How Do You Fix A Windows 7 Authorisation Failure?

How Do You Fix A Windows 7 Authorisation Failure?

The authorisation process Windows imposes on its users is pretty picky, sometimes causing problems with legitimate copies. What do you do when you follow the rules and Windows authorisation still fails you?

I’ve seen a handful of readers make fun of me for running a non-genuine copy of Windows 7, but I actually did purchase it. My serial number will not work because it is an upgrade-only number. Even though I did upgrade, Windows 7 seems to think I didn’t and so I cannot authorise it. I’ve tried over the phone, but I’ve just ended up waiting on hold endlessly for an actual person when the automated system failed as well.

That’s one circumstance. Other problems include Windows refusing to activate after a hardware change, receiving “Invalid Data” errors for unknown reasons, and Windows forgetting that it’s activated every time you reboot. So how do you deal with activation troubles? Obviously this can be worked around by cracking Windows and using it pseudo-illegally, but there most be a better option for dealing with these types of problems. When Windows and Microsoft support fails you, what do you do?

And while we’re at it, how do you solve issues with other software that has frequent authorisation problems? Windows is certainly not the only software with overly-picky copy protection. Share your creative solutions in the comments.


  • I have a couple of copies of Win 7 one for me and one for my wife, unfortunately my copy is an upgrade, but I hate having to install a previous copy of Windows first. It takes a lot longer and I’m never really sure that the old version is hanging around in the Registry or somewhere else… So I found this on the net and it usually works, but if it doesn’t using the Windows phone activation will probably work regardless. I’ve done it several times now. I’m not sure where I found this but thanks to whoever it was anyway ;]

    Registry hack
    Open regedit navigate to:
    Change MediaBootInstall from “1” to “0”. (Double-click it and then enter 0 in the dialog that appears.)
    Close RegEdit.
    Open the Start Menu and type in cmd which should display a shortcut to the Command Line utility. Right-click this shortcut and choose “Run as administrator.” then Handle the UAC prompt.
    In the command line window, type: slmgr /rearm
    Then tap ENTER and wait for the “Command completed successfully” dialog.
    Then, close the command line window and shut down Windows. Start Windows 7 and run the Activate Windows utility, type in your product key and activate windows. Make sure PC is Shut down and not just restarted
    If it works, you’re all set. You’re done. Congratulations.
    If this does not work, you can try two different things.
    First, ensure there are no pending Windows Updates to install. Some of these can cause this method to fail. Install them and reboot PC. Re-run the command line (with administrative privileges) noted above, reboot again, and re-attempt the activation.

    • I haven’t used an upgrade version of Windows since Win98, so this is a ligit question – how long have you had to install the previous version first?

      I distinctly remember when installing my Win98 upgrade on a freshly formatted machine, all I had to do was present the Win95 disc and COA number during the Win98 install process. There wasn’t a requirement to install the previous version of Windows first. I’m really surprised that this functionality was removed.

      • I think you’ll find that Win 7 started out with fairly draconian activation rules when it came to upgrading, but as time has passed, M’soft seems to be acting a little less of a dick about it!! I definitely could not upgrade at the beginning without some sort of a hack, but as you can see, and as I mentioned earlier you can just phone it in now without any real hassle!

  • I just clean installed win7 upgrade on my comp, before authorising I just put an empty ‘windowsold’ folder or some similar name, I forget, in my c: drive and it authorised no problems…

  • When I had to upgrade my Mainboard to a new one, Windows 7 didn’t want to activate. All I did was call Microsoft over the phone and got it going. Real easy but it takes forever when your on hold.

  • I run a lot of windows 2008 servers at work. Each one will ask for phone activation several times a year. Microsoft does not know why, but it causes downtime (windows server is not very functional without activation) and I am tired of typing dozens of number in to the phone.

    Not fun considering the excessive price.

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