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I have an HP notebook with a valid Windows OEM license. This notebook has been left unused for sometime and it's now without an operating system since I installed a brand new hard drive on it. The previous hard drive is no longer available.

Unfortunately I was quite shocked to notice that Windows sticker on it has faded and I no longer can see the Windows OEM serial key (or wherever it calls that long activation string).

I've tried to use the HP website to get in touch with HP but it says my warranty has expired and doesn't allow me to send an e-mail or talk with a customer support representative.

Does anyone know if there is any way to recover this information?

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Side note, and not of much help, but newer HP models put a piece of plastic over the license sticker so it won't wear off. – nhinkle Jul 20 '11 at 4:46
up vote 5 down vote accepted

As explained in our Windows 7 Activation FAQ, OEM licenses are usually preactivated using System Locked Preactivation (SLP). If you use any HP OEM Windows 7 installation disk, it should activate automatically for you. Because of how the SLP process works, you don't need to know your key, because the activation occurs automatically if your machine is verified to be an HP.

You can also purchase a Windows 7 Recovery Disk from HP if you don't have access to one yourself. This is based on your computer's serial number, not the product key, because their database knows what version of Windows came with your PC.

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He does not say, but it was almost certainly Windows XP if there has been enought time for it to wear off. While he could still legally install it using a recovery CD, it would still be nice to have the key since he could then install using a generic OEM media without all the crap on it. – KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 11:06
@KCotreau It's a Vista license. – Vitor Py Jul 20 '11 at 11:45
OK, again, if your only concern is reinstalling, he is right, you can buy the media from them. If you really want both the license key and to install, then I would try that link I gave below. – KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 11:49
This is the more likely solution. I would try banking on the fact that HP, like other large OEMs use SLP. – surfasb Jul 20 '11 at 18:48

If you do not have the original disk (as you stated), or have otherwise recorded it, there is no way to get that key back. I know of no manufacturer, even if you had support, who records and maintains that.

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Gotta buy another Windows license then :/ – Vitor Py Jul 20 '11 at 4:20
I just found this: You may be able to contact Microsoft, and if you can prove your purchase, you might be able to get them to send you a replacement. Your situation is not listed, but is very similar, and they may consider helping you. – KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 4:26
To the downvoter, I did answer the specific question. It was not "can I still install it", or a similar question. – KCotreau Jul 20 '11 at 11:19

Simply, you will need to purchase a new product key for re-installing the OS.

Please take note;

re-installing the OS is the basic first step. Windows default drivers will not properly address your laptops hardware. You will need to acquire the drivers from HP. Yes, this can be done without much headache. You will need the make/model number of your PC and point your browser to the HP 'downloads' page of their support site.

I have been restoring PCs for many years(15+) and have experienced this very issue. Sadly, without access to the old hard drive, the purchase of a new product key/license is required.

Thank you for listening.

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