Cry about...
MS-Windows Troubleshooting

Windows couldn't be activated - Error code 0x8007007B the filename, directory name or volume label syntax is incorrect


When trying to activate Windows 2012 server, a dialog is shown containing the following failure information:

Windows couldn't be activated

Go to Control Panel to learn about other ways to activate.

Error code: 0x8007007B

Error description: The filename, directory name or volume label syntax is incorrect.


Whilst this is not obvious, this is caused by having the wrong product key.

In my case I had installed Windows 2012 server and had not yet entered a product key. On the Windows Activation screen it showed:

Windows isn't activated

Current edition
Windows Server 2012 Standard

Current product key

Why a meaningful error couldn't be displayed or the option provided to change the product key, I don't know.


The solution is simply to enter a new or correct product key and try activating again.

There are two ways to enter (or change) the product key, use whichever you are most comfortable with:

  1. Use  Windows Activation Tool:
    1. Click the "Start" button until the Start screen is shown.
    2. Type "slui.exe 0x3" (without the quotes)
    3. This should bring up the search box and you should see "slui.exe 0x03" highlighted on the left in a box - click that box.
    4. A dialog box should now display titled "Windows Activation". Enter your server product key there, and you should then be able to activate windows from that dialog.
  2. Use Software Licensing Manager Tool:
    1. Run "Command Prompt" using "Run as administrator".
    2. In the command prompt box enter:
      slmgr -upk
      and press return. You should then see a box titled "Windows Script Host" and containing the message "Uninstalled product key successfully."
    3. Now that the previous product key has been removed you can enter a new product key, so in the same command prompt box enter:
      slmgr -ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
      inserting your product key in the above.
    4. You will then need to go back to Windows Activation to activate windows.
    5. Enter:
      and press return to bring up the Windows activation dialog, from where you should now be able to activate windows.

These notes have been tested with Windows 2012 Standard Server.

About the author: is a dedicated software developer and webmaster. For his day job he develops websites and desktop applications as well as providing IT services. He moonlights as a technical author and consultant.