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Yeah, the exact definition of "major" hardware change is kept as a secret by Microsoft so that it's not easy to defeat that activation mechanism for pirates.

The newer version (version 1511 and above) of Windows 10's digital licenses are essential a private key (as in asymmetric cryptography, called digital entitlement[1], stored in UEFI), as opposed to the a 25-character product key we used before. If for whatever reason the activation program cannot find that key, it won't be activated.

[1]: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12440/windows-10-ac...

> which in my case was from almost 10 years prior. Luckily enough, I had it archived.

If you bought your Windows license online with a Gmail address, Google has you covered. https://myaccount.google.com/purchases




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