My brother recently purchased a new computer with Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit installed on it. He got it from either an individual, or a company, I'm not sure which. The problem is, when he first powered on the computer it asked him to activate Windows.

So naturally he went through the screens of activating it but it said it couldn't be activated. No where on the tower does it have a COA with a product key. Even going through the BIOS I can't find anything. He contacted the people he bought it from and apparently they told him that they don't supply any product keys and he basically has to purchase one to get it activated.

So here's my dilemma; can an individual, or company, sell a computer with Windows installed but not supply a product key? If he can't activate it, is he out of luck (and out of $$) having to purchase a copy just for a key? Isn't there some compliance regulation that you have to supply a COA or key when building/selling computers?

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    Was this machine purchased second hand? – Burgi Mar 29 '16 at 12:29
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    If it wasn't second-hand, do you have an invoice that states Windows is part of the price? – headkase Mar 29 '16 at 12:31
  • Have you tried the option that says "Activate Windows online now"? – Trenton Tyler Mar 29 '16 at 12:31
  • ^ Often times when a manufacture or seller re-images a machine the code needs to be re-activated for that particular machine. – Trenton Tyler Mar 29 '16 at 12:34
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    Depending on your location you might be protected by retail law and be able to demand the seller provides you with a legitimate copy of Windows. – Burgi Mar 29 '16 at 12:43

It all comes down to the contract.

If you purchased the computer with Windows then not being able to activate it breaches the contract and you can ask your money back.

You can buy a cheap used windows licence in the European union (70 €) as it is illegal to prevent reselling of any software that you bought with a lifetime licence.

  • the price for a win 7 license is actually 17 euros on amazon – Gravity Dec 13 '16 at 10:18
  • I am not sure about the options to upgrade to win 10 for free after the Microsoft promotion ended. That may be the reason for the lowered price. – Marek Andreansky Dec 14 '16 at 7:28

This is often the case with home-built PCs or custom builds from local computer shops.

If this is a white-box PC (i.e. no name brand), then what likely happened is that the original builder (if they were reputable) probably ordered an OEM copy of Windows, didn't affix the COA sticker to the case, and either didn't give him the install media, or they lost it.

In either case, there is no way to recover this information, period. Your brother's only choice is to go back to the person he bought it from and demand the media and key. Otherwise, you're stuck with buying a copy yourself.

If this IS a name-brand PC, then you don't need the product key. All you need is the correct media from the OEM. You can call them to order it. They may charge you a shipping fee. Or, depending on what version of Windows was licensed for it, you may be able to use Microsoft's media creation tool. They make it for Win8/Win10 systems and it also does not need a product key (as long as the OEM properly licensed it).


You can retrieve the Product key from Windows by using NirSoft tool :


It will get the informations from the registry.

By the way, it doesn't mean that the product key used on that computer is legal.

  • What good is that, the current key will not activate. – Moab Mar 29 '16 at 14:44
  • It will activate if the retrieved key is legitimate. It won't if the current Windows installation have been setuped using a stolen or hacked Licence. In this case he will have to buy a new licence. My solution only show the Product key that has been provided to this installation, legitimate or not. – nex84 Mar 29 '16 at 14:51
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    The nirsift tool only retrieves the currently installed key which will not activate as stated in the question, your answer will not solve the problem. – Moab Mar 29 '16 at 15:05
  • Legally speaking, if it's an OEM licence he have to contact the manufacturer (see EULA). By the way, I am very suspiscious that a seller is still selling brand new Windows 7 OEM PC (which is 7 years old). In my area, only few Pro version of pre-installed Windows 7 are sold by few vendors (like Dell). All others are hacked or stolen licences. – nex84 Mar 29 '16 at 15:25
  • "All others are hacked or stolen licences" pretty broad statement that cannot be substantiated, Amazon still sells W7, OEM and Retail – Moab Mar 29 '16 at 15:55

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