Windows 10 Activation fails after cloning hard drive

Bob Vaal
Bob Vaal used Ask the Experts™
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1. I have several computers I am re-purposing with Windows 10 Pro.  I have Software Assurance volume licenses from Microsoft I have purchased.
2. I downloaded the latest 1709 build of Windows 10 Pro and setup the first of many computers.  All the computers are of the same make and model.  I installed my apps (Adobe Reader, Chrome, Office 2016, etc.) and I activated Windows 10 Pro using my volume license.  I ran MS Update and installed all current updates.
3.  I removed the hard drive from the system and using an external drive cloning device (Wavlink) cloned the master to several targets of the exact same make and size of hard drive.
4. I put a cloned drive in the original system to test and it booted up okay.  I had to activate Windows 10  which it did without a hitch.
5. I put a second cloned drive into a second system.  It boots fine.  My Office 2016 installation is activate but Windows 10 Pro is not.  I did the Change Product Key and pasted my volume license key again.  It says

Unable to activate Windows
We can't activate Windows on this device because you don't have a valid digital license or product key.  

I click troubleshoot and it comes back stating to make sure I am connected to the internet which I am. (confirmed by launching Chrome)

Having a second volume product key I tried it.  Same messages.

Is it not possible to make a master hard drive running Windows 10 Pro and clone it?
This is the first time using an external device like the Wavlink.  Could that be the issue?

I have not used Acronis which I have in the past for Windows 7.  Maybe I'll try it even though the Wavlink cloned the entire master in less than 5 minutes and all I had to do was plug them into the device.
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Tom CieslikIT Engineer
Distinguished Expert 2017
Commented:
This is not the right way to create multiple Windows installation.
Since Microsoft is collecting computer information along with Windows Key, after you'll move disk to new computer with different MB or HDD serial number activation is not working anymore.

I think you should use sysprep to create multiinstallation image and install it on all computers you need it
Bob VaalIT Manager

Author

Commented:
Tom,

Is there a good "step-by-step" you can point me to for setting up sysprep to create the so mentioned multi-installation image?  Sysprep is new to me.  Never used it.  Always relied on my Acronis.
Tom CieslikIT Engineer
Distinguished Expert 2017

Commented:
Yes,

https://www.petri.com/using-syspre-windows-10

here you can find step-by=step manual how to create network installation

You can also try to use PsGetSid tool by Microsoft Sysinterals to generate separate SID for each workstation to try recover cloned HDD
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
Not sure what Tom is referring to about PsGetSid generating SIDs - it GETS the SID for you, but doesn't change it.

The only supported method of imaging is to use Sysprep.  Sysprep doesn't JUST change the SID.  It does a host of other things that readies the computer to be seen as unique on the network.

There is a TON of information on how to do this correctly and use Microsoft's tools.  Regardless, any tool you want to use will still require SYSPREP - that's not optional or limited to Microsoft tools (other tools MIGHT launch it for you, but it's still run).

If you're deploying you should probably look at the guides available from Microsoft.  Probably start here:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/deployment/deploy-windows-mdt/create-a-windows-10-reference-image

*In short, you install Windows and enter audit mode.
*Install all the apps and updates you want (don't join the domain - if an app requires a domain join, you should probably look into other methods to automate it's deployement)
*Run sysprep and shutdown (default is to restart but you want to shutdown so you can capture the image).
*Capture the image (I generally use Windows Deployment Services).  Other tools are fine (but to me pointless when it's built in to server).
*Now you can deploy the image to other systems.

Doing this right (instead of half baked) will take 20-40 hours or more of setup, learning, and building.  Once you know how to do it, it can be quicker, but if you only need to deploy 5-10 PCs once a year or so, it's probably better to skip the imaging and just set them up in an assembly line fashion.  Imaging saves tremendous time when you need to deploy 50 PCs or 500 to a larger company.  But even then, deployment tools should be used to deploy apps and drivers or you'll spend almost as much time updating the images with new apps, patches, and drivers as you would to set them up in assembly line fashion (for example, one thing I do is run a script using NINITE to automatically install the CURRENT version of apps such as Acrobat, 7-Zip, Firefox, and others - I don't have to rebuild the image every time there's a new version)
Tom CieslikIT Engineer
Distinguished Expert 2017

Commented:
I was thinking to use PsGetsid to allows translate SIDs to their display name and vice versa, so he can try replace SID in computer that won't activate and try activate again.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process Advisor
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
NewSID was discontinued.  Not sure how you expect to change the SID...  At best you'd know you had duplicates, but it doesn't let you change.
IT Manager
Commented:
Decided to do the "assembly" line approach.  I was hoping for a quick fix for the hard drives I already cloned.  I just returned them to their proper systems and started over with clean install of Windows 10.
Bob VaalIT Manager

Author

Commented:
Had to move on with distributing systems.  So I manually set each one up.

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