The biggest problem after a fresh Windows installation is obvious – you have to start installing all the softwares from scratch. This includes installing your browsers, office programs, media players and so on. Most of the applications come free these days but there are some applications which are not (e.g Microsoft Office, Microsoft frontpage etc). And to install them, you have to find the old product keys which came with the CD or DVD pack you bought years ago.
Now, if you have lost the CD case (high chances that you would), the product keys can be extracted from Windows registry. Wouldn’t it be wise to first extract all the product keys of software and keep them at a safe location? This ensures full installation of programs after a system format. This article shows you ways to extract the serial and product keys of application software in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Magical Jelly is the best product key finder for Windows. It’s free and portable, hence you can use it without installation or modifying the Windows registry. It can be used to extract the product keys of paid software like Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visual Studio, Adobe Photoshop etc.
Using Magical Jelly is pretty simple as double-clicking the program extracts all the available product keys from your Windows registry. This key finder program works with all the major versions of Windows (Win 95 -Win 7).
WinkeyFinder is another great program to find the CD keys of installed software as well as the operating system. You can use this program to
- Find product keys of Windows XP, Vista, Windows 2003, Windows 98 and Windows ME editions
- Find serial keys of Microsoft Office 2000, 2003 and Microsoft 2007.
- Change or copy the volume serial number.
- View .NET key.
Apart from viewing the product keys, this keyfinder program lets you save your software product keys in an encrypted format. You can use this program to generate unique passwords by entering the combination of any serial key code.
Some FAQ regarding Serial and Product Keys
Note that you need to run the key finder program before formatting the system. If you format the system and try to retrieve the keys, you would find nothing as the registry would be completely fresh with no data stored. Hence, use any of the above key finder programs and save the serial keys in your computer. A better option would be to print a hard copy of all the serial keys and keep it in your shelf.
Following are some common questions regarding serial and product keys of Windows:
1. The product key retrieved by the Keyfinder is different from the one I purchased.
Ans: Some computer manufacturers use generic product keys provided by Microsoft, so that they can manufacture products at a large amount. If the key extracted by the key finder program does not match with the one that came with the Windows CD, then be rest assured that your version of Windows is not completely “Premium”. Generic keys expires after re-installation Windows while premium keys don’t.
2. If I use different Keyfinder programs, will I get different keys?
Ans: The answer is NO, you won’t. As I earlier said, serial keys are stored in Windows registry and the Keyfinder program is just a way to recover that. Thus, using different key finder program would not alter the result in any case.
3. I uninstalled a program long ago and forgot the serial key. Can I recover the serial key using a Keyfinder software?
Ans: It depends on the software itself. During uninstallation, some application programs completely remove the registry entries while others do not. You should try with a Keyfinder program and see whether the serials are still available or not.
4. I cannot boot Windows because my Operating System has crashed. How do I recover the CD key?
Ans: The keyfinder program works only when Windows is running fine. If Windows crashes, you can not use any Keyfinder to extract the serial key.
Do you have any more questions regarding Windows serial keys? What technique do you use to recover CD keys of Windows or other applications? Please share your ideas with us in the comments section.