How to Recover Your Windows Product Key

Losing your product key is something that happens to the best of us, especially when you’re as accident-prone as I am and misplace the box your Windows CD came in. Many people think about calling Microsoft tech support to resolve this issue, only to realize that they’re hitting a brick wall and wasting time. Instead of ruffling through tons of different CD/DVD cases you’ve kept over the years, you might decide to purchase a new product key or an entirely new license of Windows. Don’t make that mistake and keep that debit card in your wallet! You can use the registry to fetch the product key for your particular Windows license only if you use an older version of Windows, but Vista/7 need another procedure.
Up until Windows XP, the product key was always stored in the registry, within the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE key, under the “ProductID” key in “Windows” under “SOFTWARE”, making the path something like: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Windows\ProductID. Unfortunately, that’s not the case since Windows Vista. It seems that Microsoft wanted to make it difficult for you to find your product key, so that you end up buying another license when you lose one. You don’t have to do this if you use Magic JellyBean KeyFinder. Although it sounds like something fishy, it is a legitimate application that scans your Windows installation for your product key.
Oh, and here’s the other thing: The Windows “ProductID” doesn’t show the key anymore, but shows a special ID to help Microsoft identify and distinguish between one Windows installation and another. This is used to prevent two Windows installations from using Windows Update, since it’s against the company’s policy to use one Windows installation on more than one computer.
First of all, download KeyFinder’s ZIP file from this link. Open the ZIP file and extract it to a folder named in a way that you’ll remember in your local drive or on your desktop. Within the folder, you’ll find a file called “KeyFinder.exe”. Double-click it and you’ll find a screen that looks like this:
As you can see, you can also recover other product keys for anything else you install on your computer, depending on whether they have a key or whether they store their keys in a central location. Some applications store their keys in a file within their respective directories. For this, you’d have to do a little more investigation.
If manual searching doesn’t work, you can always find your product key with handy little applications like the Magic JellyBean Keyfinder. The alternative, in case Keyfinder doesn’t do anything for you, is Belarc Advisor, an application that gives you a full audit of your computer but also includes the product key. If everything else fails, you could always try your luck with Microsoft and give them a phone call for a replacement product key. It’s probably going to take a long time, but with luck, you’ll resolve your problem as quickly as possible.
As a habit, it is always good to backup your license keys when you first got your hand on the CD/DVD. You can easily take a photo of the license key with your mobile phone and upload the pic to your Dropbox, or Google+ account, so that when you need it, you know where to look for it.

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