My sister likes to bush buttons, any buttons, all buttons. As a result, I felt her computer could not be fixed. I reinstalled Windows 10 pro for her from an ISO I got from MS. I had to reinstall Windows within Windows. USB would not work. The installation went well.

Novice me, I thought I could use the CD Key stored in the BIOS for activation. Apparently that key was erased and replaced with a default key supplied by MS during installation. Now, it looks as is I will have to purchase a digital license from MS.

AS the original CD Key was purchased legally along with the refurbished computer (from Dell, I think), why could it not be used? It was paid for? This is assuming I could find the original key. It is not on the case. I do have service tag #.

Recommended Answers

I used the method Rev Jim noted about "don't have the key."

Now there are things that happens too often so I'll keep it short.

  1. The client only had W10 Home. W10 Pro won't activate and they have to buy it.
  2. You mention the .ISO. Here I use …
Jump to Post

I I had to reinstall Windows within Windows. USB would not work.

I just recently had my Dell PC shipped from NY to California, where I recently bought a house, and had all sorts of issues reformatting it. I was wondering in what way the USB stick …

Jump to Post

So with this method there is no way to say 'I don't have a key'.

Just to clarify, if you are installing Windows off of bootable media, and the installer prompts you for a CD key, you can just click the Next button while leaving the field blank. …

Jump to Post

You shoild be able to get the key from the BIOS by opening an Admin command prompt and entering
wmic path SoftwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey

(however, you shouldn't need to do this as Windows should find it and activate automatically after installation)

Jump to Post

The command doesn't show a product key

Works just fine for me.

Jump to Post

All 29 Replies

I ran into a similar problem recently, but I’m not home right now. I’ll type up a proper response when I’m back at my computer later.

If the computer had Windows 10 on it previously and had been through the entire installation and activation process then there should be no need to enter a licence key again as that computer is already associated with the key on the Microsoft servers. If there is a problem then a call to Microsoft should quickly clear it up. I had to replace the hard drive on my father-in-law's computer and re-install Windows 10. I did not need to re-enter the licence key.

If you are asked for a key during the install just check "I don't have a key".

I had a similar problem with my own computer, my valid key was not recognized, because Microsoft thought I had installed Windows on more than 5 computers. In fact, currently I have 2 computers, an Mac and a Dell. I agree with Reverend Jim - I called Microsoft, explained the issue, and they allowed me to re-install Windows. They also showed me how to get rid of previous installations on computers I no longer own.

I used the method Rev Jim noted about "don't have the key."

Now there are things that happens too often so I'll keep it short.

  1. The client only had W10 Home. W10 Pro won't activate and they have to buy it.
  2. You mention the .ISO. Here I use the Windows 10 Media Creation Kit (the name changes over time so I may be a little off). In years I've never used the .ISO since I don't want to deal with that file.
commented: Likewise. I use the MS MediaCreationTool to create a bootable USB installer +15

I thought about calling MS but was hesitant. I've read so many accounts of people calling in situations like this and it seems that MS has no hard rules about helping and may or may not as the mood strikes.

I have the service tag for this computer but that wouldn't help verify anything. MS couldn't match it to the CD Key I found with Speccy because MS says they do not (conveniently) keep records of CDKeys.

As I said, I could not reinstall Windows on this computer in the usual manner. I had to install with Windows running. It was my first time to do a reinstallation this way. Its all done pretty much automatically and you don't participate. You re not asked any questions...not even for a CD Key. So with this method there is no way to say 'I don't have a key'.

I'm not paying $200.00 for a digital license for Windows when, as I said, A CD Key was purchased along with the purchase of the computer. I feel MS should honor that purchase. It seems my only recourse is to call MS and hope they are in a favorable mood. They could match service tag and CDKey and issue a deserved activcation for that match but for their own convenience they don't keep CD Key records.

Unless someone here has another suggestion, I will call MS and hope for the best.

According to Dell's website the Windows licence is specifoc to each particular machine and its details are burned into the BIOS.
Is it possible that the original OS was Home edition (in which case the licence is not valid for Pro)?
Have you tried installing a Home edition?

Here's the clue you should boot and do the clean install from "install media."

I had to install with Windows running.

The ONLY times I do that is if I want to get a free upgrade from Windows 8 to 10. ALL and I do mean all other times I boot the install media created with the method Jim and I noted and do the clean install.

-> BIG TIP or advice here. When I do the clean install I remove all partitions so I get a clean as I can without a lot of work drive to install on.

Your story sounds just like where it will trip up. Read my first reply above about Home or Pro and install media, not .ISO files.

JamesCherrill

The service tag shows the warranty expired in 2014. The original OS may have been Win 7. My sister thinks she bought this refurbished computer fom Dell. When she bought it, it had been upgraded to Win 10 Pro. Win 10 Pro is what I used for the reinstallation. It runs beautifully and has good speed. It is more than my sister needs as she will soon have it infected with virus and malware. The only problem now is the authintication. I hope this added info will help some.

Should I need to call Dell, would I call customer support or customer service?

IF the machine was upgraded to W10 Pro then the license is digital and trying to use the code on the back, in a registry and more is going to muck it all up.

I don't want to repeat a lot here but if the license was an upgrade etc, I've never had to do more than boot the install media, answer the question about "don't have the key now", move on and install. Tips:

  1. Remove all partitions to get a clean drive to install to.
  2. Don't connect to the Internet during install. Delay that till later.

I I had to reinstall Windows within Windows. USB would not work.

I just recently had my Dell PC shipped from NY to California, where I recently bought a house, and had all sorts of issues reformatting it. I was wondering in what way the USB stick would not work for you? ran into a similar issue in which the latest downloadable version of Windows 10, used to create installable media, did not come with the correct drivers for my Dell RAID card. It would go through the entire installation process, and then when it was time to reboot into Windows, it would just either blue screen or panic and the computer would restart on its own. Ultimately, I had to use an older version of Windows 10, install that, then upgrade the drivers from within Windows, and then upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10 from within Windows. Since you mentioned that your computer was also a Dell, and that you couldn't install off of the USB stick, I thought I'd mention this, just in case you're also having a driver issue with the latest version of Windows 10.

Now as far as activation is concerned, the others who posted here are right. Windows 10 stores your hardware profile in the cloud, associated with a license key. Ideally, if you reinstall on the same computer, as long as your hardware has not been fundamentally changed, the MS servers should recognize that there is already a license key associated with that hardware profile. However, I've encountered issues in the past where the key was not recognized even though I was literally reinstalling onto the exact same computer with no hardware changes. You need to call Microsoft and explain the situation. I'm also not sure if Dell can assist you in retrieving the key associated with the service tag #. However, my first path would be to speak to the Microsoft licensing help line and explain the situation.

Also, as pointed out by someone else, make sure you're installing the correct version of Windows. If you have a Windows 10 Home key, then don't install Windows 10 Professional. Most Dell PCs come with Windows 10 Home by default.

So with this method there is no way to say 'I don't have a key'.

Just to clarify, if you are installing Windows off of bootable media, and the installer prompts you for a CD key, you can just click the Next button while leaving the field blank. It's not very intuitive that the field is optional. Usually Windows figures it out after installation is complete.

Thanks. I will call MS licensing help line. The computer did have Pro on it. I verified that before the reinstall.

I am sorry, I cannot remember why I could not install via USB. There was a problem I had not encountered before. I did try several times.

Thanks, again!

commented: The ONLY time I had to call it in was for a motherboard change. Did you try it the way Jim and I use? +15

JamesCherrill

How would one go about finding these license details "burned into the Bios'?

How would one go about finding these license details "burned into the Bios'?

For me it's just a boot off the installation media I made (noted above), a clean install, do the skip/don't have key step, and let it activate later.

Now I can see how folk new to this activation system may want to dig deeper but hey, after some hundreds of install/re-install/clean-installs I can't see why I'd dig into this now.

You shoild be able to get the key from the BIOS by opening an Admin command prompt and entering
wmic path SoftwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey

(however, you shouldn't need to do this as Windows should find it and activate automatically after installation)

commented: Good to know. But for me, working far too hard as I don't need this info because... digital license, etc. +15

The command doesn't show a product key

Hi MickeyD.

I worry here you are thinking about keys and how they worked prior to Windows 10. Or maybe I missed where the current install isn't activated. Tell more what's going on so I can focus on that issue.

Activation changed with Windows 10. I no longer have to keep inventory of the 100 PCs at the office with keys, etc.

The command doesn't show a product key

Works just fine for me.

commented: Works fine here but it is a fairly long command, easy to mistpye. +15

I now have a reply button. Wil get info together and get back to you.

I reinstalled Win 10 Pro for a friend. I downloaded the ISO from MS and 'burned' it to a thumb drive with Rufus. The file would not boot via USB. All I got was a dark blue screen with tiny dots across the top. No errors. That's why I installed it with Windows running. With this type installation, Windows does not ask for a key. Perhaps I should reinstalled Windows differently, but that's irrelevant now.

The installation ran fine for a few days. Then MS asked for a key. There is no key on the computer or in the battery pack compartment. I used Speccy to find a key. It was not accepted by Activation. I have talked with MS and Dell to no avail.

All I have to offer is that my friend purchased the refurbished laptop from Dell a couple years ago. It has worked all that time with whatever key came with it. Now, after reinstallation, there seems to be no key that works. This is an old computer. I believe it originally has Win 7 OS and after being refurbished was upgraded to Win 10.

I am miffed that my friend purchased a key as part of the deal and now MS will not honor that purchase.

commented: Let's be clear here. What do you know and what do you believe? +15

The computer is practically useless. MS has even blocked access to the Internet

I feel If Dell wanted to, they could track the computer with the Service code and see that they sold it too my friend with a good key and then relay that info to MS. Sorry for the continous replies.

I think you should make your Windows install media with the usual media creation kit. Making it with Rufus throws in unknown variables.

It's been over a decade now and I've yet to have to use the .ISO download or Rufus for Windows.

-> Even if you don't have a key for Windows 10, there's not much broken if you don't activate. Example:

Yes, an unactivated Win10 can run almost normally and has only very small limitations. Just remember, Microsoft is like closing one eye at the moment about those unactivated Win10 copies. They have their own reasons for doing so at the moment.Mar 28, 2019

There's a lot of back and forth here yet you are not using the methods everyone I know in the business and here use.

A proper install stick might help but then again I've done clean installs and can't get on the Internet. THAT has never been a Windows issue but problems such as:

  1. Forgot to install some driver.
  2. The date/time is too far off.
  3. The machine has some trojan/malware/cracks/etc.

Sir,

I don't need to know everything you and/or all your friends have done. That is of no help to me. I need explicit, step by step instructions and/or at least suggestions as to what I can try to remedy this issue.

This is a fine way to have started a paid membership. Consider this topic closed.

Sorry to have upset you. I know some are unhappy with microsoft, dell and more so let's hope I can win you back here.

The first step to getting this machine working is to have good, bootable install media. Now in some rare cases, mostly older PCs they can't boot from USB and we have to make DVD boot media so there's that.

Because we can't know if your PC has that issue, a step by step is not possible. But we can try and help you avoid a repair counter at the very least.

How would one go about finding these license details "burned into the Bios'?

Somewhere in the BIOS settings it should show your Dell service tag #, but it seems you already have that. I am unsure where the Windows license key would be in the BIOS because I think Windows now uses a digital license key. At least from what I remember, I never had to physically enter a key number.

The ONLY time I had to call it in was for a motherboard change. Did you try it the way Jim and I use?

I've had to call it in just from switching the RAID setting.

I downloaded the ISO from MS and 'burned' it to a thumb drive with Rufus. The file would not boot via USB. All I got was a dark blue screen with tiny dots across the top.

I used Rufus as well, and didn't experience this. I think that the USB key probably was not formatted to be bootable. What format (FAT32, NTFS, etc) did you use? I vaguely recall that this is what happens when you try to boot off of a non-bootable drive.

I have talked with MS and Dell to no avail.

What does Microsoft say? I understand that when dealing with such a big company, it's easy to get the runaround. Do they acknowledge that you do have a Dell? And that practically all Dells come with some version of Windows preinstalled from the factory (unless the Dell was bought with Linux preinstalled), and therefore there must be some license available to you, even if it isn't the verison of Windows you want?

All I have to offer is that my friend purchased the refurbished laptop from Dell a couple years ago. It has worked all that time with whatever key came with it.

Just to clairfy, it was sent to your friend with Windows 10? Does your friend happen to have the receipt from Dell?

I am miffed that my friend purchased a key as part of the deal and now MS will not honor that purchase.

I think the better strategy would to be to work with Dell on this one, because they're the ones who should have record of proof that the license was bought from them.

I feel If Dell wanted to, they could track the computer with the Service code and see that they sold it too my friend with a good key and then relay that info to MS. Sorry for the continous replies.

I feel like it's a matter of getting in touch with the right person at Dell to get it back to factory condition (e.g. exactly as it was when they sold it to your friend with a working copy of Windows 10).

I think you should make your Windows install media with the usual media creation kit. Making it with Rufus throws in unknown variables.

rproffitt, under normal circumstances, I agree. However, in my case (if you read my story posted earlier in this thread), the latest version of Windows 10 was incompatible with my raid card. I had to install an older version of Windows 10, upgrade the drivers, and then upgrade to the latest version of Windows from within Windows. Unfortunately, that older version of Windows 10 was not available to download from Microsoft's website anymore. I had to download it from an unsavory location, so to speak, confirm via some third party message board somewhere that the MD5 checksum matched, and then use Rufus to burn it to a USB stick.

I'm unsure why MickeyD had to use Rufus instead of the Windows media creation tool. Perhaps using the media creation tool would have allowed you to create bootable media? I wonder if the version of Windows currently installed came from an unsavory location, as well, and the reason that it can't validate the license key is because Microsoft detected it's a rogue version of Windows?

Mickey, how did you get the version of Windows currently in use? You got it straight off of Microsoft's website?

Because we can't know if your PC has that issue, a step by step is not possible. But we can try and help you avoid a repair counter at the very least.

I believe the blank screen with the flashing dashes at the top is what happens when trying to boot off of a non bootable device. So either the USB stick wasn't formatted to be bootable, or the PC does not support booting off of USB sticks.

Either way, just so I'm clear, you had a working and activated version of Windows 10. You downloaded the .iso off of Microsoft's website. You updated Windows from within Windows, not using any bootable media. It installed successfully, but deactivated Windows?

I sense a lot of angst here, so i'll make a wee remark and what you do about it is up to you. Kmspico. and I was never here ciao

I will return to this thread for a moment as I feel what I've learned may be of some use to others. This computer was originally equipped with Windows 7 Pro. It was owned by the US Government or one of its agents.

Once back in the hands of Dell, it was refurbished and upgraded to Windows 10 Pro. My sister bought the computer from Dell a couple of years, ago. She is very rough on computers. With multiple things wrong with it, she asked me to reinstall Windows.

I did, but the key found on the computer after reinstallation was not accepted for activation. After many days of trying everything I could think of, including consulting with MS, I called Dell and explained my situation to them.

Dell sent me a copy of Window 7. They felt that if the computer was returned to its original state, it might display the original key and that key might satisfy MS as a valid key.

I returned the computer to Win 7. From there, I installed Win 10. The installation picked up on the original key and Win 10 was installed fully activated.

Thanks, Dani. While you did not provide a solution to my problem, you did approach it in a sensible, straight forward manner. I'm sure it would have soon occurred to you to suggest I try working with Dell.

(After returning to this post to add the above comment, I see suggestions to try what I did eventually try o my own. It seems that in the end we all were arriving at the same potential solution. Thanks.)

Be a part of the DaniWeb community

We're a friendly, industry-focused community of 1.21 million developers, IT pros, digital marketers, and technology enthusiasts learning and sharing knowledge.