Quote: "A GPU change and new NVMe drive do not make a new computer. Online or phone activation did not work, and in fact was told go to buy a new license".
Separate changes, or done at the same time?
Just asking, as I've seen a few people caught out by changing multiple items in one system at the same time, and then having re-activation problems as 'too much changed' in one go. It then seems to be down to luck of the draw who you get at the end of the phone support, when trying to re-activate via that route!
I've also heard logging in via an MS account, rather than a local/LAN account, can help, as that gets the system associated with the account (not much use for business machines though, so more of a home thing). You only need to log in to the MS account once when initially activated, so it can 'phone home', then just user your local or whatever account as normal. Just log back into the MS account once in a while if any hardware is changed.
So far I've not had this issue myself, and I've removed several older SSDs, replacing them with M2 NVMe drive, plus upgraded my GFX card, and never needed to reactivate yet. But each upgrade was done one at a time, usually with at least weeks between each change, and I'd log into my MS account just once after the change, then log back out and into my local account.
As a side, I rebuilt an older machine (originally from ~2012) late last year, the motherboard, memory and CPU were the same (still in the MB), everything else was repurposed or new. Including a new SATA SSD, GFX and sound. Fresh install of Win 10 (multiboot with Linux & Win 7), was not expecting this to activate as the system had only briefly had Win 10 on back in 2015 (I installed the 'free' upgrade from Win 7 as a test, then put Win 7 back on!). I created a new local account during install (no network during install). Showed as not activated when logged into the local account (as expected). Plugged network in, left it to update itself. Once it had completed updates, switched to my MS account, system changed to activated! Switched back to local account, still activated!
PS: Not saying I like the activation system! Would much rather not have it.