Troubleshoot Surface activation

Applies to

Surface 3, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, Surface Book.

Applies to

Surface RT, Surface 2.

Applies to

Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro.

Applies to

Surface RT, Surface 2.

Operating system:

If Windows doesn’t activate automatically on your Surface, here are some things to try.


Windows will usually activate automatically the first time you connect to the Internet. If Windows can't activate, the Activate Windows option will be shown in Settings. The Activate Windows option is shown only if there is an activation problem, and it will disappear when Windows activates successfully.

Activate Windows manually

Step 1:  Go to Start Windows logo, and select Settings > Update & recovery > Activation.
Step 2:  Select Activate Windows, and select either:

  • Activate to try again to get Windows to activate.
  • Enter Key to enter a new product key.

Solve activation problems

The Activate Windows screen will display a message indicating why activation failed and will provide options for you to try to solve the problem:

  • Your Surface must have an Internet connection to activate successfully. If your Surface is not connected to the Internet, connect to a wireless network and then see if you can activate Windows.
  • You may need to correct your time and language settings. Here’s how:

    Step 1: 

    Go to Start Windows logo, and select Settings > Time and language.

    Step 2: Change Set time automatically to Off.

    Step 3: Under Change date and time, select Change, set the correct date and time for your current time zone, and select Change.
    Step 4: Turn Set time automatically back to On.
    Step 5: 

    Install the latest Surface and Windows updates. See Install Surface and Windows updates for how-to info.

    If the on-screen instructions suggest that you contact your manufacturer or prompt you for a new product key, contact us for help.

What happens while Windows is not activated?

Until Windows is activated, options for personalising your Surface lock screen, Start screen and account picture will be limited, and Surface will remind you to activate.

For more info about Windows 10 installation and activation, see Upgrade, install and activate Windows 10.


If Windows doesn’t automatically activate on your Surface, here are some things to try.


Windows will usually activate automatically the first time you connect to the Internet. If Windows can't activate, the Activate Windows option will be shown in PC settings. The Activate Windows option is shown only if there is an activation problem, and it will disappear when Windows activates successfully.

Activate Windows manually

Step 1:  Go to Start Windows logo, and select PC Settings.
Step 2:  Select Activate Windows, and select either:

  • Activate to try again to get Windows to activate.
  • Enter Key to enter a new product key.

Solve activation problems

The Activate Windows screen will display a message indicating why activation failed, and will provide options for you to try to solve the problem:

  • Surface must have an Internet connection to activate successfully. If your Surface is not connected to the Internet, connect to a wireless network, and then see if you can activate Windows.
  • You may need to correct your time and language settings. Here’s how:

    Step 1: 

    Go to Start Windows logo, and select PC Settings > Time and language.

    Step 2: Change Set time automatically to Off.

    Step 3: Under Change date and time, select Change, set the correct date and time for your current time zone, and select Change.
    Step 4: Turn Set time automatically back to On.
    Step 5: 

    Install the latest Surface and Windows updates. See Install Surface and Windows updates for how-to info.

  • Select Contact customer support for help to get in touch with Activation Support at Microsoft.
  • If the on-screen instructions suggest that you contact your manufacturer or prompt you for a new product key, contact us.

What happens while Windows is not activated?

Until Windows is activated, options for personalising your Surface lock screen, Start screen and account picture will be limited, and Surface will remind you to activate.


If Windows doesn’t automatically activate on your Surface, here are some things to try.


Windows will usually activate automatically the first time you connect to the Internet. If Windows can't activate, the Activate Windows option will be shown in PC settings. The Activate Windows option is only shown if there is an activation problem, and it will disappear when Windows activates successfully.

Activate Windows manually

Step 1: Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Settings.
(If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down and click Settings.)
Step 2: Tap or click Change PC settings.
Step 3:  Tap or click Activate Windows, and tap or click either:

  • Activate to try again to get Windows to activate.
  • or

  • Enter Key to enter a new product key.

Solve activation problems

The Activate Windows screen will display a message indicating why activation failed, and will provide options for you to try to solve the problem:

  • Surface must have an Internet connection to activate successfully. If Surface is not connected to the Internet, connect to a wireless network, then see if Windows activates.
  • You may need to correct your Time and Language settings. Here’s how:

    Step 1: 

    Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap or click Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down and click Settings.)

    Step 2: Tap or click Change PC settings, then tap or click Time and language.

    Step 3: Tap or click to change Set time automatically to Off.
    Step 4: Under Change date and time, tap or click Change, tap or click to select the correct date and time for your current time zone, then tap or click Change.
    Step 5: Tap or click to turn Set time automatically back to On.
    Step 6: 

    Install the latest Surface and Windows updates. See Install Surface and Windows updates for how-to info.

  • Tap or click Contact customer support for help to get in touch with Activation Support at Microsoft.
  • If the on-screen instructions suggest that you contact your manufacturer or prompt you for a new product key, contact us for help.

What happens while Windows is not activated?

Until Windows is activated, options for personalising your Surface lock screen, Start screen and account picture will be limited, and Surface will remind you to activate.


If Windows doesn’t automatically activate on your Surface, here are some things to try.


Windows will usually activate automatically the first time you connect to the Internet. If Windows can't activate, the Activate Windows option will be shown in PC settings. The Activate Windows option is only shown if there is an activation problem, and it will disappear when Windows activates successfully.

Activate Windows manually

Step 1: Swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap Settings.
(If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down and click Settings.)
Step 2: Tap or click Change PC settings.
Step 3:  Tap or click Activate Windows, and tap or click either:

  • Activate to try again to get Windows to activate.
  • or

  • Enter Key to enter a new product key.

Solve activation problems

The Activate Windows screen will display a message indicating why activation failed, and will provide options for you to try to solve the problem:

  • Surface must have an Internet connection to activate successfully. If Surface is not connected to the Internet, connect to a wireless network, then see if Windows activates.
  • You may need to correct your Time and Language settings. Here’s how:

    Step 1: 

    Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and tap or click Settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the top-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down and click Settings.)

    Step 2: Tap or click Change PC settings, then tap or click Time and language.

    Step 3: Tap or click to change Set time automatically to Off.
    Step 4: Under Change date and time, tap or click Change, tap or click to select the correct date and time for your current time zone, then tap or click Change.
    Step 5: Tap or click to turn Set time automatically back to On.
    Step 6: 

    Install the latest Surface and Windows updates. See Install Surface and Windows updates for how-to info.

  • Tap or click Contact customer support for help to get in touch with Activation Support at Microsoft.
  • If the on-screen instructions suggest that you contact your manufacturer or prompt you for a new product key, contact us for help.

What happens while Windows is not activated?

Until Windows is activated, options for personalising your Surface lock screen, Start screen and account picture will be limited, and Surface will remind you to activate.


Contact Us

Answer Desk
Answer Techs are available to help.
Talk to a live agent