Thought you could escape the chaos of Windows 10 version 1809 just doing whatever it likes to ruin your day? Well, here’s one more worry for you as you stare at the clock and wonder when your machine is going to update again. Just a few hours ago, users on Reddit and other Microsoft forums have begun to complain that their Windows 10 licences have suddenly de-registered themselves, and Windows 10 starts to complain that the version you’re using is unlicenced. For bonus points, it affects any edition of Windows 10, and any environment it might be running in. There seems to be a widespread issue with Microsoft’s servers.
One thread on the Windows 10 subreddit has over 99 comments, where almost every single comment is someone else verifying that their licence has suddenly stopped working. There are Windows 10 users who have upgraded from Windows 7 and 8 who have the problem, some Windows 10 Home users who upgraded to Pro who have the problem, and even one Windows 10 Enterprise for Virtual Desktops user whose product key just straight up disappeared.
In a few other threads on the same issue, like this one, some Windows 10 Pro users who purchased their licences separately are being switched to Windows 10 Home licences by mistake. This seems to be a much more common problem than the other reported issues. Some users who have contacted Microsoft report that they’ve been told to wait anything from two hours to two whole days to allow Microsoft time to fix the issue. The problem with this is that Windows 10 will lock away functionality behind an activation paywall, like changing the desktop settings or accessing some Windows 10 features, so losing that activation isn’t a non-trivial thing.
The reason why the issue is likely to be server-side instead of something users have done is because Windows 10 phones home every so often to check that its licence is up to date and valid for the hardware the OS is running on. This check can sometimes run every day, once a week, once a month, or once every hour depending on whether the servers can be contacted and if there’s a issue with validating the licence. The activation issue is also likely to be region-specific, because Microsoft assigns pools of product keys to regions and links those to a local activation server to keep track of the number of active licences being used.
There’s nothing much else that you can do in the meantime, so you’ll just have to hang tight until the problem is fixed. Also, this affects installations of Windows Server 2016, so if you’re a sysadmin just reading this now, you might want to check if any of your servers are now complaining that they’re not activated.
Bonus Points for those of you running Windows 10 1803
A bug has been identified in shipping versions of Windows 10 1803 that have been updated recently with the latest cumulative update. If you head into Settings > Apps > App Defaults, you’ll find that you can’t set app defaults for some file types with specific programs. In HowToGeek’s blog posting on the issue, they discovered that they couldn’t set app defaults for Adobe Photoshop for regular image file formates, or Notepad++ for text files. The bug affects some programs and file types and not others, like being able to change browsers, or selecting some files that can be opened with a browser to default to Chrome.
If you also associate file types with programs by right-clicking the file and choosing an application to open it with by default, it won’t open in that application the next time that file is accessed. If you’re experiencing the issue, you’ll have to just wait until Microsoft fixes it. A rollback to before the 9 October cumulative update was installed might fix the issue, but it’s not guaranteed.