Reading over the recent forum posts at Spiceworks this morning, a thread entitled “Windows 10 reinstalls after July 2016?” caught my eye. Inquiring readers want to know when the automatic key recognition from an earlier Windows 7 or Windows 8 installation on revamped Windows 10 hardware will quit working. In other words, how much does the hardware in a system have to change before it is no longer recognized as the same computer that was upgraded? In post 17 in the thread, an MS employee named Chris Le Texier provides a pretty definitive answer.
Anything up to, but not including, a motherboard change should still permit Windows 10 to be reinstalled on an upgrade key.
Le Texier goes on to cite a passage from the Windows OEM licensing FAQ to support his position, including the kind of argument someone will have to make with Microsoft (namely, that the mobo was replaced to repair a defect if it is not identical to the original, as provided in the manufacturer’s warranty) to re-activate that key, if necessary. Interestingly enough, this appears to indicate that when the warranty period ends, subsequent motherboard replacement will indeed require obtaining a new license, or burning another license from an organization’s supply under some kind of volume licensing agreement.
Now we know!