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Are there any files probably contained in the Windows directory that have the product key?

I need to re install the OS of my laptop but have misplaced the CD key.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Sep 18 '11 at 19:58

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4 Answers

You could use ProduKey to retrieve your key.

ProduKey is a small utility that displays the ProductID and the CD-Key of Microsoft Office (Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office 2007), Windows (Including Windows 7 and Windows Vista), Exchange Server, and SQL Server installed on your computer.

This utility can be useful if you lost the product key of your Windows/Office, and you want to reinstall it on your computer.

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ProduKey's official page is nirsoft.net/utils/product_cd_key_viewer.html –  Chris Jester-Young Sep 18 '11 at 17:15
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I found this:

http://www.aboutonlinetips.com/how-to-recover-windows-7-vista-xp-product-keys/

21 Best Tools to Recover Windows 7/Vista/XP Product Keys

A CD key (aka product key, activation key, key code, installation key, and serial number) is used to identify that the copy of the program or game is original. In simple terms, Product key is a long series of numbers and letters that many software programs prompts you to enter during the setup process. Windows does not provide a way to view the product key of the application currently installed. If you have lost your key or the printed registration card then you are out of luck. Re-installing Windows requires you to have the original product key. Following are the list of 21 Free Product Keys recovery tools that scan through the Windows Registry to retrieve the Windows product keys and all the serial numbers for the applications installed. The serial keys finder tools listed below can be useful to recover your License Key, CD Product key for Windows or Office programs while reinstalling / repairing your Windows or Office setup.

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1) Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder

Windows 7/Vista/XP and Office 2007 Product Key (CD Key) can be recovered easily with the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder. It is a powerful and freeware open source utility that retrieves your Product Key used to install Windows from your registry. It can even retrieve product keys from unbootable Windows installations. The tool lets you print or save your License keys for safe backup. Keyfinder also works with Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000, Server 2003, Server 2008, Office XP, Office 2003 and its community-updated configuration file helps in retrieving product keys for many other applications too.

2) ProduKey

The tool helps in retrieving the ProductID and the CD-Key of Microsoft Office (Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft Office 2007), Windows (Including Windows 7 and Windows Vista), Exchange Server, and SQL Server installed on your computer. Using command-line options ProductID can be grabbed for current operating system or for another operating system/computer. For more information on ProduKey visit nirsoft.

3) WinGuggle

It is a powerful tool that allows you to recover Windows 7/Vista/XP and Office Product Key (CD Key) quickly. In addition, you can Set, Change, remove and Backup your Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (OEM) Logo Information Settings.

4) WinKeyFinder

WinkeyFinder 1.73RC2 allows you to recover lost product keys, CD Keys or License keys your Windows XP, Windows Vista, MS Office 2007, Windows me, 98, 2003 and .NET Product keys from the registry and display it for you. The Product Key recovery tool helps you to take back up of WinXP Activation Key, re-store WinXP activation key, Change / copy Volume Serial number and save the product key By Encrypting It. With WinkeyFinder 1.73RC2 unique passwords can be generated by entering a combination of KeyCode.

5) Simple KeyFinder

Quickly recover your lost Windows Vista (32bit), Windows xp, Windows 2000, Windows 2003 Product Key From Windows Command Prompt. The tools helps you to retrieve CD Keys from existing installations of Windows.

6) Windows Vista Cd Key Finder

Recovers your windows Vista Cd Key or product key safely and securely. Windows Vista Cd Key Finder allows you to encrypt or decrypt the product key. Save CD Key, Copy to Clipboard and print. The product key finder tool supports All versions of Windows Vista.

7) Product Key Finder

Product Key Finder retrieves license key information (CD Keys) from the Windows registry and also helps in recovering product keys of 200+ windows applications such Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat.

8) Keyfinder-Thing

The tool retrieves Serial numbers or CD Keys of Microsoft software installed on your system. This free product key recovery tool scans the system registry for 90 supported software titles and displays product names and icons in the result window. Keyfinder-Thing allows you to copy or export all keys to a text or HTML file.

9) Product Key Finder PRO

A software utility allows you to recover your License Key, CD Product key for Windows or Office programs while reinstalling / repairing your Windows or Office setup. Recover your lost key for (Windows) 2000, XP, 2003, Vista. (Office) XP, 2003, 2007. The utility provides you with an option to save your product keys to a file and Print your product keys for secure backup.

10) RockXP

It is a small but powerful tool that lets you recover all Microsoft Software Serials instantly. With RockXP you can change your XP key, save you XP activation key, retrieve your internet connection parameters (like passwords), retrieve MSN login and password, recover XP login and HASH password, display system password (LSA) and generate random password. RockXP 4.0

11) Windows Product Key Finder Professional

It is one of the best and powerful Windows, Office, and Product Key Code Finder Retriever. Product Key Finder PRO utility allows you to recover your CD Product key for Windows. Recover your lost key or serial for (Windows) 2000, XP, 2003, Vista. (Office) XP, 2003, 2007. Retrieve Product Keys for: Windows 2000 Windows XP Windows 2003 Windows Vista Office XP Office 2003 Office 2007

12) Product Key Finder

With the Product Key Finder you can easily recover lost product key (CD Key) for Windows 7, Vista, 2008, XP, 2003, 2000, Microsoft Office, SQL Server, Exchange Server and many other products.

13) License Crawler

This free windows license key and product key scanning utility scans your Windows Registry to retrieve the Windows product keys and all the serial numbers for the applications installed. This scanning tool finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, and Windows XP, Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, most Adobe products, and many more.

You can run License Crawler from a USB stick or via local network to scan the computers. Once the search is completed users can get the license keys or serial numbers from the screen directly in a detailed list format.

14) Product Key Finder (OTT Solution)

Product Key Finder is a free tool that will display the installed Windows Product Key for Windows operating systems (2000, 2003, XP, Vista, 2008, 7), 32-bit and 64-bit. The tool also lets you save all product keys to a text or an xml file. You can also change your Windows product key instantly without having to re-install; this is helpful if you are using a leaked product key and are unable to install updates.

15) geProduct Key Finder

This serial Key recovery tool enables you to recover your product CD-keys and serial numbers for Microsoft products as well as several 3rd party products. It is important to note that geProductKeys does not work with Windows 7 or Windows Vista and you may have to disable Data Execution Prevention to use this program in Windows XP SP2 and later.

16) MSKeyViewer Plus

Simple utility to view program installation keys, service pack levels, and product IDs along with detecting many other non-licensed program versions. Supports Microsoft Windows, Office, Exchange, SQL Server, Norton AntiVirus 2004-2007, and more.

17) Product Key Informer

It retrieves product key or License Key information pertaining to the operating system. The tool is very useful for Network Administrators for organizing the product key info of their network terminals.

18) ViewKeyXP

This is a simple tool that recovers your Windows XP key quickly.

19) Game Key Revealer

If you are looking for a free tool to retrieve the CD-Key and Serial for installed games on computer then Game Key Revealer is the best pickup. If you lost legal CD-Keys or Serials of your purchased games, you can easily recover them using Game Key Revealer. You can easily recover serial keys of around 1000 games with Game Key Revealer. The tool also provides you with an option to Save to Text or Word or Print Product Keys for secure backup

20) SyberCorp’ Windows Product Key Viewer

It is yet another and simple serial key (CD Keys) recovery software. With Windows Product Key Viewer you can view and change your Windows Product Key anytime.

21) Skeleton Key

Skeleton Key is an open source and simplest software to find a product key.

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Nope, the CD key is not stored directly in any file. For some Microsoft products (e.g., Office, and apparently Windows 7 too), the registry contains a licensing blob where the CD key can be extracted. See the link for a program that can extract this information.

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I've successfully activated (an inactivated version of) Windows XP Pro with a key found by Produkey, so I assume in Windows XP there is a key in the install files. I do not know the legality of this endeavor, though.

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