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When I tried to update Windows 8 Enterprise to Windows 8.1 on a test machine, the setup program asked me for the product key. I then noticed that I had installed Windows 8 without a product key, which is possible with the Enterprise edition and volume licensing editions of Windows. The reason is that Microsoft assumes that, with volume licensing editions, product keys are not entered manually and Windows is activated during an unattended installation, through KMS or Active Directory.
Windows 8 activation fails
When I then tried to activate Windows 8, I got this error message:
Windows couldn’t be activated – Error code 0x800732B – DNS name does not exist.
On a second Windows 8 Enterprise installation, the error message was different:
Windows couldn’t be activated – Error code 0x8007007B – The filename, directory name, or volume label syntax is incorrect.
I don’t know why both installations, which should be identical, throw different error messages. Anyway, both error messages are misleading and had the same cause: my Windows installations had no valid product key.
Windows 8 Enterprise lacks change product key link
When I then tried to enter a TechNet product key, I noticed that the Windows 8 Enterprise Activation Control Panel applet lacks the Change product key link. This appears to be a new “feature” of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 because, in Windows 7, the volume licensing editions allowed you to enter a new product key in the control panel (Control Panel\System and Security\System). Perhaps this is Microsoft’s way of informing admins that there is a better way to activate Windows in a corporate network.
Enter product key in Windows 8.1 Enterprise
Nevertheless, it is still possible to activate Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 Enterprise (volume licensing editions) manually. I know two ways:
- If you prefer the command prompt, you can activate Windows with this command:
slmgr.vbs /ipk <Product-Key>
- If you prefer a GUI, you can launch the Windows Activation applet with this somewhat cryptic command: