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I recently reinstalled by copy of Windows 7, wiping the partition it had previously been on. I assumed (falsely) that the activation would carry over.

Is there a way to recover this key? What else can I do to legally activate my windows?

edit:

I need to say that I got this through the MSDNAA (now DreamSpark Premium), so I have no online store to return to, and I'm not 100% certain I have a physical copy of the disk.

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With my DreamSpark account even though it is expired I can still login and view my previous downloads and cdkeys? –  j_bombay Oct 26 '12 at 21:17
    
I fear my account has expired. "Once your access expires, you will no longer have access to your download(s) and/or key(s)." –  Pureferret Oct 26 '12 at 21:25
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2 Answers

If you need to recover your key, you can either look on the disc packaging (if you purchased a physical disk), or log into the Microsoft store (or other online store from which you purchased the OS) and get your list of keys that way. You can enter your activation key after the installation, and if validation fails (for instance, if you tried the wrong key), you can go ahead and try another.

If you cannot recover your key through any of these methods, and don't feel like you'll likely be able to recover it at all, you will have to purchase a new one. Luckily, you can do this straight from the OS itself. There's a link allowing you to do this in the same location as where you go to activate your copy of the OS.

This is why it's always good to have paper backups of your license keys. :)

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Paper backups got lost when I moved, and I received my version of Windows 7 through the MSDNAA (and my copy of office!) I'll have a hunt round for my physical copy if I still have it. –  Pureferret Oct 26 '12 at 20:48
    
I used MSDNAA for a while. You may still be able to log in, if you remember your login credentials (even if the email it's tied to no longer exists). MSDNAA keeps track of all your purchases, so you should be able to recover your keys from the site, if possible. You'll just have to find a link to the MSDNAA store for your school. –  Ben Richards Oct 26 '12 at 20:49
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If you couldn't recover any Key. There have been a way where we can use the same OS instead of buying the Licence Key.

I done this way earlier, I called to Microsoft to activate it by phone. And they asked me to provide the ProductID which you can by " right click on Computer > properties ". they shall provide you with a new id and thats it. It is activated back.

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