Microsoft’s closing of free upgrade loophole appears to be breaking some Windows 11 and 10 PCs

Microsoft recently closed a loophole that allowed people to continue to access the free upgrade to Windows 10 (and then Windows 11), from Windows 7 or 8, but it appears there’s been an unwelcome side-effect here.

Namely that those who have previously taken the free upgrade offer in years past have reportedly found that their license key is suddenly deactivated.

Let’s outline a quick example to make the situation clearer. Say you owned a PC with Windows 7 way back when, then took the free upgrade to Windows 10 when it emerged. And down the road, you further upgraded to Windows 11.

So, you’ve been happily carrying on with your Windows 11 PC, but last week – since the mentioned loophole was closed – you decided to upgrade your graphics card.

After that upgrade, you found that Windows 11 is telling you that your license key isn’t valid – so you have to buy a new one.

That’s what has happened to The Verge, and some of its readers, and other folks who have been complaining about the situation on Reddit and other online platforms.

Okay, so it’s not clear how many Windows 11 and 10 users this is happening to, but it’s certainly occurring in some circumstances. It may arise without a hardware component upgrade, The Verge suggests, and the deactivation of the license could even take place due to a simple BIOS update.

Reader Daniel Mittelman tells a story of having his activation blocked after upgrading some hardware in his PC, and he contacted Microsoft customer support about the problem.

Mittelman observes: “They told me because my Windows 10 license had been upgraded from Windows 7, and that they had discontinued support for Windows 7 product keys, that they could not continue my license for Windows 10 Pro after the hardware change.

“They also acknowledged that changing the hardware is not a violation of the Windows license so there is no reason my Windows 10 license should be revoked or altered in any way.”

Analysis: Microsoft is investigating, thankfully

That’s the key point here, of course. While you can’t get an entirely new PC and use a Windows license from your existing computer – it’s tied to one machine – upgrading components should not mess with your license (it’s still the same PC, just with a bit of it swapped out, or maybe several bits).

So, this shouldn’t be happening, and as theorized it may be something to do with Microsoft squashing the upgrade path from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10/11. That free offer officially expired a year after the launch of Windows 10, but remained an unofficial route until just recently when Microsoft finally did away with it.

Microsoft is looking into this issue, you’ll be glad to hear.

Principal product manager of Windows at Microsoft, Bill Babonas, told The Verge: “Microsoft is aware of these customers reports and is investigating. Customers who are experiencing technical difficulties should contact customer support.”

You can use Windows without activating the OS, it should be noted, but there are a sizeable number of limitations including not being able to customize the operating system, and indeed not getting updates (except critical security patches). There are other annoyances such as a watermark and pop-ups nagging to activate Windows, too. In short, it’s far from ideal to be limping along in this manner…

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Windows 11 update install failures are reportedly happening again – and it’s breaking the built-in antivirus

Windows 11 has reportedly run into problems with its latest cumulative update, with the upgrade failing to install for some folks, and breaking Microsoft Defender in other cases.

Windows Latest has rounded up the latest batch of complaints regarding a cumulative update for Windows 11, in this case KB5029263, which is the mandatory upgrade for August.

As mentioned, some users are reporting installation failures with KB5029263, and the other annoyance here is that the failed update keeps offering itself over and over, constantly lurking as a red dot (update pending warning) on the taskbar (system tray).

Readers of Windows Latest have complained directly to the tech site about this, and there are affected Windows 11 users venting on Microsoft’s Feedback Hub.

On the Feedback Hub there are also scattered complaints of some more serious gremlins in the works with this August update. That includes the update getting stuck before it completes (and getting stuck again on subsequent installation attempts), and also File Explorer failing to work (meaning you can’t explore folders on the desktop).

KB5029263 is apparently also messing with Microsoft Defender, Windows 11’s built-in security app – which now ranks pretty highly among the best free antivirus – in some cases. Some users are seeing the following error when opening the app: ‘Unable to log into Microsoft Defender.’

Analysis: Defender fix is inbound, apparently

On the last point, Windows Latest reckons that this error could be the result of a clash between the security fixes in the August update, and a separate new update for Microsoft Defender.

While Microsoft hasn’t officially acknowledged any of the above problems, including the apparent cases of Defender coming off the rails, Windows Latest claims it talked to a support engineer at the company. That Microsoft employee confirmed the issue and said it will be fixed by an update soon. (An update to either Defender, or one applied to the OS via Windows Update, but one way or another, a cure is seemingly in the pipeline).

The mentioned installation failures are nothing new, and it seems to be depressingly commonplace these days that some Windows 11 PCs will fail to successfully run the update process. This may be a small minority affected, but it’s a frustrating situation to be caught in – as you are, of course, left without all the latest security fixes. Those are important to say the least.

The other vital element provided by KB5029263, at least for those who have been affected by the issue, is the fix for a bug causing huge slowdowns with some SSDs (or at least this cures the majority of cases, it seems). You might own one of the fastest, best SSDs out there, but with its performance levels cut in half (potentially), it won’t look so clever. And if you can’t install the August patch to (hopefully) smooth over the issue, that’s going to be pretty irritating.

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Windows 11 update is reportedly slowing down PCs and breaking internet connections

Windows 11 just received a new cumulative update (Moment 3) a couple of days back, and don’t look now – well, actually do look, or you’ll struggle to read this article – but there are complaints filtering through about a number of issues.

The main bones of contention with patch KB5028185 for Windows 11 22H2 are instances of performance slowdown – with severe cases going by some reports – and problems with flaky internet connections.

Let’s tackle the performance bugbears first, and it might be worth noting to kick off that the sluggish SSD issue still isn’t resolved with this update, as we recently predicted (that’s been an ongoing barrel of woes).

Aside from that, on the Reddit thread announcing the update we see multiple complaints of PCs running more slowly, and/or booting more sluggishly.

For example, one Redditor notes: “KB5028185 is trash. Thanks to this update, my restart and startup times are both far longer, sitting at the Welcome Screen for 17 seconds where it used to be about 4½ seconds. The shutdown time is longer too but I didn’t time it.”

That problem went away after uninstalling the update.

Another user observes: “Why after [updating], all my games and apps became very laggy?”

And another person replies to that: “Same happened to me. Can’t believe how abysmal the performance is. I uninstalled the update and it’s back to normal. I hate how Microsoft forces such broken updates all the time in Windows 10/11. Never had this problem with Windows 7/8.”

A further complaint reads: “Has anyone else been dealing with your PC chugging super hard after the update? Worked perfectly fine last night, got the updates this morning, took 4 hours for the updates to download/install, another 45 minutes to properly install after 2 restarts, and now, 4 hours later after the restarts completed, everything is STILL super slow.”

A person looking very surprised at a laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi)

Okay, onto the second major issue that’s being reported, namely the internet connection going down the proverbial tubes. There are reports of both Wi-Fi and Ethernet (wired) connections being hit.

Again, here are some posts from affected Redditors. One person writes: “My pc won’t get on the internet now. No wifi or ethernet. And my firewall won’t start. Was fine before this ‘update.’”

Here’s another: “My Ethernet does not work as well since yesterday’s update… Edit: After removing updates KB5028851, KB5028185 via settings menu, my Internet connection is working again! Took 10 minutes.”

And another: “KB5028185 broke my internet also, no connection via Ethernet or WiFi/hotspot, they both said ‘connected, but no internet available.’ The troubleshooters were useless in resolving the issue so I decided to uninstall the update and everything works fine.”

Elsewhere we see complaints about Wi-Fi network stability in general.

A third annoyance here is the Windows Security icon in the system tray (far right of the taskbar) is broken in some cases, meaning nothing happens when you click on it (but virus scans are still working okay). Again, there are multiple confirmations of this glitch.

Analysis: What to do? Well, there are workarounds, but with catches

It seems that KB5028185 is problematic on a number of fronts, sadly. If you’ve installed the July cumulative update and have run into one of these problems – or random crashes, which we’ve also seen reported – then a temporary workaround is to uninstall KB5028185.

The downside is that you’ll be left without all the latest security fixes on your Windows 11 PC, which isn’t great. And also, the update will automatically install itself eventually (you can only put it off for so long with Windows 11 Home edition).

Meantime, all we can do is hope that Microsoft is investigating the aforementioned bugs, and will be producing some cures for the PCs hit by these problems.

The only other suggestion floated on Reddit is turning off Core Isolation (Memory Integrity), as some folks have claimed that this is causing most of the problems around system lag and crashes. Turning it off – just search for ‘Core Isolation’, go to the panel, and click the slider to disable Memory Integrity (then reboot) – may remedy your performance issues (or indeed internet dropouts), we’re told.

However, there’s a big caveat here, namely that this is a security feature you really should have running to defend yourself against potential exploits.

So, you’re taking a chance either way – running without the update, or without an important security feature – but if the problems with KB5028185 are bugging you that much, it may be a chance you want to take (at your own risk, as ever).

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