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Re-activating Windows 7 Product Key

    Question

  • Is this possible?  I bought Windows 7 two days ago and installed it yesterday.  I did not do a "clean" install, that is, I did not format my drives and the installation created Windows.old and Program Files (x86) folders.  I was upgrading from Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.  

    However, the computer crashed on me five times (four times yesterday, once this morning).  Believing it to be the fault of not doing a complete format, I re-installed, this time formatting my HD.  However, now it says my product key is no longer valid even though I have it saved verbatim on my phone so it's not a case of mistyping keys (O instead of D, 6 instead of G, etc.).  

    How can I resolve this issue?  Is this an anti-piracy thing to prevent multiple installs from one DVD?  If so, how can that possibly be since I'm installing my copy on the exact same PC!  If Windows 7 has saved somewhere that this key was already in use, shouldn't it recognize that it's being installed to the same computer it was paired with during the first installation?

    So can someone please help me with this?  I really don't want to have to pay another $10 to get a new key.
    • Moved by Carey FrischMVP Sunday, October 25, 2009 11:34 PM Moved to relevant category (From:Windows Vista Validation Issues (Windows Vista))
    • Edited by thevagraunt Friday, November 06, 2009 10:06 AM
    Sunday, October 25, 2009 11:21 PM

Answers

  • Assuming your hard disk has already been formatted, I would recommended erasing it again. I use a Linux system rescue disk, but you can accomplish the same thing by running a custom install and deleting all of the partitions.

    When you are done, you should have nothing but unallocated space. (there should be no partitions at all) Then, clean install Windows 7 to the disk. The installer will configure your partitions for you. At a certain point in the stall, you are asked for a product key. Do NOT enter one. Further, uncheck the box to allow for automatic activation.

    This first install will not have a product key until later. When it is done installing, you will have a clean, full install that you can't activate with an upgrade key. At this point, you can either:

    a) start an upgrade install of Windows 7 on top of the new install, or
    b) modify the registry and reset the license manager to let you activate the current install.

    The first method is fairly self-explanatory. After the second install, delete the Windows.OLD folder (since it's pointless), and activate using your upgrade key. This is the Microsoft approved way of doing this with an upgrade disk.

     The second requires a bit more work, but is far faster, because you don't have to sit through a second install.

    First, make sure you don't have any pending updates that require a restart. If you do, install them, reboot, and then start this procedure.

    Once your system is stable, open regedit.exe (You can search for it in the start menu) Find this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/MediaBootInstall. Change the value from 1 to 0, and close the registry editor.

    Start a Command shell as Administrator (find it in the start menu, right click on it, and select "run as administrator") You will need to authorize the UAC.

    Run the following command "slmgr /rearm" and wait for the command to complete. (you will be prompted)

    Restart the machine, and head over the the About page. You will be notified that you have 30 days to activate, and near that is a blue link to enter a new key. Click it, enter your upgrade key, and let it activate. If all went well, you should be good to go.
    • Marked as answer by thevagraunt Monday, October 26, 2009 6:51 AM
    Monday, October 26, 2009 1:54 AM
  • Got it to work!  Here's what I did for future reference/users:

    0. Disconnect computer from internet

    1. Formatted the HD and did a complete re-install of Windows Vista from my recovery disc (was not prompted for activation key)

    2. Reboot my system and ran the bootable .ISO I made and burned of Win7

    3. Did a custom install that created Windows.old again

    4. When prompted to enter product key, I did not put mine in and I unchecked the "Online Activation" box

    5. Went to Start -> Right-click on Computer -> Properties

    6. On the very bottom clicked on "Change Product Key"

    7. Entered the Product Key/Unlock Code I was given

    8. Clicked on "Show me other ways to activate"

    9. Activate by phone

    10. Call the toll-free number given, enter the Installation ID displayed on screen through the phone, then input the Confirmation ID the automated program gives back to you

    When I first tried the phone activation, it still wasn't working, so the machine connected me to a MS representative.  After I gave him my Installation ID, he asked me if I was "activating Vista."  I guess somehow Vista was still stuck in my registry?  Changing the Product Key changed my Installation ID, which I guess put it to Win7 proper.  Once I put in this new ID everything worked fine.

    Carey, Seth, thank you both for all your help!
    Monday, October 26, 2009 7:07 AM
  • Hi Seth -

    Take a look at Finally, some answers to Windows 7 upgrade questions and perhaps a relatively simple solution to your issue can be found.
    Carey Frisch
    • Marked as answer by thevagraunt Monday, October 26, 2009 6:56 AM
    Monday, October 26, 2009 4:09 AM

All replies

  • You can reactivate your Windows 7 installation by performing the following:

    1. Click on the Start button and in the Start Search box type in:  slui.exe 4

    2. Press the Enter key on your keyboard.

    3. Select your Country.

    4. Follow the instructions for phone activation (no charge).


    Carey Frisch
    Sunday, October 25, 2009 11:42 PM
  • Hey Carey, thank you for the response.

    However, I should clarify that the problem I have is that I can't get to the Start Screen.  After going through the entire install process, now Windows asks me to create a Username, password, and then enter my product key (sent to me under the name Unlock Key from Digital River).  Since it says my key is not valid (I have no idea how it can check since it's not even connected to the internet!) I can't get to Windows proper where I can use the procedure you outlined for me.

    By the by, I'm typing this on my alternate PC which is using the RC of Windows 7.

    So I guess my next question is, how/why is Windows saying my key is no longer valid when I used it a little over 24 hours ago?  And how can I rectify this without having to pay for another key, and can that even solve the problem since it can't even go online to check?
    Monday, October 26, 2009 12:39 AM
  • Did you have a qualifying Windows Vista or Windows XP operating system installed when you installed Windows 7 the second time around?
    Carey Frisch
    Monday, October 26, 2009 1:10 AM
  • The computer in question was a Dell I bought two years ago, in Sep. '08.  It came with Windows Vista Home Premium.

    On Friday I bought Windows 7 Pro 64-bit:

    "Dear ****,

    Thank you for placing your order from the Windows 7 Offer Online Store on October 23, 2009.  Your order will be available for downloading on October 22nd, 2009, at which time you will receive an email reminder.  If you purchased a backup DVD, it will be shipped around this date and you will receive a separate email confirmation.

    YOUR ORDER AND BILLING INFORMATION
    Order Number: 64******** 
    Order Date: October 23, 2009"

    I did a Win7 install that kept everything from my Vista tenure intact (music, picture, installed programs that of course won't work).

    After having Windows 7 crash on me five times since the installation, the most recent being around 11:00 this morning, I decided to do a fresh install, that is, I went and formatted my hard drive this time.  So to answer to your question, I was doing a re-install of Windows 7 from the Windows 7 I had just installed Friday night.  I followed a procedure online that allowed me to create a bootable ISO of the Win7 setup executable.  I went through the second installation process, but when it came time to enter my unlock key, Windows was saying it was no longer valid.  The key that I had just used to install Windows 7 is now no longer working.

    Something else I must mention.  Dell shipped the computer with a RECOVERY partition 10 GB large, with 6 GB free, of Vista, as well as a 50 MB partition that was labeled OEM.  I formatted the RECOVERY since I wouldn't be needing it anymore with a genuine Win7 key (though I still do have the recovery disc).  Could that have been the problem?


    Monday, October 26, 2009 1:33 AM
  • Assuming your hard disk has already been formatted, I would recommended erasing it again. I use a Linux system rescue disk, but you can accomplish the same thing by running a custom install and deleting all of the partitions.

    When you are done, you should have nothing but unallocated space. (there should be no partitions at all) Then, clean install Windows 7 to the disk. The installer will configure your partitions for you. At a certain point in the stall, you are asked for a product key. Do NOT enter one. Further, uncheck the box to allow for automatic activation.

    This first install will not have a product key until later. When it is done installing, you will have a clean, full install that you can't activate with an upgrade key. At this point, you can either:

    a) start an upgrade install of Windows 7 on top of the new install, or
    b) modify the registry and reset the license manager to let you activate the current install.

    The first method is fairly self-explanatory. After the second install, delete the Windows.OLD folder (since it's pointless), and activate using your upgrade key. This is the Microsoft approved way of doing this with an upgrade disk.

     The second requires a bit more work, but is far faster, because you don't have to sit through a second install.

    First, make sure you don't have any pending updates that require a restart. If you do, install them, reboot, and then start this procedure.

    Once your system is stable, open regedit.exe (You can search for it in the start menu) Find this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/MediaBootInstall. Change the value from 1 to 0, and close the registry editor.

    Start a Command shell as Administrator (find it in the start menu, right click on it, and select "run as administrator") You will need to authorize the UAC.

    Run the following command "slmgr /rearm" and wait for the command to complete. (you will be prompted)

    Restart the machine, and head over the the About page. You will be notified that you have 30 days to activate, and near that is a blue link to enter a new key. Click it, enter your upgrade key, and let it activate. If all went well, you should be good to go.
    • Marked as answer by thevagraunt Monday, October 26, 2009 6:51 AM
    Monday, October 26, 2009 1:54 AM
  • Computer manufacturers, such as Dell, are shipping a Windows 7 Upgrade disc and license.  An Upgrade license can only be used if a qualifying Windows operating system is actually installed on the drive partition you wish to upgrade to Windows 7.  If you reformatted your drive and booted from the Windows 7 Upgrade disc to install Windows 7, then you cannot use the Windows 7 Upgrade license, you would need a Full Version license since the Windows 7 upgrade license compliance check for a qualifying Windows license (i.e. Windows Vista) cannot be performed.

    Also, you previously stated "I was upgrading from Windows Vista HP 32-bit to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit" and now you say you have a Dell computer?  A little clarification would be helpful!
    Carey Frisch
    Monday, October 26, 2009 2:04 AM
  • Carey,

    By HP I meant Home Premium, not Hewlett-Packard.  I apologize for the confusion.

    Also, is the "Upgrade" really going to be the problem?  I was told that since I was going from completely different architecture (32-bit to 64-bit) that an upgrade would be impossible.  Also, prior to purchasing Win7 I read some user posts that said that buying the 64-bit version (Pro or otherwise) would allow for both an upgrade and full install.  Was that wrong?  Or were they referring to boxed retail?

    EDIT: Okay so I just checked my receipt and it says it was for a 64-bit upgrade license.  Then, will the solution to my problem be to reinstall Windows Vista from my recovery disc AND THEN reinstall Win7?  If so, what if I choose to reformat my HD drive (although I probably wouldn't need to since it's going to be as clean as it's going to get, but I'm a stickler for performance sometimes, which is why I ended up in the current situation) will I once again run into the same problem since formatting the drive gets rid of Vista?  Also, would you recommend Seth's route, or since we seem to have figured out the source of the problem, should I just stick with the Vista -> Win7 install instead?

    Seth,

    Thank you for the suggestion, I will try it out and let you know how it goes!
    Monday, October 26, 2009 2:35 AM
  • Computer manufacturers, such as Dell, are shipping a Windows 7 Upgrade disc and license.  An Upgrade license can only be used if a qualifying Windows operating system is actually installed on the drive partition you wish to upgrade to Windows 7.  If you reformatted your drive and booted from the Windows 7 Upgrade disc to install Windows 7, then you cannot use the Windows 7 Upgrade license, you would need a Full Version license since the Windows 7 upgrade license compliance check for a qualifying Windows license (i.e. Windows Vista) cannot be performed.

    Also, you previously stated "I was upgrading from Windows Vista HP 32-bit to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit" and now you say you have a Dell computer ?  A little clarification would be helpful!
    Carey Frisch

    If he had been using the Vista install, and had data that he needed to bring over, I could see it. However, in this case, he's already nuked his system. At this point, using either the approved method for doing a clean install, or the above procedure, is a lot more palatable. Please note, not one, but two Microsoft reps told me to use a double-install method for handling a very similar situation. (In my case, I couldn't obtain a restore CD)

    Putting Vista back on the system to run an installer is silly. It's not like he's not eligible for an upgrade - the machine came licensed for Vista.
    Monday, October 26, 2009 3:57 AM
  • Hi Seth -

    Take a look at Finally, some answers to Windows 7 upgrade questions and perhaps a relatively simple solution to your issue can be found.
    Carey Frisch
    • Marked as answer by thevagraunt Monday, October 26, 2009 6:56 AM
    Monday, October 26, 2009 4:09 AM
  • Got it to work!  Here's what I did for future reference/users:

    0. Disconnect computer from internet

    1. Formatted the HD and did a complete re-install of Windows Vista from my recovery disc (was not prompted for activation key)

    2. Reboot my system and ran the bootable .ISO I made and burned of Win7

    3. Did a custom install that created Windows.old again

    4. When prompted to enter product key, I did not put mine in and I unchecked the "Online Activation" box

    5. Went to Start -> Right-click on Computer -> Properties

    6. On the very bottom clicked on "Change Product Key"

    7. Entered the Product Key/Unlock Code I was given

    8. Clicked on "Show me other ways to activate"

    9. Activate by phone

    10. Call the toll-free number given, enter the Installation ID displayed on screen through the phone, then input the Confirmation ID the automated program gives back to you

    When I first tried the phone activation, it still wasn't working, so the machine connected me to a MS representative.  After I gave him my Installation ID, he asked me if I was "activating Vista."  I guess somehow Vista was still stuck in my registry?  Changing the Product Key changed my Installation ID, which I guess put it to Win7 proper.  Once I put in this new ID everything worked fine.

    Carey, Seth, thank you both for all your help!
    Monday, October 26, 2009 7:07 AM
  • Is it even possible to install a 64 bit os on a 32 bit machine?
    Thursday, October 29, 2009 5:07 AM
  • If your system can support it, yes.

    To check, do the following (for Vista):

    Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Performance and Information Tools

    Look for the little link that says "View and print details" and click on it.

    At the bottom of the box that pops up will be a section called 'System.'  Look for the row that says 64-bit capable.  If it says yes, you can upgrade to a 64-bit OS.
    Thursday, October 29, 2009 5:14 AM
  • Seth,

    Thanks a lot for posting the steps for activating an upgrade key on a clean install Seth, method 2 worked like a charm for me! 

    For those who say they cannot get to the start menu to follow these steps, the trick is to leave the product key blank during the install which will allow you to continue without activating Windows. 

    Joe Van
    Friday, November 06, 2009 12:11 AM
  • Hi Seth

    The HD on our Desktop with Windows XP Pro died. On the replacement HD I have installed a Full version of Windows 7 Home edition that was intended for my wife's laptop, whereas I had wanted to install an Upgrade version of Windows 7 Ultimate. I was not aware of this post and have stupidly entered the product key and it has activated. I am now unable to upgrade with the genuine Ultimate disk. Will the registry fix work for me?
    Thursday, December 24, 2009 11:34 PM
  • Seth,

    Its sorted.

    I ran the registry fix above then slmgr /rearm from the command prompt. Booted from the Ultimate Upgrade disk, selected Upgrade, removed DVD, rebooted as requested then selected the upgrade option from the Menu and entered the Product Key. This time no messages that the key was in the wrong format.

    Les
    Sunday, December 27, 2009 1:55 AM
  • This was unbelievably helpful. I was stuck with BIOS change and couldn't activate my original W7 Home Premium, or the W7 Professional that I upgraded to. Neither worked and I was ready to revert to a previous backup before the upgrade.

    Thank you for posting this!

    marc
    Monday, December 28, 2009 7:02 AM
  • This is a slight variant to the above.

    I lost my password and had to re-install windows 7. I'm at a point where I need to re-install, how can I extract my product key from the Windows.old folder under system32/config.

    any ideas?
    Tuesday, January 12, 2010 9:46 PM
  • Microsoft is up to some strange business.  I've had an endless string of upgrade issues and let it go until 4 days prior to Win 7 expiring.  I called MS for the phone activation and while online he instructed me to type my Product Key again and this time it worked!  I'm a 25 year PC veteran and attempted that same thing on my own many times.  I think the phone support person flipped some bit in a database which made my Product Key finally work.  This was part of the infamous HP Win7 Upgrade fiasco.
    Monday, February 08, 2010 10:11 PM
  • Is this possible?  I bought Windows 7 two days ago and installed it yesterday.  I did not do a "clean" install, that is, I did not format my drives and the installation created Windows.old and Program Files (x86) folders.  I was upgrading from Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.  

    However, the computer crashed on me five times (four times yesterday, once this morning).  Believing it to be the fault of not doing a complete format, I re-installed, this time formatting my HD.  However, now it says my product key is no longer valid even though I have it saved verbatim on my phone so it's not a case of mistyping keys (O instead of D, 6 instead of G, etc.).  

    How can I resolve this issue?  Is this an anti-piracy thing to prevent multiple installs from one DVD?  If so, how can that possibly be since I'm installing my copy on the exact same PC!  If Windows 7 has saved somewhere that this key was already in use, shouldn't it recognize that it's being installed to the same computer it was paired with during the first installation?

    So can someone please help me with this?  I really don't want to have to pay another $10 to get a new key.

    Monday, July 05, 2010 10:37 PM
  • So is it possible to clean format my hard disk and reinstall windows 7 with the upgrade disc which I got it from Acer? Will I be able to use the product key that came with the disc?

    Thanks

    Thursday, September 02, 2010 9:13 AM
  • So is it possible to clean format my hard disk and reinstall windows 7 with the upgrade disc which I got it from Acer? Will I be able to use the product key that came with the disc?

    Thanks


    If you got the disk from your computer manufacturer then it should be capable of a clean install - however, it's unlikely that it will contain all the extra software that was bundled in the original install.

    --


    Noel Paton | Nil Carborundum Illegitemi | CrashFixPC | The Three-toed Sloth
    Thursday, September 02, 2010 7:24 PM
  • Yes, if you look at Seth's answer in the second post, it should be possible to use your key.  Remember, what you have is an upgrade license, the key will only activate an installation if it was an upgrade.  By that I mean if you have Vista on your computer, and insert your Win7 disc without formatting you are upgrading your version of Windows and the key will work without a problem.

     

    However, if you do a clean format of your hard disk you are no longer upgrading your version of Windows so the key will not work in this case.  Seth provided an elegant solution where after the install you just re-install immediately afterwards, which should be recognized by Windows as an upgrade.

     

    I know it's tempting to do a clean format because of all the performance benefits, but the next best thing (which is what I had to do when I first made this topic) is format your hard disk, re-install Vista, then upgrade to Win7.

    Thursday, September 02, 2010 7:33 PM
  • "thevagraunt" wrote in message news:5f7a3034-7aef-48c5-b7d9-3e22b679cdc6...

    Yes, if you look at Seth's answer in the second post, it should be possible to use your key.  Remember, what you have is an upgrade license, the key will only activate an installation if it was an upgrade.  By that I mean if you have Vista on your computer, and insert your Win7 disc without formatting you are upgrading your version of Windows and the key will work without a problem.

     

    However, if you do a clean format of your hard disk you are no longer upgrading your version of Windows so the key will not work in this case.  Seth provided an elegant solution where after the install you just re-install immediately afterwards, which should be recognized by Windows as an upgrade.

     

    I know it's tempting to do a clean format because of all the performance benefits, but the next best thing (which is what I had to do when I first made this topic) is format your hard disk, re-install Vista, then upgrade to Win7.


    The Manufacturer 'Free Upgrades' are not Upgrade licenses - they are a special build of OEM software.
    It depends on the manufacturer as to how the licensing system actually works, but AFAIK most are capable of a clean install of the OS without any ancillary software.

    --


    Noel Paton | Nil Carborundum Illegitemi | CrashFixPC | The Three-toed Sloth
    Thursday, September 02, 2010 8:07 PM
  • i had same prob  go to start and type slui.exe 4 make sure you leave a space between e and 4 that is where people are getting it wrong then pick which country you want then a phone number will pop up it will ask you to tell them the 25 numbers on the screen and then they will help you out
    Saturday, December 25, 2010 7:27 AM
  • Can't thank you enough. The second (easy solution) worked spot on. You saved me a lot of time and trouble. Best.
    Sunday, January 09, 2011 11:57 PM
  • In Microsoft KB articles and in MOC of Windows 7 it is clearly said that cross-architecture upgrades to Windows 7 are unsupported and cannot be done and if you are intending to like that you should definitely go for a clean install but as you say you have done a cross-architecture upgrade from Vista HP 32 to Windows 7 Pro 64. Firstly that should be the definite reason for the 5 OS crashes that you have mentioned since some windows vista 32 bit system files may not support for the 64 bit operations in windows 7. So it's not a fault of full formatting your HD. Just do a clean install then your OS will be fine.

    Since the Windows DVD is not rewritable there's no way that it can detect multiple installations. But the ways that multiple installations can be detected is through registry or only if you have registered your key with Microsoft during an activation process. So if you multiple clean installations without activating you should be fine.

    Better call them for help with the key.


    MCP,MCTS
    • Proposed as answer by NimanthaW Monday, January 17, 2011 8:58 AM
    • Unproposed as answer by Carey FrischMVP Monday, February 07, 2011 8:18 PM
    Monday, January 17, 2011 8:58 AM
  • Nimantha - the post you appear to be responding to is 3 months old - and already has an answer.

    Apart from attempting to garner points, what was the object of posting?

    Your post appears to do nothing other than confuse the issue.

    It is not possible (not just not supported) to do an Upgrade install of Win7 64-bit onto ANY Windows 32-bit installation. The disk will refuse to allow anything other than a clean install.

     


    Noel Paton | Nil Carborundum Illegitemi | CrashFixPC | The Three-toed Sloth
    Monday, January 17, 2011 9:31 AM
  • I didn't post it to get any points. I just did comment as soon as I saw the post. FYI I'm not going after points like you.

    Good Luck anyway (with points)!


    MCP,MCTS
    Monday, February 07, 2011 5:03 PM
  • nXXw,

    Noel is not point hogging.  He is a Microsoft Partner and long ago maxed out any point table you can imagine.


    Colin Barnhorst
    Monday, February 07, 2011 6:01 PM