For the installation of Windows on your PC you need to have access to a unique product key that will validate your copy. These product keys are used to protect software from unauthorized copying and use. If you have bought any Windows or a new PC, you will surely have access to a Windows product key that you can use to validate your windows copy anytime you require.
However, gaining access to your windows product key can be sometime not as straight forward as you may think. If it was so simple to re-install windows and gain access to Product key, everyone would have just re-installed windows to get rid of all the bloatware the manufacturers install in your PC.
There are two basic methods of finding the product key of your Windows copy, they are quite simple but definitely not straightforward. Note that Windows 8 uses a different mechanism that we explain at the end of this article.
Method #1: Located inside the Windows
Windows Product key is normally located in the registry, but accessing this information is not just one click away. You need to access it using basic scripts, thankfully, there are also some key-finder tools that can extract the information for you to easily see without going through any complex processes.
In this Tutorial, we are going to use NirSoft ProduKey, it is extremely simple tool and will let you see all software product keys (including Windows) with just one click. NirSoft is also responsible for tons of other utility tools and they don’t load the computer with junk software, unless you download the software from third-party download sites.
The process is simple, download the product key and install it using the simple installation wizard. Once installed, launch the program and you will see all the product keys in the window, including Windows Product key, Office product key or any other product key you have in your PC.
You will see different two alphanumeric keys in front of each product, 1st is the Product ID (not of your concern in this) and 2nd is the real product key. You need to either print the key or save it somewhere except on your PC as you may not be able to recover it if you wipe your hard drive.
Now, reinstall windows and use this product key to validate your windows.
Method #2: Get Key from COA Sticker
Method #1 might be convenient, but there is still a chance that it might not work. Due to “System Locked Pre-installation” the key may not work, in this situation you will need to look for key on the COA Sticker.
The COA Sticker will be located on your PC/Laptop outer body, and it could be anywhere. So you will have to look, below, sides, top and anywhere where your vision can reach. This is the real key and should work even if the PC comes with System Locked Pre-installation.
If your Laptop/PC is a bit old, there is a chance that the key might have faded from the sticker. If this happens and your PC also comes with “System Locked Pre-installation” then you can’t do anything about it. You should contact Microsoft about it, there is a chance they might be able to help you find out your key.
Note: New PCs that are coming with Windows 8 don’t actually use any of the methods above. The key is installed on hardware and will automatically validate your windows when you reinstall. So if you don’t find any key in the registry, there is no COA Sticker and you have a PC from Windows 8 era, then just re-install and it should validate automatically.
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