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I have an eeePC 1005 HE where the Windows XP CD key has become unreadable on the sticker (apparently it fades out by design). I'd like to retrieve the CD key (or the one that was used in the preinstalled windows) from that system. There is a recovery partition (Windows PE) on it that would let me restore it to factory settings. Is there any way I can extract the CD key from the recovery partition, without performing a full recovery?

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Not 100% sure, but you should be able to load the registry hive files from the partition, then read them to find the key. –  soandos Aug 26 '11 at 2:54
    
This link might give you some help on software to find it. pcsupport.about.com/od/productkeysactivation/tp/… –  Sandeep Bansal Aug 26 '11 at 2:55
    
Try Magic Jelly Bean's KeyFinder tool ( magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder ), which should be able to read it from the partition Windows XP is installed on now. The only problem with this is that some manufacturers seem to be using a generic key for all their computers, which fails with a regular XP installation (from retail XP installation CDs), but works with the pre-install environment. Also, some vendors will document the product key on your invoice (if not, then hopefully they documented the serial number, which Microsoft's Activation Centre might be able to help you with). –  Randolf Richardson Aug 26 '11 at 4:05
    
I can't use KeyFinder, because there is no windows directory I can use it on. There is however a Norton Ghost image on the disk. I managed to extract a key from that image, but it doesn't work with my installation... I guess that's what you meant... –  jdm Aug 26 '11 at 4:13
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Asus is almost certainly using OEM Pre-Activation on your computer, which means that they are just using a generic key from Microsoft in the install. There is a list of these keys here.

You can try manually copying the OEM BIOS activation files from your computer so that you can activate it later. There's been some work done on this kind of thing to automate activation with these keys. Check out this site. It's meant for a clean installation from an XP disk, but you might be able to get the scripts to work without it.

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