Windows 8 Pro (re)Activation Error: 0xC004F074 and 5 things that do not fix it

I pre-apologize if the answer is buried somewhere on this forum already; if it does exist, please point me towards that thread
OK, I bought a used laptop with dual boot Win7x64 / Win8Prox64 in Feb. 2013. Windows 8 booted up and ran just fine for the first six months. I don't know if it had anything to do with it, but I installed Office 2013 in the Windows 8 partition not long ago,
and it seems that after that Windows 8 kept issuing pleas to "activate windows" (but no complaints from Office 2013, which is a HUP installation from my work). On the bottom right side of the screen it now says Windows Pro 8 Build 9200, and on top
of that is the light gray plea to (re) activate Windows. There have been no hardware changes to the laptop. 
I finally got annoyed enough this weekend to try to resolve it, without success. Here are the five methods I tried, and the results:
Attempt 1:
go to Control Panel > search Windows Activation > choose Windows Activation
Response:
Windows isn’t activated
Windows can’t be activated right now. Try activating Windows later. If this issue persists, contact your system administrator or technical support department for assistance.
[Activate button]
Activation details
Error Code:
0xC004F074
The Software Licensing Service reported that the product could not be activated. No Key Management Service (KMS) could be contacted. Please see the Application Event Log for additional information.
Pressing the [Activate] button gets you the same response over and over.
Attempt 2:
Open the command window as an administrator -
CMD (run as administrator) slmgr.vbs –ipk XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX (where this is the 25 character key for Windows 8 Pro)
Response:
Installed product key XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX successfully.
Next -
CMD (run as administrator) slmgr.vbs –ato
Response:
Activating Windows(R), Professional edition
Error: 0xC004F074 The Software Licensing Service reported that the computer could not be activated. No Key Management Service (KMS) could be contacted. Please see the Application Event Log for additional information.
Attempt 3:
Open the command window as an administrator -
CMD (run as administrator) SLUI 3
Response:
Enter a product key to activate Windows
(enter product key)
Your product key works! Continue when you’re ready
press [Activate]
Get the same 0xC004F074 error code message as before
Attempt 4:
Open the command window as an administrator - 
CMD (run as administrator) SLUI 4
Response:
Find available phone numbers for activation
Click the nearest location:
Afghanistan
[Afghanistan is grayed out and you cannot select any other country]
Click on Next, and get a non-toll free number in Afghanistan to call.
Attempt 5:
CMD (run as admistrator) sfc /scannow
Response:
No errors reported.
All I want to do is (re)activate Windows 8, but it seems to be fighting me all the way.  When you try to find the United States toll free number for Windows 8 activation (a la SLUI 4) on the Microsoft Customer Service site, it simply says the software
will provide the phone number. 
So here are my questions for the Forum members:
1) Why did Windows 8 unactivate itself?
2) What the heck is Key Management Service as it relates to Windows 8 Pro? My limited interpretation is that like Office 2013, Windows is trying to go to a remote server to verify the license (?).
3) Is the version on this laptop not a standalone version? Is it a bogus or hacked installation, and how can you tell for sure? Could a virus have done this?
4) What is the path of least resistance to fix the activation issue? I don't mind calling MS customer service as a last resort, if needed, but wanted to see if there was anything else I could fix on my end before doing that.
Thanks in advance for your input, ask for any other info that I have not covered.

Please run Slmgr.vbs /dlv and look if you see a KMS server configured.
Check this guide for KMS issues:
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee939272.aspx
Yes you can buy a Win8 Pro license at the MS store and enter the key. This doesn't impact your tools.
"A programmer is just a tool which converts caffeine into code"

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