Now this is a difficult problem. I have a customer with Windows 8 who could not activate Windows. The primary problem was a HP computer with the product key embedded in the UEFI. (Which means, of course, no product key sticker. One of my many reasons to hate Windows 8.) Everything I tried to activate Windows failed. I even used a Magic Jellybean keyfinder to recover the product key.
Before you start the repair process, be sure you have the Windows 8 product key.
Through a lot of headache, I figured out the problem is the licensing files were corrupted. This particular computer was not shut down cleanly due to a power surge. A lot of files were corrupted, it took chkdsk a long time to repair them. I was able to figure this out because the slmgr /ipk XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX (where X is the product key) command was not working. And many other slmgr commands, which are used to edit or clear the product key, also did not work.
The first thing I tried was the sfc /scannow command. But that delivered the dreaded “there is a repair option pending” message. The dism.exe /image:C:\ /cleanup-image /revertpendingactions command, which is what you usually will see about this message, did not work because the command can only be used in the recovery console, which I did not have access to at the time. But a restart did fix the problem for me.
I actually did not have much hope that the sfc command would work. But it actually did help. After the sfc command completed, I then ran the slui 03 command, entered the product key, and Windows activated.
While I am assuming this is a Windows 8 problem, it might also present itself on Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8.1.
So, in summary, the steps to fix this problem are:
- Recover the Windows 8 product key.
- Run the sfc /scannow command. If it does not run, use the dism command above in a recovery console or search for the fix for the problem on the internet.
- After sfc finishes, run the slui 03 command and enter the product key.
- If Windows still does not activate, then you will have to refresh Windows or perform an in-place upgrade.