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As I understand it, OEM computers that come with Windows 8 preinstalled has the license/product key stored in the BIOS/on the motherboard somewhere.

If you do a clean install (*) of Windows 8 (for example with an ISO from MSDN) on an computer which came preinstalled with Windows 8, will it recognize that it already has a license? Or will it require you to purchase a new Windows 8 license to activate it?

(And excuse me if I have the terms confused, hopefully the meaning comes across.)


(*) Wiping the drive, perhaps because it has been corrupted in some way and ordinary recovery/repair is impossible.

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This will only work IF and ONLY IF you are using the machine the OEM license came on. –  Ramhound Nov 1 '12 at 13:49
    
Yes, that was the point of the whole question :) So you're saying it will work, although the most up-voted answer says it won't? –  Peter Jaric Nov 1 '12 at 20:00
    
@PeterJaric: depends what you mean. Windows won't automatically detect the license, but provided you type the activation key in from the OEM sticker it will work. You don't need to buy an additional license. Note that OEMs are required to put a sticker with a license key on the machine even though you won't need it if you use the preinstalled image. –  Harry Johnston Nov 1 '12 at 20:34
    
In my particular case, the laptop model (ASUS UX32VD-R4002H) doesn't come with a sticker (mine doesn't and I've seen one other report to the same effect). Is this something new with Windows 8, maybe? –  Peter Jaric Nov 5 '12 at 12:34
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There are tools to fetch the product key Windows 8 was installed with from the registry. –  Gene Nov 22 '12 at 8:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Rather than discuss something I don't know or understand like many of the poster's above (who seem to be leveraging former experiences with prior OSes) I will state my experience and you can accept it for it is.

I purchased an ACER M5 with a pre-loaded OEM version of windows 8, similarly there was no affixed sticker stating the product key. I removed the original hard drive and upgraded to a new SSD. No efforts towards imaging or maintaining of the original HHD were performed. I purchased a system builders DVD for windows 8 pro to install onto the new, entirely blank SSD. During the installation, I was never asked to input a product key. My final istallation was a copy of windows 8 (non pro). Futhermore, a check on the last 5 digits of the product key applied on my installation reflected a different product key than the one shipped with the system builder DVD.

Speculation: the OEM product key was stored elsewhere on the machine, detected, and employed rather than asking the user to supply a product key. I've read elsewhere that the key is maintained in the BIOS for new OEMs from major PC manufactures to simplify reporting to Microsoft.

Personal: I build a new box every two years so the fact that my product key was never requested doesn't impact me; my purchased personal use license for W8 pro will be used eventually.

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I have upvoted this answer and marked it as the answer, since I believe it is the correct one. After I asked my question I have gone through the same process as @Jesse. I have replaced my HDD with an SSD and made a fresh install of Windows 8. I was never asked for the product key. This experience seems to be common among forum users with the same laptop (an ASUS UX23VD-R4002H). A pity someone down-voted this answer. –  Peter Jaric Nov 22 '12 at 12:51
    
How do you go about purchasing a system builders DVD? That would be useful information, e.g., see this question: superuser.com/questions/506308/… –  Harry Johnston Nov 22 '12 at 20:51

Windows 8 implements OEM Activation 3.0 and will automatically detect the license and activate during the setup if you are using a legit OEM PC.

Check this link: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Windows-8-OEM-OA-3.0-Piracy-Genuine-Microsoft,16636.html

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OK, I see. Thanks for the answer. And if the laptop doesn't come with a product key sticker (as with the ASUS UX32VD-R4002H), then there is no alternative to buying a new license, I guess. –  Peter Jaric Nov 5 '12 at 12:32
    
This answer does not seem to be correct, see the accepted answer instead. –  Peter Jaric Nov 23 '12 at 12:01

If the OEM machine has a UEFI which is an interface between your OS and the BIOS then your OS will use Activation 3.0 whether Windows 7 or 8. You will not get a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) period. The COA is in the BIOS, all you will have is a small square Windows 8 logo decal. I'm receiving Lenovo desktops now preloaded with Win7x64 and included Win8 upgrade media at our depot now. Many clients cannot use x64 for there specialized software. If I image a Win7x86 on it, keeping all hardware exactly as it was, the embedded COA is useless even if I manually entered the key which I extracted from the registry earlier. The key will have an OEM block on it and will not activate and Lenovo has said to me "not our problem purchase a retail license". Microsoft will hide under the veil of "Piracy" but really they are just looking for another revenue stream. In many instances now our clients are paying twice for an OS. Good job Microsoft.

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+1 Very helpful information –  Dave M Feb 6 '13 at 15:20
    
An upgrade license should do the trick; get the laptops preloaded with just the home edition of Windows and buy a 32-bit upgrade license for Windows Pro. They'd still be buying two licenses, but both would be heavily discounted, still significantly cheaper than buying a single retail copy. Large customers should look into site licenses, which include downgrade rights. Or you might be eligible for OEM licensing, in which case you could buy the laptops without Windows and install the OS and license yourself. –  Harry Johnston Feb 6 '13 at 22:26
    
Another option would be a change of vendor; I note that Dell sells business desktops with a 32-bit Windows option. Better still, your clients could fix their software. I mean, seriously, 32-bit-only in this day and age?! –  Harry Johnston Feb 6 '13 at 22:28
    
(It wouldn't be particularly surprising if Windows 9 doesn't even have a 32-bit edition. Windows Server has been 64-bit only since 2008R2.) –  Harry Johnston Feb 6 '13 at 22:37

The Win 8 installer can recognize the key stored in the UEFI bios. However, you have to make sure that the Windows 8 version matches that of the key stored.

See this post: Windows 8 clean install from iso using the machines own Windows 8 OEM licence http://forum.notebookreview.com/sony-owners-lounge-forum/669429-official-2012-sony-s-series-owners-thread-594.html#post9078469

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The only way that it will recognize the license is if it has Restore Media or a Restore Partition in which case it will re-image your machine. However, it will not take you through the normal installation process.

If you are using downloaded/purchased media to install Windows 8 to the same version that you have, check the side of the computer or the bottom of it for the Product Code. Depending on the manufacture, you may be able to reinstall using the product code with an copy of Windows 8.

However, these OEM licenses often have the manufacture fields filled out and will validate on this when reinstalling which means that the same version/nonmanufacture media may not work.

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It is my understanding that, as of Windows Vista, there is no longer any need to use OEM-specific media with an OEM activation key. (In fact I recently successfully activated an instance of Windows Vista using retail media and an OEM sticker. I had to use phone rather than internet activation, but otherwise no problems.) –  Harry Johnston Nov 1 '12 at 20:36
    
Sorry for the confusion. If by may not work, I meant the activation online process may not work. You are correct, you would need to phone activate. –  kobaltz Nov 1 '12 at 20:38

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