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Create ReFS Volume From Windows 10 Pro

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In current releases of Windows 10, MS removed the ability to format a volume with ReFS. That feature is moved to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. The requisite files exist in Pro, but functionality is locked and/or otherwise unavailable. A $125 upgrade charge to enable, or $205 for a retail license.

I fingered out a method that allows an existing Windows 10 Pro install to format a volume in ReFS without using a pre-Creators Update install or VM - and there is no charge.

The process appears more lengthy and involved in writing than it is in practice. Basically, upgrade your license, format the volume, downgrade your license and reactivate.

From an activated Windows 10 Pro install, upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations using a Generic Volume License Key such as: NRG8B-VKK3Q-CXVCJ-9G2XF-6Q84J

Windows 10 Pro Workstation will now be enabled, but not Activated.


Create (or modify) the following two registry keys:

1. This key probably already exists
Create (or modify) a DWORD and name it
Set its value as 1 to enable it.

2. This key (MiniNT) probably does NOT exist, create or modify as needed
Create a new DWORD and name it
Set its value as 1 to enable it.
(see note in next step regarding the mandatory removal of this key)

The machine is now enabled to create ReFS partitions on non-boot volumes. The ReFS volumes are 100% addressable and functional in all versions of Windows 10.

On my test platform, the ReFS format command was not available in Disk Management.  I used an elevated command prompt.

To format your Z: drive with ReFS 3.2

        format z: /u /fs:refs /i:enable

To format your Z: drive with the legacy ReFS 1.2
This version is necessary if access is granted to Windows version earlier than Windows 10 v1703.
Use the correct drive letter before proceeding,

        format z: /u fs:refsv1 /i:enable

Note: The /i:enable option is mandatory for any ReFS formatting command. It enables the Integrity Streams Recovering feature.

Do your homework on ReFS. There is more than one version. AFAIK, version 1.2 is addressable in Windows 8.1, but version 3.2 is not addressable in Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 releases prior to Creators Update. Do your homework (or stay current).

AFTER you have formatted the drive with ReFS, delete the MiniNT key.
This Registry key can create error conditions that may include boot failure.  

Uninstall the Generic Volume License Key
From an elevated command prompt
slmgr /upk

Clear the key from the registry
From an elevated command prompt
slmgr /cpky

Install Windows 10 Pro Key
This step is required to rollback from Workstation to Pro
From an elevated command prompt
slmgr /ipk <setup key>

Or, since you probably do not have one or have it recorded, use a Generic Volume License Key. Windows 10 Pro is shown here.

From an elevated command prompt
slmgr -ipk W269N-WFGWX-YVC9B-4J6C9-T83GX

See https://docs.microsoft.com/…/wind…/get-started/kmsclientkeys for a list of GVLKs.

Windows 10 is now reverted to the version that matches your key.

If you use a GVLK, Windows will NOT activate. If you use a valid key, Windows should activate without further action. It does not matter, Windows will correct itself in either circumstance.

Go to PC Settings, Update & Security, Activation
Click Troubleshoot Activation
Windows will call home to the activation server and activate.
Please note:
Windows 10, any version, is 100% functional without activation. There is a nag and/or watermark. Personalization is not supported (but a MS account login will sync personalization from another device or legacy Windows 10 account).  

This note is an observation and not a solicitation.  This note is posted to address the unlikely condition where the user might experience a failure in the process.  Executed correctly, the process outlined above will return the target installation to the valid activated state it was in previously.  For more information, please refer to Microsoft Software License Terms, Windows Operating System.  

To get support about this topic, you are encouraged to use the "Ask a Question" feature of Experts Exchange.

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LVL 62

Expert Comment

What I would rather do is boot from a setup disk and use diskpart to format it with REFS. The setup disk does not know any restrictions.
select disk 0
list partition
select partition x
format fs=refs

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Author Comment

by:Anthony Deaver
Interesting, but not applicable.

ReFS is not a valid argument for the command 'format' when executed from current Windows 10 setup media in releases other than Windows 10 for Workstations.  The suggested command will return:

The arguments specified for this command are not valid.

I have not tested aged releases of Windows 10 prior to 1703, but it is reasonable that the argument would work in those releases.

Please, clarify and further qualify your useful but misleading suggestion.
LVL 62

Expert Comment

I downloaded an ISO from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windowsinsiderpreviewadvanced (insider login required) and it just works. This ISO is able to install all standard versions of win10 (home, pro, enterprise), so I am surprised to learn that your setup media does not allow it - do you mind to share where you aquired it from?
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Author Comment

by:Anthony Deaver
I have access to, but I am not using, an Insider Preview release, rather the current version of Windows 10 Pro distributed through the Media Creation Tool.

Insider's Preview releases may contain features not available in other licenses of Windows 10 Pro, users of which are the target audience of this article.  Future releases of Insider's Preview could remove the reported functionality and this fact precludes inclusion of the technique from the base article.

Let us make a working assumption - my testing yielded an invalid result.  Can/Will you repeat your test from setup media other than an Insider's Preview?  I am all for identifying methods that require the least amount of time-on-task (and much shorter tutorials).
LVL 62

Expert Comment

Will do.
LVL 62

Expert Comment

Just works with the ISO of the media creation toolkit.

Author Comment

by:Anthony Deaver
Interesting.  Why did I get a different result?

I did boot from the setup media.  And the target volume was a secondary drive.  NTFS was allowed, but ReFS returned the error.

chuckle.  I am supposed to be working on a honey-do list today, but I will find time to re-approach.

Thanks for the heads up.

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