How to Fix Activation Error: 0xC004C003 on Windows 11

The 0xC004C003 Activation error code is an old issue that has been around since Windows 7. But recently we’re seeing an explosion in user reports dealing with the 0xC004C003 error after an activation failure on Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Windows Activation Error 0xC004C003

After investigating this new resurfacing of this issue, it turns out that the problem most likely occurs when you try to activate an operating system (Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Windows 11) with an OEM Activation 3.0 (OA3) Digital Product Key (DPK).

Whenever the licensing code tries to access a registry hive without the proper access, you can expect to see the 0xC004C003 as the access is denied and the product key is not extracted successfully.

However, there are multiple causes on why the Activation utility doesn’t have the necessary permissions to activate your license key so it throws the 0xC004C003 error instead. Here’s a list of potential culprits:

  • Target PC is missing the January 2021 Security Update – If you recently upgraded to Windows 11 and you’re no longer able to activate, you should start by ensuring that you have the January 2021 Security Update installed. If you’re using a standard-issue PC from a big OEM like the Intel Mini PC, you can most likely fix the issue once you update to the latest available OS build.
  • Generic Licensing Key Inconsistency – Another scenario that might be applicable if you recently upgraded is a general licensing inconsistency. Most of these issues can be rectified by running the Activation troubleshooter and applying the recommended fix.
  • Recent Motherboard, GPU, or CPU change – If your windows version was previously activated and you’re suddenly discovered that it’s not, this might be because you recently changed your motherboard, CPU, or GPU. If you recently made some hardware changes to your PC, you should be able to re-activate your Windows installation by re-arming the Software Licensing Management Tool.
  • Incorrect Product key for Windows version – If you were using a Home Windows version and upgraded to a different version of Windows 11 (PRO, Enterprise, or N version), chances are you’re seeing this error because of the product key that you own is not compatible with this version.
  • Microsoft account-related issue – It’s also possible to face this issue due to a Microsoft account-related issue that is entirely beyond your control. In this case, the only viable fix that you can pursue is to get in touch with a Microsoft live agent and ask them to troubleshoot the issue.

Now that you are familiar with every potential cause that might trigger the 0xC004C003 error, let’s start troubleshooting the issue away:

1. Install the January 2021 Security Release

Since this issue is almost always related to an inconsistency related to a registry hive that the Activation tool can’t access due to insufficient access permissions, the first thing you should investigate is your current Windows build.

Microsoft has already addressed this issue with update KB5000842 – this patch is a security update present on both Windows 11 and Windows 11.

All you need to do to make sure it’s installed is install every available update until you bring your Windows to build to the latest.

Note: Keep in mind that if you’re using the Intel NUC11PHKi7CAA Mini PC, chances are you’re seeing this activation error due to a conflict between the motherboard driver and the KB5001692. In this case, too, the solution is the same – you need to install the latest pending feature updates, security updates, and cumulative updates via Windows Update.

If this scenario sounds like it could be applicable and you’re not using the latest version of Windows, follow the instructions below for step-by-step instructions on installing every pending security update:

Note: The instructions below will work on both Windows 10 and Windows 11.

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. Next, type ‘ms-settings:windowsupdate’ inside the text box and press Enter to open up the Windows Update screen.
    Accessing the Windows Update screen
  2. If you’re prompted by the User Account Control window, click Yes to grant admin access.
  3. Once you’re inside the Windows Update screen, move over to the right-hand section of the screen and click on the Check for updates button.
    Check for Windows Updates
  4. If new pending updates are identified, click on Install all, then wait until every pending update is installed.
    Note: If you have a lot of pending updates waiting to be installed, you will be prompted to restart before every Windows update is installed – if this happens, restart as instructed, but make sure to return to this same screen once the next startup is complete.
  5. After you manage to bring your Windows OS to the latest version available, attempt to activate your OS once again and see if you’re still stuck with the same 0xC004C003 error code.

In case the same kind of issue is still occurring or you already had the latest Windows updates installed, move down to the next potential fix below.

2. Troubleshoot With the Activation Troubleshooter

Keep in mind that Microsoft is aware of most of these activation errors that have been plaguing Windows for years.

If the problem is caused by a temporary inconsistency and your product license key is legit, you should be able to address the issue automatically by running the Activation Troubleshooter and applying the recommended fix.

Note: This will only work in those scenarios where the 0xC004C003 error is caused by a licensing restriction issue that’s rooted locally.

Follow the instructions below for the complete guide on running the Activation Troubleshooter and applying the recommended fix:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. Next, type ‘ms-settings:activation’ inside the text box and press Enter to open up the Activation tab inside the Settings app.
     
    Running the Activation troubleshooter
  2.  Once you’re inside the Activation troubleshooter menu inside the Settings app, move over to the right-hand section of the screen (under Activation State) and click on the Troubleshoot button under the error that you’re getting.
    Running the activation troubleshooter
  3. Once the Activation troubleshooter utility is started wait patiently until the initial scan is complete.
    Note: The tool will begin scanning for any inconsistency related to the product key that you’re using and the associated activation dependencies.
  4. If a viable fix is identified, you will be presented with a screen where you can click on Apply this fix to apply the fix that Microsoft recommends.
    Applying the recommended fix
  5. Once the fix is successfully applied, reboot your PC and see if Windows 11 is now activated once your computer boots back up.

In case your Windows is still not activated and you’re still seeing the 0xC004C003 error code once you try to activate your product key, move down to the next potential fix below.

3. Rearm the Software Licensing Management Tool

If you recently did some hardware changes (replaced your motherboard, GPU, CPU, or RAM memory sticks) you might find that your Windows installation is no longer activated. This is typically the case with Digital product keys and it’s due to a security measure that Microsoft implements in order to prevent the usage of single product keys on multiple devices.

Fortunately for you, if you’re having this problem, you can resolve it easily by re-arming the product key on your PC using the Software Licensing Management tool from an elevated Command Prompt.

Note: This method should work for you regardless of your Windows version or iteration.

Follow the instructions below to learn how to open an elevated command prompt and re-arming your digital product key for Windows via SLMNGR and resolve the 0xC004C003 activation error:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. Next, inside the text box that just appeared, type ‘cmd’ and press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open up an elevated Command Prompt.
    Open up a CMD prompt
  2. When you’re prompted by the User Account Control, click Yes to grant admin access.
  3. Once you’re inside the elevated Command Prompt, type the following command to re-arm your current product key:
     slmgr.vbs –rearm
  4. Hit Enter to process the command, then wait until you get the success message (Command Completed Successfully) before restarting your PC.
  5. After your PC boots back up, check back inside the activation tab to see if your PC is now activated.

In case your Windows computer is still not activated and you’re getting the 0xC004C003 activation error when you try to activate it, move down to the next potential fix below.

4. Retrieve the Generic Product Id Key

Another reason why you might expect to face this issue is a scenario in which you’re actually using the incorrect product key for the Windows version that you have installed. For example, you might have installed Windows 11 PRO while the product key that you own is only valid for the Home version.

Fortunately for those of you that find themselves in this scenario, you can resolve the issue by using the Registry Editor to retrieve the correct generic product key according to your Windows version.

After you do so and you’re no longer seeing the 0xC004C003 activation error, you should be able to activate without issues.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open up a Run dialog box. Next, type ‘regedit’ inside the text box, then press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open up the Registry Editor utility with admin access.
    Open up the Regedit utility
  2. At the User Account Control (UAC) window, click Yes to grant admin access.
  3. Once you’re finally inside the Registry Editor, use the section on the left to navigate to the following location:
    Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion

    Note: You can either get to this location manually or you can paste the entire path inside the navigation bar at the top and press Enter to get there instantly.

  4. After you’re inside the correct location, make sure CurrentVersion is selected from the pane on the left, then move over to the right-hand side pane and double click on ProductID.
    Accessing the Product ID
  5. Inside the Product Id string, just go ahead and copy the generic product key, then return to the activation tab and add it in order to temporarily activate your operating system.
  6. Reboot your PC and wait until you get the prompt warning you that your Windows is not activated anymore – when it appears, insert your own product key and you should be able to activate your Windows installation without getting the same 0xC004C003 activation error.

If this method was not applicable in your particular scenario, move down to the next potential fix below.

5. Get in Touch with Microsoft

If none of the methods above have worked in your case, chances are this activation issue is entirely beyond your control. It’s not uncommon to see this issue occurring due to an inconsistency related to the Microsoft account that is tied to the product key that’s giving you the 0xC004C003.

In scenarios like the one described above, the only viable fix is to get in contact with a Microsoft Live agent and ask them to troubleshoot the issue for you.

There are actually multiple ways of getting in contact with a Microsoft support representative, but the quickest way of them all is to simply call the toll-free number associated with the region that you are located in.

Here’s a list of official country-specific tool-free numbers from Microsoft that you can call.

Toll-free numbers that you can call from Microsoft

Once you get assigned to a human, you will be asked a few security questions to prove that you are indeed the owner of the product key that you are trying to activate.

But once everything checks out and they’re able to confirm that you hold ownership over the product key, they have the power to re-instate or activate the product key to the target machine remotely.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.

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How to Fix Activation Error: 0xC004C003 on Windows 11

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