windows itself to see what the issue is.  To open these settings, go through the following steps:

  • Open your Start Menu and click the gear icon to open the Window Settings
  • At the Settings screen, choose Updates & Security
  • On the left sidebar, choose Activation



On this screen Windows should give you an idea of why the system is not activated.  Common activation errors include but are not limited to:

  • “Windows can’t activate right now.  Try activating later…”
  • “Windows reported that the hardware of your device has changed.”
  • “Windows reported that no product key was found on your device.”

Depending on the error, there are a few steps that can be taken to resolve the issue.

Automated Windows Troubleshooting

Built into Windows is an automated troubleshooting tool that can force a reactivation of Windows.  To use this, all you need to do is click the Troubleshoot button on the Activation settings window.  If successful, the Activate Windows watermark should disappear and your activation status should change to reflect this.



Updating your Windows Product Key

If the automated troubleshooting tool is unable to reactivate Windows, the next step would be to try and update your Windows Product Key.  If you built the PC yourself or purchased an NZXT DIY BLD Kit, your should have a physical copy of your product key in the form of a sticker like the one shown below.


If you purchased a pre-built PC however, then you may not receive this sticker and instead will find that the Windows Product Key is digitally injected to the motherboard's UEFI/BIOS.  Under normal circumstances Windows will detect and update this key on its own, however in some situations it may not be able to properly read the key and we will need to update the key manually.

To retrieve an injected key, start by searching for CMD in your Start Menu to bring up the Command Prompt application.  Right-click the application and select Run as Administrator, which will bring up the Command Prompt window.

From here, type in the following command and press enter:

wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey

CMD-Output.pngIf done correctly, Windows should report back your system’s injected Windows Product Key as shown above.

With your product key retrieved, choose the Change Product Key option in the Windows Activation Settings window and re-enter the key.  If done properly, the Activate Windows watermark should disappear and your activation status will update.

If you are unable to locate or retrieve your product key using the above guide on a pre-built PC, you may need to reach out to the manufacturer of your system for further assistance.

For NZXT BLD systems, you can reach out to our Customer Support team to request a copy of the product key or a replacement while within warranty.  When reaching out to our team, please have a screenshot ready showing the activation error, as well as the output from the Command Prompt screen.


Do you have any questions not covered by this guide or need further assistance?  Please feel free to reach out to our Customer Support team and one of our friendly support agents will be there to assist you.

Are you looking to keep up on all things NZXT?  Go ahead and join the Official NZXT Community Discord to keep up to date on our latest products, upcoming sales, and join in on discussions on everything from PC hardware to gaming.

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