Windows 8 setup asks for the product key at the beginning of the setup without letting you install it.

I got the Windows 8 ISO from MSDN but I didn't get enough keys to install it on all my 7 computers. Also, my MSDN subscription level doesn't allow me to get the VL product key to Windows 8 Enterprise.

Is there any way I can install Windows 8 for a limited time period like we used to do for Windows 7 ?

  • The real trick is to call MS support and tell them that your Windows isn't activating. Works everytime.
    – Mikhail
    Nov 4, 2012 at 14:17
  • @Mikhail, I don’t see how; they will ask you to re-enter your key, and when you say you don’t have one…
    – Synetech
    Dec 1, 2013 at 15:36
  • similar answer for Windows 10: superuser.com/a/1120631/35525 Oct 18, 2020 at 12:28

5 Answers 5

  1. Create a bootable USB flash drive to install Windows 8.

  2. Navigate to <FlashDrive>:\Sources\

  3. Save a file called ei.cfg in that folder with the following text:


If you want to install the Pro edition, replace Core with Professional. If you want the setup to ask which edition you want install without entering the product key, leave the [EditionID] blank.

You can also set [VL] (Volume Licensing) to 1 (for true) and [Channel] to OEM/Retail

Now install as normal and the Windows 8 setup won't ask for the product key. This will work for every copy of Windows 8 that you can get from anywhere.

Also, if you ever to want to enter the product key, you can do so from the Windows Activation window or using the slui 3 command.

  • Will I be able to enter the key later to make it a full version?
    – theodm
    Nov 2, 2012 at 18:34
  • @silent_cookie yes, Windows will prompt you to enter a Windows key every time you start up.
    – nhinkle
    Oct 15, 2013 at 22:49
  • This answer does not explain how to download the ISO.
    – Zombo
    May 3, 2014 at 20:49
  • 3
    @StevenPenny Do you think its difficult to do? Aug 30, 2014 at 17:13
  • 1
    I tried this but the installation prompted me with "The product key entered does not match any of the Windows images available for installation. Enter a different product key."
    – brain56
    Oct 4, 2016 at 3:32

The answer of User is correct, but you can also leave EditionID in ei.cfg blank:



Now Windows 7 and 8 Setup will let you install without Product Key, and also lets you choose the Edition you want to install. You don't need to edit ei.cfg every time.

  • There was just an issue when mixing x86 and amd64 images in one wim (works fine with Win7, but Win8 Setup explains this image would not be compatible with your hardware). Didn't try latest Win8.x Setups, but probably you have to add first the amd64 images and then the x86 to the wim file.
    – metadings
    Jul 17, 2014 at 10:57
  • This is the one that worked for me, installing from the iso downloaded from microsoft. May 5, 2017 at 3:28

Quickest option (no need to modify and burn a DVD or create an install flash drive) is to use a generic key. They are keys that can't be used for activation but only to bypass that installer screen.

Here is a list of generic keys. If the link is dead just Google windows 8.1 generic key.

edit: found a new link https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/all/windows-81-product-activation-with-windows-8/40997a3b-a901-4abf-939a-afb11e296c10


windows 8 is free for 90 days.There should be a skip option at the bottom of the screen where it asks for the product key.clicking this you can install the 90 days evaluation copy


  • Indeed! I have voted up this answer. Microsoft did release a 90 day evaluation version of Windows 8 Enterprise. The OP was looking for a way to "install Windows 8 for a limited time period". A 90 day evaluation period... well, I don't know about you guys but that seems like a pretty generous time limit. Well I am sorry guys if this does not give you a licensed copy of Windows 8 Enterprise for free... as in free bananas! Boo hoo!... But it does answer the question! At least one part of the question. It's a two-part question really: get rid of product key prompt + get a free ride on Windows 8.
    – Samir
    Jun 14, 2015 at 23:06
  • Here is a post on Tech Republic about the 90 day trial version: techrepublic.com/blog/windows-and-office/…
    – Samir
    Jun 14, 2015 at 23:07
  • As a matter of fact I have just finished installing Windows 8.1 (the new eight) Enterprise using the en_windows_8_1_enterprise_x64_dvd_2971902 image. It did not prompt me for a key and I am running it in evaluation mode as I type. The same was not true for the slightly older en_windows_8_1_x64_dvd_2707217 image. It kept prompting for a key. I do have a license and a key that works with it, but I just wanted the damn thing installed. I did try the trick originally posted by @metadings and it did work. But if you do have the Enterprise image, it's much easier and totally legit.
    – Samir
    Jun 14, 2015 at 23:14
  • The difference between the two aforementioned images are discussed here: social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/windows/en-US/…
    – Samir
    Jun 14, 2015 at 23:15

MSDN keys are multi-activation which is why they don't provide you with a bunch.

I have read that at some point they will cut you off but then all you need to do is just call them up and they very lenient about resetting the count.

  • Keys of Retail type also ?
    – Elmo
    Nov 3, 2012 at 17:16
  • I think only MAK type of keys support multi-activation.
    – Elmo
    Nov 3, 2012 at 17:17
  • I routinely install products from MSDN all the time (Windows 8, Windows 7 ect) and haven't had an issue with activation yet. Many years ago I had Bizspark and had like 20 keys - I assumed it was one activation per key. I called support after they limited the keys to 1 or 2 and they told me the keys are multi-activation and have activated a product many times using a single key. Nov 3, 2012 at 22:10

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