How to Find the Windows Product Key: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Find the Windows Product Key: 9 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Find the Windows Product Key: 9 Steps (with Pictures)

Have you lost the product key (Product Key) of Windows? The 25-character key is required every time you want to reinstall Windows or move an old version of Windows to a new computer. You'll also need it if you're making major changes to your computer's hardware. Unfortunately, it is very easy to lose the sticker with the product key on it. That is when you will have to call in the help of special (free) software. Read on to step 1 to learn how to recover the Windows product key even if your computer has stopped working.


Method 1 of 2: On a working computer

Check Your Windows Product Key Step 1

Step 1. Download a program to find out product keys

There are a number of different freeware programs that allow you to quickly find out a product key without too much hassle or technical knowledge. The most commonly used programs are ProduKey and KeyFinder.

  • Both programs are available for free. If you download KeyFinder, the free version is very suitable for this purpose.
  • Make sure to download the programs only from the developers' website. Then you can be sure that you don't accidentally download something that also has loads of malware or viruses piggybacking on it. ProduKey is made by NirSoft and KeyFinder by Magical Jelly Bean.
  • If your antivirus reports that KeyFinder is a malicious program, double-check that you have downloaded it from the official website, and then proceed with the installation.
Check Your Windows Product Key Step 2

Step 2. Run the program to find out the key

When you run the program for the first time, you will be presented with a list of supported programs for which the key can be retrieved. Find your version of Windows in the list of programs.

You can also use these programs to find out the product keys for Microsoft Office

Check Your Windows Product Key Step 3

Step 3. Write down what the key is

When you select a program you will be presented with its key called "Product Key" or "CD Key". Windows product keys are 25 characters long, divided into 5 groups of 5 characters each.

Method 2 of 2: With a crashed computer

Check Your Windows Product Key Step 4

Step 1. Create a Linux live boot disk

If your computer has crashed and won't boot, you can use a Linux Live startup disk (boot disk) to try and rescue the files you need from the malfunctioning hard drive. You will need a USB stick with at least 1 GB of space for this, in addition to a second computer that does, to create the drive and retrieve the key. Creating the Linux Live boot disk will erase all data on the USB stick.

  • Download UNetbootin. With this utility you can quickly create a startup disk that contains Ubuntu Live. UNetbootin is available for free from Sourceforge.
  • Start UNetbootin. Select "Ubuntu" via "Select Distribution" and the most recent Live version via the "Select Version" menu. If you have a 64-bit machine, select the x64 version.
  • Select "USB stick" from the "Type" menu and then the drive letter of your USB stick from the "Drive" menu. Click OK to start the procedure.
  • Wait for the disc to be created. UNetbootin will download the Ubuntu files and then copy everything to the disk, which will be made bootable in the meantime. This procedure may take some time, especially if you have a slow internet connection.
Check Your Windows Product Key Step 5

Step 2. Boot up the crashing computer

Insert the newly created USB boot drive into the failing computer and set it to boot from the USB stick. You can change the boot order in the BIOS. See wikiHow for more articles on changing the boot order so that the computer boots from the USB stick instead of the hard drive.

Check Your Windows Product Key Step 6

Step 3. Load the Live desktop

When the computer boots from the USB stick, you will see the UNetbootin menu. Select "Default" from the boot options and wait for the Ubuntu desktop to load.

Check Your Windows Product Key Step 7

Step 4. Find the product key and copy it

If you have booted with Ubuntu, open the file explorer and go to C:\Windows\System32\. Locate the config folder and copy it to the USB stick. This folder is usually no larger than 300 MB.

When you copy the config folder to the USB stick, create the original structure of the folder, without the Windows folder. For example, if the drive letter of your USB stick is E:, create the folders E:\Windows\System32\ and copy the config folder into it

Check Your Windows Product Key Step 8

Step 5. Put the USB stick back into the working computer

Turn off the computer that no longer works and reinsert the USB stick into the functioning computer. Download ProduKey. Right click on the ProduKey icon and select "Run as Administrator" (see the previous section).

Check Your Windows Product Key Step 9

Step 6. Find the key

In the main ProduKey screen, click File → Select Source. Select "Load the product keys from external Windows directory", then select the Windows folder you created on the USB stick. Your Windows Product Key will then be displayed in the main ProduKey screen.

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