I purchased an Acer Notebook about 3 years ago. It had a bunch of bloatware, and in general it was starting to slow down. I decided to try to reinstall the OS. I went on the Internet and got a copy of Windows from a licensed source. I got my product key, wiped the hard drive and reinstalled Windows 7 from the USB bootable I created. All went well and I installed my drivers. Once connected to the internet, I check to make sure my CD key was working. And sure enough, it wasn't. It gave me an error code that, when I looked it up, said that that code was in use.

I called Microsoft and they could not help me. They directed me toward Acer support. They said I would have to buy a repair disk from them ($19.95 USD) and pay them for tech support ($99.95 USD). This is ridiculous.

Anyway, my question is, can I use the computer like normal with it not activated? and what else should I be doing to get myself out of this mess?

I know I was stupid for doing this without doing more research.

UPDATE: I realized the code I extracted was the master code for Acer. It is very different from the one on the bottom of the notebook. However, everything on the sticker is washed away and I can only see about 50% of the numbers.

  • What was the error code you got?
    – Jawa
    Jan 30, 2015 at 7:41
  • 10
    Are you given an option to activate using Microsofts phone-in service? This usually works for me if Windows won't activate after a reinstall. Obviously this won't work if your code is already in use or otherwise invalid. This only works in case of reinstall / hardware changes. It's a cumbersome process speaking to a phone robot, but it will let you activate a Windows, which can't otherwise be activated automatically.
    – Kristian
    Jan 30, 2015 at 8:52
  • 1
    @Kristian - this method doesn't always work when an OEM key has been used. The OEM key often printed on the COA sticker is just proof that a license has been purchased but is not a usable key to activate Windows. This is also true for the key obtainable through key grabbers that search the Windows registry. This will be the OEM key but it has already been activated and the phone activation won't recognise it.
    – Kinnectus
    Jan 30, 2015 at 12:42
  • 2
    @Vajura - We don't suggest methods that result in piracy here at Superuser
    – Ramhound
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:50
  • 1
    @Ramhound In this particular case it is a very grey area. A tool like Dazloader will active the already installed (and valid) key if the Microsoft activation will not work. We use it all the time because we need to activate re-installed Windows 7 machines without having internet access for the activation and the telephone route is just too much hassle. Our keys are 100% legit. We even had a lawyer check the practice. In our situation (the Netherlands) the legal situation is unclear. There is currently no jurisprudence regarding this. YMMV in other jurisdictions.
    – Tonny
    Jan 30, 2015 at 16:06

6 Answers 6


Are you certain you're using the right key?

A lot of times, the key that was used to install Windows in the factory is a bulk-license key; your individual product key is on a sticker. If you used a tool to extract your product key before the reinstall, it won't be the right one. That might explain why Microsoft sent you back to your OEM: because the key you gave them came up as OEM-use only.

  • I believe you are correct. Thanks. Only problem is that the sticker is all worn out. I am going to try and have Acer look it up for me.
    – hmit
    Feb 1, 2015 at 4:25

Windows requires you to activate your copy by providing a valid product key within 30 days [1]. Aside from volume licensing, the product key is typically only valid on a single computer.

As it seems the key you received is already registered by some other party, I'd suggest taking your issue back to the aforementioned "licensed source" and getting a working product key.

You should also make sure that the security features of the packaging are ok. I'm not aware of other parties selling plain product keys online, except for Microsoft, and even then you'd get a Certificates of Authenticity (CoA) with your product key card.

If it seems that the key you received is a counterfeit you should report the seller to Microsoft.

  • Just to be clear, I am trying to install windows on my same computer. That key was used for the computer, when I bout it. I then wiped it and created a "disk" using a windows 7 image I found online from QN authorized distributor. I typed in my old key that came with the computer. That was the key in use.
    – hmit
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:44
  • 6
    @Bluedog111 Just call Microsofts automated phone service for activating Windows - support.microsoft.com/kb/950929
    – Moo
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:47

You don't need to buy the Acer technical support at all. The cost and P&P of the factory recovery disks is all you need. Once you receive the disks the key will already be activated as these are the recovery disks you should have made the moment you received the computer.

I've done this numerous times for customers who neglect to make their own set of recovery media.

All you need is the device serial number, model, payment and an address. The disks can take a couple of weeks to deliver, however.

To be brutally honest, there is NO excuse people should not make their own recovery disks.

  • 13
    "There is no excuse people should not make their own recovery disks" except that the recovery disk maker program just takes an image of your hard drive, including all the crapware that was on it...
    – user256743
    Jan 30, 2015 at 14:54
  • 1
    Agreed, but the OP could spend a couple of dollars on some DVD-R's (or a USB stick) to make their own FREE copy of the recovery partition OR spend $19.99 on the manufacturer recovery disks (same as their own but way more expensive) OR buy a new copy of just Windows 7 at nearly $100 (no idea exact price). Either way the cheapest option (that, yes, comes with removable bloatware) is to make your own recovery disks...
    – Kinnectus
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:08
  • Actually I'm not sure if the manufacturer's recovery disks also contain bloatware... Back in the Vista days, I remember receiving a Vista recovery disk from Acer (the machine was "Vista capable" but still had XP at the time of purchase), and the disk appeared to be a clean Vista install disk. Anyway, my solution in case of non working OEM license is a magical program called "windows loader". I wouldn't trust it myself but it does the job for most of my customers who already have cracked versions of Windows.
    – user256743
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:41
  • 3
    Of course. But I didn't. Which was not very smart, but I have to deal with what I have.
    – hmit
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:57
  • 4
    The OP reinstalls Windows to get rid of bloatware, and this answer suggests him to use backup containing the bloatwares. What?
    – Ninj
    Jan 30, 2015 at 18:14

The Windows you purchased from that "licensed source" isn't legitimate and is most likely counterfeit and sells the same (already used key) again and again, so you got scammed.

Now, you shouldn't need to buy a Windows as your computer already has a license sticker on it with a product key. You can just download a clean ISO corresponding to that license, either on MSDN (if you have a subscription), on forum posts like these which list direct (legal) download links to a Microsoft distributor or on some shady pirate sites (make sure to check the hash against the official hashes published on MSDN to make sure you didn't get a compromised image).

Once you have that ISO you can reinstall it and enter the product key from the license sticker and it should be good; it won't activate right away and ask you to activate by phone but phone activation will work just fine.

  • 1
    This only works on a small handful of OEMs... a number of brands this definitely doesn't work. And good reason: the key is OEM therefore your contract is with the OEM so you should contact your OEM for all support.
    – Kinnectus
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:11
  • It's still worth a try, at this point the author doesn't have many options left (besides installing a crack).
    – user256743
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:42
  • 3
    I didn't buy anything from the source. I was using my key that came from the manufacturer when I bought it. (On the bottom of the notebook)
    – hmit
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:45

You don't need to activate Windows (at least in Windows 7). But neither do you need to make use of any cracks, or doubtful software, or loaders.

There is a quite simple, easy solution. No software involved. If you have the Product Key, you can rearm - i.e. reset the rearm count. You reset your rearm count (back to 4) how ever many times you want, so you will have Windows 7 running forever in trial mode.

Note: the PRODUCT KEY is all you need, not any activation code - there is no need to phone Micro$oft.

There is no tampering with O/S files, so no breach of the licence terms.

1) Stop the Software Protection service sppsvc. Go to Start > Run; open services.msc; go to the "Software Protection" service, right click on Software Protection, select Stop.

2) Move the file tokens.dat to your desktop :

Find C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetworkService\AppData\ Roaming\Microsoft\SoftwareProtectionPlatform\tokens.dat

Right-click it, CUT it, and paste it onto the desktop. Move it, don't copy it.

You may need to take ownership of the file in order to move it.

3) Go to C:\Windows\System32

Locate 2 hidden files with this extention: ".C7483456-A289-439d-8115-601632D005A0" Move the two files to the desktop. Move them, don't copy them.

You may need to take ownership of the files in order to move them. They are HIDDEN files - make sure, in "folder options", that you can see hidden and system files.

4) Start the Software Protection service - sppsvc (open services.msc , look for "Software Protection" service, right click on it, select Start).

5) Open a command prompt as administrator, and run this command: slmgr -dlv

6) Stop the Software Protection service.

7) Put the three files you moved to desktop back in their original locations.

8) Install your product key. Open a command prompt as administrator, and run:


[change "XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX" to your actual product key]

9) Reboot your computer.

10) Run slmgr -dlv again, and you will see that re-arm has been reset.

My tip: if necessary, go through this procedure twice, because results from it will change once the product key is entered on the system. Typically, on the second run through you may need only to do steps 1 to 6.

I have only tried this with Windows 7.

  • 1
    Does this apply only to Windows 7?
    – fixer1234
    Jan 30, 2015 at 20:04

I got a Dell notebook with a crapware installed on it. So I decided to switch to SSD and install everything from scratch. I had a Windows 7 installation DVD I bought with a different computer. I used it to install Windows 7 on the laptop, when asked for a serial number, I entered the number from the sticker on the laptop. Windows activated and validated as a genuine. You just need to install the same OEM version as was previously installed there. You don't need to purchase a backup Windows 7 OEM disk from the manufacturer if you already have one, because they are all the same.

  • Okay. So if a friend has one, I can borrow one from him. I looked but don't seem to have any windows 7 discs.
    – hmit
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:53
  • 2
    This answer isn't really all that helpful consider this is exactly what the author has done. Although I suppose its possible he installed the correct version that does not match the license key which is easy enough to check since the version of Windows the license key is for is indicated on the COA on the device.
    – Ramhound
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:53
  • @Bluedog111 - You indicated you downloaded one?
    – Ramhound
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:54
  • Yes. But I pretty sure its legal because I rightfully own it. I was just trying to reinstall it.
    – hmit
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:56
  • 1
    Just so it's said: not all OEM install discs are the same, unless something's changed in the past couple of years. Last time i tried a Dell setup disc, for example, it refused to install unless it detected it was running on a Dell. It'd be possible (and MS would probably prefer) to be even more specific than that.
    – cHao
    Jan 30, 2015 at 19:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.