Do you know where your Vista product key is?

I’ve just launched a new series of Windows Vista tips over at ZDNet, where I’ll be posting a tip a day for the next 30 days.

Today’s installment covers product keys. When you buy a retail copy of Windows Vista, the most important part of your purchase is the product key that comes with it. That 25-character key determines which Vista edition you’re allowed to install and activate, and it also tells the Setup program whether you’ve purchased a full or upgrade license. I explain how to check your activation status and how to uncover the product key that’s actually in use.

For details, read:

Vista Hands On #1: What you need to know about product keys

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8 thoughts on “Do you know where your Vista product key is?

  1. Great stuff, Ed — I was actually writing about the SLMGR script elsewhere.

    I imagine it’s a little annoying to see that most of the comments in any given article about Windows licensing and PA are “Product Activation sucks” instead of anything constructive — and no, reminding us each and every single time that PA sucks is not constructive, guys, no matter how you try to spin it. (I don’t like PA any more than the next person, but I also don’t waste breath telling people something they most likely already know.)

  2. I hope that I NEVER need this information. 🙂 But thanks for posting it anyway. I did e-mail the link to myself just in case.

  3. Hi Ed, great article but you missed a pretty key bit of info (pun). After the machine has been activated the key is no longer stored in the Vista registry.

  4. Michael, the product key is still stored in hashed form in the Registry. That’s how programs like Keyfinder are able to retrieve the full key and how the SLMgr script is able to retrieve the last five digits.

    You might be thinking of Volume License keys, which are no longer stored in the registry beginning with Vista. Multiple Activation Keys are encrypted and kept in a trusted store and cannot be retrieved. Key Management Service keys are only installed on the KMS host and never on individual computers.

    But this article is about retail keys.

  5. “I’ve just launched a new series of Windows Vista tips over at ZDNet, where I’ll be posting a tip a day for the next 30 days.”

    So, is that like every day, work days, days that begin with the letter M or what? I guess you’re going by west coast time but the days almost over and I don’t see tip two yet.

  6. It’s there now.

    As you’ll see, this one took a fair amount of work to get the screen shots and instructions just right.

    My goal is to have each new entry in the series available first thing in the morning, but definitely by the end of the workday, West Coast time.

  7. I was wondering if you could help me, i have just bought a new computer with windows vista premuim. When i try to install vista, the computer tell’s me that the product key could not be authenticated, the computer is new and i have checked many times to ensure that i have typed the product key that came with my computer is correct, but still to no avail. Is there any chance you maybe able to help?


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