(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Over the last few years, we've been seeing increasingly blurred lines between offline and online experiences with our computer, laptops, and phones. And while being connected all the time can have its advantages, there are apparently some unexpected downsides when it comes to Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.

While Windows 10 itself runs on your local PC, it has many hooks connecting it to the internet, even when you're not browsing, streaming, or checking your messages. (In fact, because its "telemetry" data gathering still cannot be completely disabled, it's never fully disconnected, but that's another story).

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Among other background activities, Windows will periodically confirm with Microsoft that your copy of Windows is legit. If Microsoft decides that there's a problem with your Windows license, it's empowered in the fine print to remotely handicap your copy and require you to purchase a license. Ordinarily, this system doesn't produce many false positives, but that's changed a lot over the last 24 hours or so.

Windows Latest reports that a substantial number of Windows 10 users on Reddit are suddenly encountering an issue where the operating system's license is deactivating itself or downgrading from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Home.

The issue doesn't appear to come from a specific version of Windows 10, either. Whether you bought Windows 10 at a retail store or you got the free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8, you may be hit with this issue.

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However, one user reported a potential fix for people who have their Windows 10 product key available. Open the Start menu, type cmd, right-click cmd.exe in the search results, and choose the option to run the program as an administrator. This will open the Windows command line app. Here, type changepk.exe /ProductKey, then type or paste your Windows 10 product key at the end of this line, then hit the Enter key. This should re-activate your license.

If you don't have your product key handy, there are ways to dig it up using the pre-installed PowerShell app.

Thankfully, Microsoft is aware of and is working on the issue, and its update reads in part, "I am very sorry to inform you that there is a temporary issue with Microsoft's activation server at the moment, and some customers might experience this issue where Windows is displayed as not activated. Our engineers are working tirelessly to resolve this issue, and it is expected to be corrected within one to two business days."

Let's hope that Microsoft can get this fixed before the weekend.


  • A substantial number of users on Reddit have reported that their copy of Windows 10 has been unexpectedly deactivated, or downgraded from the Pro version to the Home version.
  • Microsoft says that the issue is being caused by an error with their activation servers, and that a fix should arrive within 1-2 business days.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.