I bought a computer from Dell a while back (about 2 years ago, August 2009). It came with Windows Vista installed but an upgrade to Windows 7 was promised. So Dell sent me the Windows 7 upgrade when it came out and I upgraded to Windows 7. Everything went fine. About 6 months ago I wanted to reinstall, so I did. This has been going on for months now, but I'm unable to convince Windows that my installation is genuine. The Upgrade disc that Dell gave me did not come with a product key. I even spent hours on the phone with them arguing with them because I basically can't install my own OS anymore since it always insists on me entering a key that I was never given. And they pretty much tell me I'm doing the installation incorrectly, but can't give me any steps (other than the ones I've already taken) to "properly" install.

Does anyone know how I can make this install? I've seen plenty of articles about installing Windows 7 but they all involve having a product key.

Btw, at this point I'm trying to go from Windows 7 -> Windows 7. I still have the original Windows Vista installation CD and I also tried installing that first, then installing Windows 7 upgrade after. That did not work either.


Installing the Vista install first is the correct method. Then start install from inside Windows. That's by far the most reliable method. It does also offer the upgrade option from bootup as well.

And you are right, the upgrade DVD does not come with a product key.

Another method is the infamous "double install." What you do is use the Windows 7 disk to install by picking "custom install." Yes, you can do this with the Upgrade media. But uncheck the "Activate automatically." When done, reboot and enter install again and upgrade on top of this install. Then activate.

Hope that helps.

  • Will that work? I've tried something similar in the past and after a certain amount of time (like 30 days or so, it asked me to enter the product key). I believe that for continued use past 30 days grace, you'll need the product key. But yes, this should allow installation without a key, but not for long. :) – kobaltz Oct 1 '11 at 21:14
  • I followed the same directions for my own Dells. Even Dell's official instructions for an XP to 7 upgrade don't prompt for a product key. – surfasb Oct 1 '11 at 21:34
  • Surfasb, I would like to try the double install method since I have previously tried the other methods with no success. You're saying after doing the custom install... I should reboot, and go straight to the install disc (without loading windows), right? Thanks. I'll give it a try and let you know if its successful. – KyleM Oct 2 '11 at 18:53
  • The double install is after loading into Windows. Install Windows like normal and then when that's done, reboot and install over it. – surfasb Oct 3 '11 at 0:40
  • Unfortunately this 'double method' didn't work. I tried 2 different times. My steps: 1) load windows, do custom install, do not check activate automatically. 2) load windows again, do 'upgrade' 3) load into windows again and hope it doesn't need a product key ... those steps always required a product key. Tonight, I will try installing Vista first, then doing the custom install... perhaps that will work. – KyleM Oct 5 '11 at 21:51

Unfortunately, you will need the product key. There aren't really any ways around this, legally speaking. You may need to contact Dell again to escalate your issue to management. You will need to either do this or purchase a copy of Windows 7. I'm sure if you show that you registered your computer and it's within their period of the upgrade offer then they'll be nice enough to give you another key. I'd make sure that you look through all of the literature that they sent you. I'm not doubting you, but this is like 1 in a million (with Dell more like 1/1000) that received the disc but no key.


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