0xc004c003 error and problems activating Windows 10? Microsoft has a workaround

Windows 10 logo on a beach

To get the most out of Windows 10, and to avoid being pestered by constant reminders, you need to activate it. This is not always the smooth, trouble-free process it should be, and people often run into problems.

If you have installed the KB4598291 update for Windows 10, you may well have been plagued by activation failure with a 0xc004c003 error. Now Microsoft has provided details of what is going wrong, as well as revealing a workaround.

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Microsoft explains that the issue affects Windows 10 versions 2004 and 20H2 and can arise after the installation of a pre-release version of an update. Specifically, it is the January 2021 nonsecurity preview release -- or KB4598291 as it is also known -- that is to blame.

The 0xc004c003 error code is also accompanied by an error message that reads:

We can't activate Windows on this device because you don't have a valid digital license or product key. If you think you do have a valid license or key, select Troubleshoot below. Error code 0xc004c003.

Microsoft goes on to reveal the root cause of this error, saying:

This issue might occur when you try to activate the operating system with an OEM Activation 3.0 (OA3) Digital Product Key (DPK).

Error 0xC004C003 occurs when a licensing code component tries to access a registry hive without proper access. A resulting access denied error causes the product key not to be extracted correctly.

So, what's the solution? The rather unsophisticated answer is that you need to run the January 2021 security release or an earlier release until a proper fix is produced. To remove the offending update, head to the Command Prompt and run the command: wusa /uninstall /kb:4598291

Image credit: tanuha2001 / Shutterstock

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