Drive crashed: Clean install of Windows 8 Pro and upgrading to Windows 10

Hey all -
Hoping someone can help me with the following:
  1. I had 8.1 installed when my hard drive crashed. I installed a new hard drive.
  2. My Dell all-in-1 XPS has a Windows Pro sticker but no activation code.
  3. I wasn't sure if I had 32 or 64 bit but installed 64. I was never asked for an activation code, so I thought Windows had found this in Bios.
  4. Windows told me I was eligible for - and encouraged me to - upgrade to 10.
  5. Once I upgraded to 10 I started being told I needed to activate Windows.
  6. I used a third party tool to try to find my activation code in BIOS but Windows told me it was already in use.
  7. I called Windows support and was told I needed to start again with Windows 8 Pro (not 8.1) but I can't find a version of this on the Windows site. (Can find Windows 8 or 8.1 Pro but not 8 Pro).

Questions: If I start again with 8.1 Pro do I need to do something differently before I upgrade to 10?
Is there somewhere I can find a safe and legal copy of 8 Pro to download?
Any other recommendations of what to try?

Thanks in advance!!!


Well-Known Member
The code in your BIOS only works for the OS that came with your PC. It doesn't work for any other OS, and I recommend just downloading Windows 10 and activating it (there are many people out there that have purchased a product key and posted it on the Internet for everybody to use)

@MinecraftKid45 Thanks for your suggestion.
I have already paid for Windows on this computer. I'd rather not use a pirate code... just trying to find a way to install the Windows instance I've already paid for. Anyone know how I can do this?


Windows Forum Team
Staff member
Premium Supporter
If I start again with 8.1 Pro do I need to do something differently before I upgrade to 10?
This won't work because the motherboard is now locked to the other key... your legal options are replace the motherboard/ cpu or reinstall W8 first.

Is there somewhere I can find a safe and legal copy of 8 Pro to download?
Any other recommendations of what to try?
Any computer fixit shop worth spit will have a w8 iso... places that sell parts will offen let you make a usb copy of it or schools with a networking IT section.

This is legal because you only need the install files... the bios has your w8 key and will kick in without asking you but you will have to use the same build that the computer started with so 32 bit home or 64 bit pro, English US or UK etc.


Excellent Member
Microsoft Community Contributor
Dell might have recovery media, if you did not create such when you originally got your system.

Otherwise, I assume you have no backup images you could use to restore your system to some type of activated install? Your old hard drive is no longer usable, even as a reference drive for the install?

I don't know why Microsoft excluded Windows 8 from the Upgrade path to 10, but I suppose that could cause problems for quite a few folks in your situation.

I currently have an XPS All-in-One at the Dell Repair Depot. But it came with 8.1 and because of a motherboard change, I may be looking for some type of solution to get my working install back on that repaired system.


Fantastic Member
Premium Supporter
When you say "Activation Code" , I believe you are referring to the Windows License Key (COA-Certificate Of Authenticity) sticker. Haven't worked on many All in Ones, but I did work on a Dell All in One 2305 last year and disassembled it for parts. The Mobo is hanging on my wall. If I recall, the COA sticker was on the screen bezel snap-on piece on the bottom of the rear assembly. I think it had the License Key on that snap-on piece. I think it was for Win7 Pro as this machine was like 3 yrs. old now.

Just so it's clear, Microsoft does support Win8 & Win8 Pro upgrades to W10, but you do have to upgrade to Win8.1/8.1 Pro to do so. Some guys here have had luck with bypassing the 8.1/8.1 Pro upgrade, but it's not easy, and doesn't always work. Unfortunately, this is 1-2 days of time-consuming downloading of updates to get your system from 8/8 Pro to 8.1/8.1 Pro. Once you do that on your new hard drive, you can then easily upgrade to W10 Pro. Once that's done, you also have the option to wipe that drive clean and perform a W10 Pro clean install, since your Dell XPS is then registered with the Microsoft Activation Servers.

After re-reading your Post 3 times, I'm having a hard time understanding what it is you are trying to accomplish. You do wish to upgrade to W10 correct? And you want W10 to be Activated and Licensed now, correct? If the answer is YES to both of these, options above are posted to do this legit way. Of course, you don't have to Activate your W10 Pro to use it now. That doesn't have to be done until after July 29th 2016. I currently have 4 machines with W10 (2 with Home & 2 with Pro). Only of those is Activated & Licensed (my Sony laptop) from a Win7 Home upgrade. And frankly, I don't see any difference running my other 3 non-activated machines (2 laptops & 2 desktops). I understand your wanting to make it legit--that's admirable. Not necessary really, unless you are running some corporate software such as VPN, or Exchange E-mail or something.

On a modern machine, you can simply download the free W10 Pro ISO file from Microsoft website, and BYPASS the 8/8.1 Pro upgrade altogether. Just do a Clean Install on your Dell's new hard drive of W10 Pro. You'll have to buy a W10 license between today and July 29th 2016 as I mentioned above, whether or not you do an upgrade from 8/8.1 Pro or not, and then license the newly upgraded W10 Pro anyway. Why hassle with the upgrade?; just do a Clean Install, buy a W10 license on the Internet; you can find them cheaper than the $199.99 list price now, just make sure you use a reputable company for the W10 license purchase such as CDW or NEWEGG.

Lastly, you can go to START-->RUN and type in the Command "System Information" and Windows will tell you exactly what processor type your machine has (32bit or 64bit). If you've got 8/8.1 Pro already installed on that new hard drive, this is easy and will facilitate your upgrade or purchasing the correct W10 Pro license on the Internet. Alternatively, you can download the free SPECCY program from and it will also tell you this, as long as you have any modern version of Windows installed on the new hard drive.

Hope that helps.


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