Q: When I retired six months ago, I was allowed to keep my company laptop that runs Windows 10 Enterprise, a corporate version of the operating system. But now I get a message urging me to "activate Windows," even though the laptop has been running Windows 10 for years. When I try to do that, I get the message: "We can't activate Windows on this device as we can't connect to your organization's activation server." Will I be able to reactivate Windows 10 Enterprise, or do I need to buy a new Windows 10 license to keep using this laptop?
--Edward Grivna, Brooklyn Park, Minn.
A: You've discovered the problem with keeping a work PC from a large company: While the PC is now yours, its operating system is not.
Your PC's copy of Windows 10 Enterprise is licensed to your former employer. Once your PC left the employer's network, its operating system became a non-activated copy of Windows -- meaning it still works, but with limitations.
Here's what that means for you:
-- Because your PC is no longer connected to the corporate network, you probably won't get any operating system updates, including vital security updates. (An activated copy of Windows 10 Enterprise normally gets updates via a corporate server.)
-- You'll keep being reminded to activate the operating system, even though you can't.
-- You won't be able to "personalize" the PC by changing the background screen (called "wallpaper") unless you use a workaround (see "Cosmetic Limitations" at tinyurl.com/jgrezts).
To avoid these problems, buy a copy of Windows 10 Pro, which can be used to downgrade Windows 10 Enterprise to the Pro version (see tinyurl.com/yybzyjpa). (Yes, it would be simpler to buy a license for Enterprise, but Microsoft only sells those to corporations.)
The downgrade to Windows 10 Pro is not supposed to cause any loss of data, but backup your information, just in case.