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
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.
Once installed, Pro will be activated. It will receive Microsoft updates via the internet and have no limitations on its use.
Q: I’m frustrated with the large number of TV commercials. Are there DVRs (digital video recorders) that can record both antenna TV and streaming Internet TV so that I can skip ads?
Tom Schultz, Minneapolis
A: There are DVRs for cable, satellite and antenna TV, and for some types of streaming internet video. Some DVRs handle more than one type of input, but no DVR handles them all. (See tinyurl.com/y3kzfblt, tinyurl.com/yy4z88xq, and tinyurl.com/y5w4kos4).
Q: I copied my Windows 7 TurboTax files to Windows 10, but I can’t seem to open them. Windows 10 says to pick an app to do that — what app?
Tom Olson, Golden Valley
A: You need the TurboTax program to open those files. The online and PC-based versions of the 2019 TurboTax program aren’t available yet. But for about $10 you can buy the 2018 PC-based version, which should be able to read your files (see tinyurl.com/y27vp8gs).
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