Having your Windows 10, Office, or any other product keys available always comes in handy. Today we will show you how to find your Windows 10 product key and other Microsoft product keys even from a computer that won’t boot.
In case you are planning on doing a reinstall of Windows you should have your Windows 10 product key available. Your product key may be stored in the Windows Registry, however, it’s impossible to obtain it from there without help.
Luckily, there are easy ways to find your Windows 10 product key, and other product keys like from Microsoft Office. By utilizing the Windows PowerShell, third-party software, or even by taking a look at your hardware, you can find out those codes quite easily.
What we can tell you before starting this tutorial is that Microsoft did a quite good job hiding those product keys from the normal user. We can only assume that the company doesn’t want anyone to re-use a Windows product key from an old computer.
Where to find your Windows 10 product key
In total, there are three places where you can find your Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 7 product key. Retrieving it from these places is easy and requires just a few steps.
This is where you may find your Windows 10 product key:
- Stored inside Windows: When a user or a PC manufacturer installs Windows, the OS stores its product key in the Windows Registry. You can retrieve this product key to use it when reinstalling Windows on your PC. Of course, be sure to get your product key before formatting your hard drive, or else it will be deleted.
- Printed on your computer: Some devices use a technology called “System Locked Pre-installation”, or SLP. If your PC uses this technology, the product key stored in your PC’s registry is different from the key you are going to need. The actual key is on a certificate of authenticity (COA) sticker on your PC or its power supply. That technology was common for Windows 7 PCs.
- In your PC’s UEFI firmware or BIOS: Newer PCs that come with Windows 8 or Windows 10 have their Windows product key stored in the computer’s UEFI firmware or in the BIOS. Users don’t really need to know it since if they install the same edition of Windows the PC came with, the OS will automatically activate without the need for a key.
And of course, you can find your Windows 10 product key, Office product key, etc. on the disk case if you have purchased the OS or the software in hard copy.
Find your Windows 10 product key in the UEFI firmware or BIOS
As mentioned above, on newer computers having Windows 8 or Windows 10, the product key is not stored somewhere in the Windows settings or on a sticker. No one can get your product key since it’s stored in the computer’s UEFI firmware or BIOS by the manufacturer.
Despite the fact that if you reinstall the same version of Windows the PC came with you won’t need your product key, it’s always good to have it. Before reinstalling the operating system, follow these steps and write down your product key:
- Open Windows PowerShell
- Enter the following command and press Enter:
(Get-WmiObject -query ‘select * from SoftwareLicensingService’).OA3xOriginalProductKey
You should be rewarded with your embedded product key, shown in the screenshot above. Write it down and store it in a safe place.
Retrieve your Windows 10 product key from the COA sticker
If you have a PC from the Windows 7 era, there’s a good chance that your computer has a key that the manufacturer uses for all their PCs. The “System Locked Pre-installation” technology doesn’t allow users to use that key to install Windows.
In order to get the right product key, you will need to look for a certificate of authenticity sticker on your device. This COA sticker verifies that the computer came with an authentic copy of Windows.
That sticker has a product key printed on it and it’s the key you will need to reinstall Windows.
Examine your computer to find the key. On a laptop, it may be on the bottom of the device or under the battery if it has a removable battery. If there is some sort of compartment it might also be there.
If you have a desktop PC, look on the side of the desktop’s case. If it’s not there, check the back, the top, the bottom, and anywhere else for a COA sticker.
There is a chance that the Windows product key has been rubbed off of the sticker. In that case, you can try contacting your computer’s manufacturer and explain what happened, but we can’t guarantee they will help out.
Find your Windows 10 product key using third-party software
Retrieving your Windows product key was not as easy before as it is today and that is thanks to third-party software. Several companies have produced applications that help users find their Windows product keys.
One of the best third-party software available for doing that is ProduKey. Produced by NirSoft, this application only requires you to download it, unzip it, and then run it to immediately see all of your product keys.
If you double-click on ProduKey.exe, you will instantly get a window that shows all the product keys for all Microsoft products installed on your computer. You will see your Windows product key and the product key for Office.
In addition, ProduKey allows you to recover a key from a dead computer. To do so, follow these steps:
- Hook up the hard drive of the dead computer to a working PC
- Run ProduKey
- Go to File>Select Source
- Choose the option “Load the product keys from external Windows directory”
- Click “Browse” and select the hard drive of the dead computer
It is important to note that ProduKey will not work for all OEM computers. If your OEM installed your computer and used a single key for all their PCs, this won’t work. It also doesn’t work for Office 2013.
Find your Windows 10 product key without software
Another easy way to get your Windows 10 product key is by creating a simple VBscript that will read the value from the Windows Registry.
Here is what you have to do:
- Open a Notepad file
- Paste the following script in the document
Set WshShell = CreateObject("WScript.Shell") MsgBox ConvertToKey(WshShell.RegRead("HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\DigitalProductId")) Function ConvertToKey(Key) Const KeyOffset = 52 i = 28 Chars = "BCDFGHJKMPQRTVWXY2346789" Do Cur = 0 x = 14 Do Cur = Cur * 256 Cur = Key(x + KeyOffset) + Cur Key(x + KeyOffset) = (Cur \ 24) And 255 Cur = Cur Mod 24 x = x -1 Loop While x >= 0 i = i -1 KeyOutput = Mid(Chars, Cur + 1, 1) & KeyOutput If (((29 - i) Mod 6) = 0) And (i <> -1) Then i = i -1 KeyOutput = "-" & KeyOutput End If Loop While i >= 0 ConvertToKey = KeyOutput End Function
- Go to File>Save As
- Change the “Save as type” to “All Files”
- Name your document “vbs” or something similar with the .vbs extension
- Save the document (preferably to the desktop for easy access)
- Once you’ve saved it, you can double-click and a popup window will appear, showing you the Windows 10 product key
Differences between product key and digital entitlement
Since the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft has changed its policy on product keys, replacing them with digital entitlement. Essentially what this means is that Microsoft keeps a record of your right to run Windows 10 on its servers.
Thanks to digital entitlement, if you need to do a fresh install from a USB drive, for example, you won’t have to activate your PC. After the reinstall Windows will activate automatically in the background.
Your digital entitlement is based on your system configuration. If you change too many components at once and then try to reinstall Windows 10, you may run into problems.
This is a rare issue but it’s something you should keep in mind if you’re planning on swapping out your hard drive and hope to do some upgrades at the same time. It would be better swap your hard drive first, reinstall Windows 10, and once the OS is activated take care of other upgrades.