HP 290-p0043w: due diligence

Finally bought HP 290-p0043w today.

A few questions:

  1. this box is used. Is there a common procedure to go through to know the box doesn’t contain any modifications?

  2. it comes with Windows installed; sounds like installing Unraid is not ideal, so I will be installing Ubuntu; in any case, I will have to format the volume containing Windows. Is there any way to extract Windows 10 serial key before doing so? E.g. in case I need Windows 10 in future, I could use the key?

  3. I will be installing Ubuntu, that I’d like to be able to access via SSH when I am at home, but also when I’m traveling. Is there some good security checklist to go through after installing Ubuntu from scratch? For example, I know that I want to disallow SSH password authentication, and only keep the private key option enabled. What else?

  1. You’ll be fine if you reinstall Windows, the activation key is programmed into the motherboard’s UEFI.
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Can you please elaborate or point me to relevant wikipedia / article / documentation on win10 activation key being part of motherboard UEFI?

I know that vendors like HP oftentimes leave a dedicated volume on the HDD to enable restore & diagnostics tools. Is win10 activation key a part of such hidden HDD volume or is it really burned into the motherboard?

Reason I’m double-checking this is that I looked at the HDD that shipped with my HP computer, and this is what I see:

I am worried that completely erasing the HDD and destroying current volume mapping would lock me out of Windows 10 completely.

The way it was first explained to me, someone asked me if I remembered how desktops used to have those windows activation stickers on them, and now often they don’t. It’s because they’re programmed into the motherboard.
There are command prompt and powershell commands you can run that will only produce results if the key is embedded.
For anecdotal evidence about these specific machines, I’ve removed the 500gb HDD while installing a brand new NVME ssd and didn’t have to activate windows on a clean install via USB.
If you want more, try the HP 290-p0043w Owner’s Thread someone in there may be able to give you a more official answer.

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Definitely tied to the motherboard. I just had a laptop HD die. Swapped in a new HD, reinstalled Win10, and at first boot it was already activated.

Even if that weren’t the case, you can install and run Win10 without activation. It just won’t let you customize your installation. I have a Win10 VM I haven’t bothered to activate that doesn’t get in my way of using it.

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install and run Win10 without activation

Wait, what? Does Windows not require activation these days to use it?

That’s right. You can install Win10 and never activate it. It won’t nag you. You will just be stuck with the generic Windows look that you won’t be able to change. Everything in the Personalization area of Windows Settings is locked out, but otherwise it is completely functional.