A product key is a unique identification number or code, used in software like operating systems and games, to prevent counterfeiting and piracy. It is software specific for each program. For most part, an OS product key is an insignificant number, but when you need to reinstall your OS, suddenly the product key becomes the most elusive code to find.
A Windows 7 product key is necessary to activate your system. The case with previous versions, like XP and Vista, was that you could find the product key by fiddling through the registry. While this is a risky practice, in Windows 7 it is impossible to find the key, since it is encrypted. But do not despair. For every lock, there is a key and in this article, learn how to find Windows 7 product key of your PC.
Windows 7 Product Key
The product key number for Windows 7 is a alphanumeric pattern of 25 characters, arranged in 5 groups of 5 characters each. It has the following format: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX. Some facts about the Windows 7 product key:
- The product key is used to activate the 32-bit or 64-bit Windows 7 editions
- Each key is unique for the OS it is bundled with, so you can use it to activate the same edition of Windows 7 that it came with, and cannot be used to activate other editions. Products keys are not interchangeable.
- Product keys are also unique to the version of Windows 7 (Ultimate, Premium, Basic, 32 or 64 bit). So if you are installing Windows 7 Basic, a Windows 7 Ultimate product key will not work.
- One retail Windows 7 OS per PC, hence one product key for 1 PC. So if you have more than 1 PC, to install Windows 7 on, you need to buy separate Window 7 OS for each PC.
- A Family Pack Windows 7 edition is useful for multiple computers. Using such a product key, you can activate up to 3 computers at a time, with the 1 Windows 7 Family Pack edition.
- OEM Windows 7 editions have different rules of usage, as opposed to retail Windows 7 editions, and so an OEM Windows 7 product key can be used, only to activate a OEM Windows 7 copy, in the same computer, it first activated.
Product Key Sticker
If Windows 7 was pre-installed on your computer, when you bought it, then there will a product key sticker on the back, if it is a desktop. The sticker is on the bottom of a laptop or notebook. If you have purchased a retail copy of Windows 7 software, then look in the software box or original packing of the software. It is a license included among other necessary Windows 7 paperwork. Do not lose this sticker. If you have purchased Windows 7 online, from the Microsoft store, then the product key is in the confirmation e-mail sent of your purchase.
You can use a product key finder program, that delves into your Windows Registry, and finds and decrypts the product key. There are many free and premium software available online. All you have to do is to download the software (usually in .zip file) and run it. Just follow the steps and the product key will be presented to you. Note it down exactly, a single wrong digit or letter, makes the key useless. Some of the popular software available are Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder, Winkeyfinder and WinGuggle. Such programs are easy and simple to follow, if one doesn't work, download another. But make sure you are downloading the right program. The above mentioned software downloads are not endorsed by Microsoft or this website. User discretion is advised.
Product Key Request from Microsoft
If Windows 7 is not installed on your PC, and you have the original installation disc of Windows 7, then you may request the product key from Microsoft support at (800) 936-5700. This is a paid support number, which cost between $40 - $60, and it will cost you $10 to get a new product key issued. As long as you have an original Windows 7 software, there should be no problems, and the support will help you in the activation process. However if for some reason, you still cannot get a product key, then you have no choice, but to buy a new copy of Windows 7 software.
Do not get confused between product key and product id, which is found on the System Information page. With computers being unpredictable machines that they are, keep software documents and stuff safe and in one place. The little sticker, with the product key on it, is important and can save you from buying a new Windows 7 software package. So if you are stuck with the "Windows 7 activation error: invalid product key " message, hopefully the above "how to find Windows 7 product key" ways proved useful.