During a computer rebuild, I needed to determine if my copy of Windows 10 Pro would remain activated after some serious hardware modifications. During the process, I learned there are three main types of Windows licences and that they are generally bound to the motherboard in use. Therefore, if you change the motherboard of the computer, Windows will need to be reactivated. Whether or not it will reactivate without a fuss depends on which of the three licences you are using.
You likely get a retail version of Windows when purchase it as a stand alone product either from either a shop or the Microsoft store. Retail Windows licences can be transferred between computers, as long as the licence is only in use by one computer at a time. Therefore, you can make as many hardware modifications as you like and Windows will still activate successfully.
OEM Windows licences are generally supplied with computers from the manufacturers, however it is possible for someone to purchase the licence from a shop. If purchased separately they are usually available for a reduced cost. These licences can only be used on the computer they were originally activated on, therefore replacing the motherboard on one of these systems will cause Windows to deactivate and refuse to reactivate.
Another interesting point arises for the OEM licence if you were to purchase one from a reseller. The person or company who purchases the licence takes responsibility for providing support for the activation process. Therefore, if you buy one of these licences and have problems with activation, Microsoft are likely to tell you to contact the OEM (which is you) for assistance. Alternatively, with the full retail version, Microsoft will provide support for any problems encountered with activation.
These licences will not impact your average home user, as they are provided to organisations to use on the computers they own. The cannot be re-sold and if the computer changes ownership, the licence technically needs to be removed.
Determine Your Licence Type
Like me, many of you likely do not know what kind of Windows licence you possess. Luckily, there is an easy command which can be run from the Window’s command prompt, or PowerShell, which will show you. Just enter slmgr -dli and a dialogue box will open showing you the licence type.