Windows 10

Last reply by 08-09-2022 Unsolved
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2 Bronze
2 Bronze

Used PC - Reinstallation of Windows prompts for login using prior owner's MS Credentials

Precision 3630 Tower

I recently purchased a refurbished Dell Precision from eBay, from a reputable reseller. The PC showed up, and upon power-up, booted into a generic Windows 10 Pro cloned installation (most likely something this reseller just clones onto drives as it ships PCs out the door). I'm not a fan of using these configurations, as who knows what is lurking around on the installation. It's also installed on a slower spinning platter drive, and the computer supports an M.2 NVMe SSD, so you can already guess where I'm headed.

I downloaded the OS recovery stick from Dell Support, and learn the machine originally came with Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. I yanked the spinning drive and installed an M.2 SSD in the machine (incidentally, per Dell's site, the original system configuration included both an M.2 drive AND a spinning drive). Booted the installation stick, and proceeded through the installation. After the first reboot, the machine pops up and wants a network connection. Ok, plug in Ethernet/Internet, and 10 seconds later, Windows greets me with a prompt to sign in with the previous owner's company email (Welcome to <company name removed to protect the innocent>!).

I'm assuming the embedded Windows key has been linked to the prior company's Azure AD database, so Windows is trying to authenticate against that and wants to load all the goodies they've configured.

I (obviously) don't want that, and have tried reinstalling using other OS builds, including the generic Windows 10 Pro ISO direct from Microsoft. I even tried the Enterprise build I have from my current employer to see if I could just complete an OS install, but every time, I get stuck at this point.

I have done the Shift-F10 thing to get to a command prompt, invoked powershell, and retrieved the product key, verifying that there is indeed a key embedded in BIOS.

My question(s) to the group:

1) Is there a way to disassociate this embedded product key from the previous company (the previous owner was a larger company, and I doubt my piddly request to them will get answered)?

2) Is there a way to dump the key out of UEFI (or replace it with zeros) so that Windows prompts for a key, so if I purchase a retail copy of Windows 10, I can use that key and complete the installation?

3) Any other suggestions on this particular issue?

Replies (3)
3 Argentum

I'll be following this with interest. There was recently some discussion here about a similar problem, but I can't find it. Before that, I was unaware that individual Windows hardware licenses were now being managed with AD/Azure. Poking around online I can only find discussions where the experts initially fail to understand the problem ("Just reinstall Windows!") and end when they realize they haven't encountered it before. (Maybe your eBay vendor has? If you can't license the system, maybe they should take it back.)


Unfortunately, the vendor just loads a default installation image on disks using another computer, along with their key, and away they go. Since they don't actually do an install directly on the machine, they never run into the "this key is locked in someone else's Azure" issue. They also do not provide re-installation media. Since I don't want to use their "image" anyway, but want a clean installation, we're at an impasse. My opinion of their "reputable" status may be dropping a bit as a result. Granted, probably 8/10 folks who buy the computer from the refurbisher just plug it in and run with it as installed, never thinking about licensing or reloads, so the refurbisher's business model probably works just fine.

I've taken the machine to my office and had some of my fellow IT geniuses take a whack at it. This has proven to be new ground for them as well, so at least I don't feel completely dumb. I will continue to update the message thread with our end game, as I hate doing searches, finding threads that describe a problem similar to mine, and never post the solution...

3 Argentum

This doesn't really help with the technical solution at all, but IMHO the refurbisher should fix the problem or provide you with a replacement. The installation image would appear to be moot if you can't validate the license no matter what image is on it. Every unsuspecting customer who acquired a system that XYZ Co. didn't bother decommissioning is going to have the same problem, which should be the reseller's problem to clear up and not yours. eBay would back you up as well. (OK, rant over.)

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