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Situation: A pc bought from Dell had two hard disks in raid. The hard disks broke down and we replaced them with one disk (not in RAID). (we bought the disk ourselves because the dell pc was just one month out of warrenty).

Next we had to do a clean install of Windows 7 32bit, but here is the problem: we used a regular Windows 7 32bit cd for the installation from another pc. We entered the serial key from that Microsoft sticker that was on top of the Dell pc, just below the Dell service tag. Everything works.

Now suddenly we receive a message on that pc that Windows activation is not valid. We had contact via mail with Dell support and they told us we had to install Windows with the Dell-CD/DVD that was included. (sounds stupid, but we forgot that there was such a CD provided.)

We have the Dell cd here now and but we don't want to format the PC again and install everything. Is there a way to activate Windows 7 now with that Dell-CD/DVD ? If so, what are the necessary steps to do this?

Thanks in advance.

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If you don't find an answer you might try to use the dell-disc to do a "repair-installation". That should leave your current set-up intact. But since there isn't any guarantee try it as a last resort. –  Nifle May 27 '11 at 8:03
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Try activating via phone (Windows usually offers this option when it's asking for activation). It might also claim that the key you've entered is not valid for the Windows edition installed. For example if you've installed Windows 7 Professional and the key on the sticker says "Windows 7 Home Premium" then there is no way to downgrade Windows to Windows 7 Home Premium which would allow you to activate it (at least no legal way is known to me). The other way around (e.g. you have installed Windows 7 Home Premium but the sticker says Windows 7 Professional) does usually work without any problems. Just use the built-in Anytime Upgrade function of Windows to "upgrade" your Home Premium installation to the edition on the Sticker using the key on the sticker.

However in most cases the key on the Sticker simply does not allow you to activate via internet while the procedure via phone does work. The reason is that the key used by Dell on pre-installation is a generic one (the same one for all Dell machines, or at least for a specific model) which is pre-activated. However the pre-activation is bound to some key embedded in the BIOS/hardware. If you re-install it using the key on the sticker then it's not the same as initially used by Dell. These OEM keys on the stickers seem to fail automatic product activation pretty often. On some HP machines I've seen it to work if Windows was initially installed using no key at all (just skip this step during installation) and later enter key and activate via control panel. But it failed activation via internet when the key was entered directly during installation. However phone activation did work in all cases. Just don't be afraid to call Microsoft activation hotline. You own a legit license of Windows 7 and you can activate it (unless you installed the wrong edition as I wrote above).

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sorry for answering so late. activation via phone worked just fine! Thanks –  juFo Jun 22 '11 at 9:35
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The Dell license you used was an OEM License. The Windows installation you presently have is from a (I presume) a retail channel disk. The two licenses are incompatible.
You will either need to purcashe a new retai license for that PC or reinstall an OEM version of the OS. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

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Yes, check the version you installed with the version written on the sticker. The key on the sticker is normally disabled (i.e. needs phone activation) - to stop people from using it on another PC, I guess.

If phone activation fails you will have to search the internet for a solution - like the OEM key originally used by Dell.

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The difference between an OEM and a retail version of Windows 7 is a preinstalled certificate - in this case from Dell. You can find that on the internet too. But the version of the installed version of Windows 7 must be the same as the one on the sticker. –  troels May 27 '11 at 12:39
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