By Miguel Leiva-Gomez for MakeTechEasier.com
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.
Where’d The Product Key Go?
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_MACHINESOFTWAREWindowsProductID. 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.
This excerpt is shared with permission from maketecheasier.com.