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Installing Win XP OEM when you've lost your Product Key

by sirwriter / November 1, 2005 1:50 AM PST

It was a version of Windows XP Home that had been laying around for months with no home. I just finished a small footprint micro ATX with everything I needed for a media center and grabbed the disk. I popped it in the DVD drawer and told the install to reformat my old hard drive, after all, it was time for a fresh start. (MIstake #1 - that old hard drive had this particular version of XP installed on it).

I got through everything to the part where the screen popped up for the 25 digit product key. I opened the CD holder where I thought I'd put it last. Nothing. I looked on the inside door of the last case this hard drive had been in. Nope. I picked up the phone and called Microsoft, and after a moderate wait, told the technician what my problem was. Could he simply give me a code that would work?

He asked me to read off some numbers on the surface of the disk. After a moment he came back on. "Sir, is that OEM software or retail?" I'd bought it OEM with a bunch of parts to build a computer over a year ago.

"Sorry sir, there's nothing I can do for you. We do not provide product support for OEM products. You might try the dealer you bought the software from."

I said wait, doesn't Microsoft SELL this OEM software to those dealers?

"Well yes, but there is no service provided to the dealer or the customer. We'd be happy to sell you a fresh copy of retail software." But I already paid for the software, I just needed the product code I'd lost.

I called the dealer, but it had been well past the length of time they provided service for the products they sold. But they would sell me a key that would work for the price of another package of OEM software.

In frustration I signed on to Ebay and looked for product keys for MS software. There are a host of small programs that will read the product key off the software you have installed. So, if I'd done that before I reformatted, I'd have the software installed and on to better things. Googling produced the same thing. Lots of programs will read the key off an installed program, but none can read it from a disk.

Why should I be penalized for buying OEM software when building my own computers? Why does Microsoft sell it and turn their backs to consumers with problems? Why even sell it at all?

That night as I lay in bed, tossing and turning, in my mind's eye I saw a mental snap shot of a big cardboard box of empty software and component boxes inside it, packed away in the attic. Immediately I jumped up, ran upstairs, and tore through the boxes. There, near the bottom, was the empty XP box, with the product key taped to the outside of the box.

I could not wait til morning; I installed it that night. I wrote that number down and put it in 3 different places. I have 4 different versions of Windows XP. And 4 product keys, each tucked away in a safe place.

But the incident with Microsoft and the dealer still irritates me. What are your thoughts, fellow MS software owners?

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Seems like a bargain to me.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 1, 2005 1:57 AM PST

I like OEM software since I get it for a bargain. But as part of the bargain you get ZERO support from it's original maker and only what you can from who sold it to you.

This is part of the lesson about "licensing."



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Now...while this is all still fresh
by TONI H / November 1, 2005 7:39 AM PST

in your mind....go to and do an online free scan of your system. It will spill out an html report that is printable with all your hardware installed, along with mfr and model number and version number. It will also give you a list of all XP hotfixes that have been installed, and the KB or Q numbers that go with them. It will also give you a list of ALL programs installed on the computer and will spill its guts letting you know the Product Code Keys used for XP and Office addition to all registration/license/serial numbers required for other software.


I have this program on a floppy disk instead of having to be on the net to run it each time.

I do this for every single computer I build, repair, or upgrade for my customers and family members and friends. They get a copy, and I get a copy so no matter what I can always help them in a pinch, even if it's over the phone long distance.


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You asked for what others thought
by Steven Haninger / November 1, 2005 9:18 AM PST

I can't be unsympathetic with your situation but I wouldn't put one bit of blame on MS for this or their unwillingness to assist. Obviously you had a legal copy. MS can't know this. MS has its reasons and I respect them. The bad guys made things this way and not the good guys (oops....and gals). It's up to the honest folks to make this work because the dishonest only make things break..... Glad the outcome was good......

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(NT) (NT) Oops..Supposed to be to originator.
by Steven Haninger / November 1, 2005 9:53 AM PST
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Now...while this is all still fresh
by sirwriter / November 1, 2005 9:04 PM PST

Wow, Toni...

That is awesome! I didn't know that. I'm going to do it now. Thanks so much!!


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by Alan Copeland / November 9, 2005 2:21 AM PST

Another thing Belarc provides is proof of what was on your PC in case of fire or theft. Insurance companies love detailed information like this insead of " I had this killer PC system"

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Nice job man....
by HKPK_2005 / November 1, 2005 8:11 AM PST

You spent how long typing up your little story? Man, you should have just cut the chase and get to the point... Now I have a major headache... But still, nice job on all the details and stuff....

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Installing Win XP OEM when you've lost your Product Key
by daddy.guds / November 1, 2005 11:06 AM PST
In reply to: Nice job man....

microsoft can be full of bs sometimes. they're suppose to be helpin customer!! instead there they are sitting on one side of the corner making lots of money not really giving so much care for their consumers. with out us the real consumers there wouldn't even be a bigger microsoft today. you know i can never blame those countries that go for pirated softwares... Y??? 1) you buy an OS 2) you install the OS 3) you put the OS away after installation. you pay so much for an operating system that if you are a careful and cautious user, you'll get to use the operation system only once in your lifetime. AND if you loose your product key... well... that your problem as the people in microsoft would like to put it in another way. how much is the OS cd-key??? that shouldn't even cost a cent cause you've alreay bought the OS.

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I take exception to the slam to MS for this
by TONI H / November 1, 2005 7:52 PM PST

If the vendor you bought your computer system from (or even parts that allowed you to get an OEM version of Windows) has kept decent records of your sale, it would automatically include the Product Code Key that goes with that system or disk somewhere in their computer database for just such an instance as this.

The fact that the vendor in this instance claimed that the 'warranty' was up on it and wanted to SELL another code for it for the same price of a new disc is ridiculous and price gouging as badly as some gas stations owners.

There should be some type of extra code on the disk itself that can identify the disk as being legitimate and legal in order to get the installation code without any hassle from a vendor along with a VENDOR code to identify which vendor sold you the disk. Most times if you go to Wal-Mart or some such, and you look at the barcode, it will state the name of the retailer who has sold that product so that if you buy from Wal-Mart or Lowes and need to return an item, they can see immediately that you didn't purchase it from Sears and are trying to rip off the wrong store for a returned item.

If everybody is concerned with stopping piracy, there ARE ways to do it without costing the legal consumer so much more just to get something as simple as an installation number out of a vendor.

If Dell, Gateway, etc builds you a computer and you don't have a retail copy of windows, they generally will put a barcode sticker on the computer itself (mostly on the back or underside of the case) with that number; however, they should ALSO enter that number into their computer database on your SALES papers so if you replace your case some day, you haven't lost the number. Let them include it automatically, since you have a permanent record in their sales database anyhow for tech support purposes, so the number to be included is NOT a big deal. If you go to their website for downloaded newer drivers, they have matched the model and serial number with YOUR specific machine, so why not include an encrypted code number as well for your version windows that was sold with the machine? You could have access to it all the time then, with specific information about yourself that nobody else would have to use as proof, in order to get that information on screen or emailed to you. Other sites have that technology available to them, so why not a vendor?

As for MS never giving anything back....The Gates Foundation gives more than any other company in the history of this country. They just 'spent' $240 million dollars in addition to the $180 million already spent on medication for Africans who are suffering and dying from a curable illness called malaria....all because these people can't afford to buy the meds and no pharmaceutical company wanted to send them what they needed and no country cared enough to get it to them.

If we pay $100-200 for a Windows Operating System, you can bet your bottom dollar that part of that money is going into that foundation and getting BACK out to the people who need help the most in the world. How many companies donate whole systems to schools on an almost every day basis in large volumes to help educate our children? MS makes software...they don't make computer systems. And yet the entire system is donated at their expense.

You can expound all you want to about how 'heavy-handed' MS has been in order to be successful, but there is no other company out there that has taken that success and literally poured the money back into the world, and basically has done it with YOUR money, as a thank you. It's a shame more companies haven't done the same.


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They Didn't Spend a Dime !!!
by George.G / November 2, 2005 1:10 PM PST

Get with it...they got a tax break! You honestly beleive "they just spent 240 million dollars....." out of the goodness of their (his) heart(s)? He didn't become the richest man in the world by "giving his money away"!

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In an interview quite a few years ago
by TONI H / November 2, 2005 7:31 PM PST

Bill Gates stated that as long as his wife, kids, and families were protected financially for their futures, he would not be hording the money made by Microsoft and that he would, in fact, be giving most of it away before he died to various charities and educational projects. His children would learn to work for a living and be productive citizens and not just be 'sponges' who sit around waiting for the wealth of inheritance to take care of them. "Their" money is separate from the MS profits still being made, and Gates and his wife agreed that they will never personally spend it all in their lifetimes nor in their childrens' lifetimes. The people of the world made him wealthy and they believe that wealth should be given back to the people who need it the most.

Think what you want...he's been living up that pledge, and if you look at his givings record over the last twenty years, you will see a philanthropist that staggers the imagination. What he gives away is more than most companies make in their lifetimes....
There isn't a company or person out there who doesn't get a tax break for charitable donations....and every single one of them uses that break. That doesn't make the donation any less real or tangible to the ones on the receiving end.


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Your ignorance serves you
by rwewe9 / November 2, 2005 7:45 PM PST

Gates got the money to "give" away by violating several of the most basic antimonopoly laws in the country. I found it interesting that you find the monopolistic behavior and price gouging of the gasoline companies offensive, but the same, no actually much more illegal behavior by MS, you approve of because they give to people (not even their customers) a small amount of the illegal gains (yes a large amount) but a very small percentage of the total theft by illegal monopoly.

Buy a $10.00 calculator, and subtract. $35 billion less .9 billion equals $34 billion. Will any of that gift impact in any way the giver since he still has over 90% of the illegal gains left. This is nothing more than trying to purchase legitimacy, and in your limited mind it worked. But try again subtract etc. etc. and then think about the results, if you can.

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Off topic.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 2, 2005 7:57 PM PST

While interesting, your post does not help the member who posted or educate anyone about OEM agreements and the pitfalls about these licenses.

If you wish to start a new discussion, please do, but in this discussion thread please try to stay on topic.



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hey i need help
by frankstgeorge / November 2, 2005 6:02 AM PST

my neighbor installed windows xp home edition on my cpu and when i turned it on it said that i have to activate windows. i dont have a product key and i dont know what to do now. can anyone help me? EMAIL ME BACK PLEASE....!! thanks alot frank

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(NT) (NT) Call your neighbor
by glb613 / November 2, 2005 6:56 AM PST
In reply to: hey i need help
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by kmsmith54 / November 9, 2005 12:28 AM PST

This is true of all OEM equipment -hardware or software.
If you have a hard drive from -say Western Digital on an OEM- say Dell the drive is serviced and warrentied by Dell not Western Digital.
The product is sold to OEM's for much less than to retail- part of the less price is no responsibility after sale.
- MS tech could have given you a key, they have recovery keys for disks that have problems, the program will see the new key as the original key and install with it from then on.
kevin smith

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I think the biggest rip off
by TONI H / November 9, 2005 9:09 AM PST
In reply to: OEM

regarding warranties is for new retail products....such as when a 17" monitor I had died one week after I had had it for a year. I called the mfr of the monitor first rather than the dealer and found out there was a two year warranty on it. No problem...I called the dealer and had my receipt in hand with the date of purchase on it and was told there was only a one year DEALER warranty to the customer but a TWO YEAR MFR warranty to the DEALER.

So, if I had brought the monitor back to the dealer, he would have sold me a new monitor since mine was out of warranty, but he would have shipped it back to the mfr and collected on HIS warranty....and gotten paid twice, not been out a dime, and made a huge profit.

Needless to say, the next monitor I purchased from a different dealer got the full two year warranty or there would have been no sale, and I began purchasing over the net with better warranties. I've purchased OEM harddrives over the net and not been given any trouble from the mfr for RMA's if they died during the normal warranty period. I've only dealt with one company for quite a while now (NewEgg) and they are excellent about warranties and replacements/credits/money back issues.


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(NT) (NT) You lost the key, why blame Microsoft?
by Alan Copeland / November 9, 2005 2:19 AM PST
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retreive key code
by elvira106 / November 9, 2005 9:35 AM PST

Hi I suggest to everyone who lost their key code before you TOUCH or FORMAT anything on your computer go to this site. follow instructions and you will have your key code. But remember you have to do this before formatting. Hope this can help.

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