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If you’ve ever paid for a shareware application or subscription, you know the drill. Serial keys in the form of plain-text strings or files are pretty much the universal standard.

The web has evolved in a way that should make it relatively easy for you to track down any keys you’ve paid for, be it by searching through your Gmail account or emailing the vendor directly, but that takes time. If you ever lose one of these keys, the preferred solution should (obviously) be to find it for yourself!

Those keys live inside your hard drive. Anything downloaded, uploaded, typed and sent, saved and stored exists somewhere on your hard drive. You’ve just got to know where to find it. That being said, let’s look at three portable applications that ought to make finding those keys a little easier for you.

A Quick Note on Key Finders

Are They Malware?

Key finders from reputable developers are legit software. Unfortunately, malware kits often come packaged with them. There are a variety of reasons for this. In the wrong hands, an attacker can steal your license keys in order to sell bootleg copies. And a key finder is the easiest way to steal your keys.

Because of this association, key finders often show up as false positives on malware scans. So if you scan one of these apps and it shows up as potential malware, it might be an error. I went ahead and scanned each website for potential malware. Aside from some hits for hosting key finders, I saw no potential threats.

Windows 10 Keys

Computers upgraded from Windows 7 or 8 to 10 receive a generic serial key. The generic key (which you don’t need to back up) is sometimes as follows:

Windows 10 Home:  YTMG3-N6DKC-DKB77-7M9GH-8HVX7
Windows 10 Home:  SL- BT79Q-G7N6G-PGBYW-4YWX6-6F4BT
Windows 10 Pro: VK7JG-NPHTM-C97JM-9MPGT-3V66T

Microsoft uses a different method of authenticating your Windows 10 PC, based on a unique hardware ID code. However, if you purchased a Windows 10 license Everything You Should Know About Windows Product Keys Everything You Should Know About Windows Product Keys 25 characters govern your Windows system. Your product key is worth $100 or more, whether or not you upgraded to Windows 10. We explain what you can and can't do with your Windows license. Read More or own a computer with Windows 10 preinstalled, then you will have a unique ID key.

1. Magical Jellybean KeyFinder

Magical Jellybean KeyFinder (MJKF) is the industry standard in key recovery. In fact, many of today’s key finders use code from MJKF, with only minor aesthetic modifications.

MJKF’s portable executable is dead simple. Just download the application and run it. It automatically scans your registry for 300 different kinds of product keys, including Microsoft Office and Windows. However, if you want a complete key recovery suite, you’ve got to pay. MJKF is the free version of Recover Keys. At $30, Recover Keys is among the more expensive key recovery apps. It does cover over 8,000 different programs, though.

Another great feature of MKJF is its ability to store keys as a text file. Just select File > Save As and choose the file name and save location.

2. LicenseCrawler

LicenseCrawler offers far more depth than MJKF. It does a complete scan of your registry and throws in extra features like batch processing and tools for saving keys in different formats.

However, there are a few tricks. First (after downloading and unzipping the archive), you must run the executable as an administrator. Right-click on LicenseCrawler.exe and choose Run as administrator from the context menu.

Upon launching LicenseCrawler, you’ll see a disclaimer doormat. Read the portion at the bottom. In order to progress, you must click on the right numbered button. It changes each time you start the program. In this case, the number to press is three.

After clicking through a couple disclaimers, you’ll see the following interface:

LicenseCrawler offers network support. That means you can search for keys on another computer connected to your network. Other than that, I recommend scanning using the default options you can see in the above screenshot (assuming you’re on a 64-bit system). You may find the white list or black list features useful, but the default settings work best for the average user.

Click the Search button to begin your scan. You should get a popup similar to the following:

serial key app

Unfortunately, LicenseCrawler isn’t entirely free. You have to watch a short text-based ad. On the positive side, it doesn’t automatically install potentially unwanted programs (how to remove malware Easily Remove Aggressive Malware With These 7 Tools Easily Remove Aggressive Malware With These 7 Tools Typical free anti-virus suites will only be able to get you so far when it comes to exposing and deleting malware. These seven utilities will weed out and remove malicious software for you. Read More ). Please note: You cannot disable the ad by clicking on Disable this Screen.

From here, LicenseCrawler scans your registry for keys. To start a search, click on Start Search on the bottom left side of the screen.

Even though it can scan the entirety of your registry, again, it’s best to have a range of solutions in case one fails you.

After the scan completes, you can check the File or Tools menus to save, encrypt, and encode or decode LicenseCrawler dumps.

3. SterJo Key Finder

Last, but certainly not least, is SterJo Key Finder. SterJo provides scans for keys immediately after you launch it. From what I can tell, it offers the same level of comprehensiveness as MJBF.

However, it benefits from having an improved user interface. On top of that, it receives regular updates — the last version of the app released in 2017. Most important, though, is that the app’s developer also lists all the software that it’s capable of finding.

On the other hand, if SterJo isn’t for you, I recommend NirSoft’s ProduKey. It’s designed only for finding Windows and Office keys, but it does that job admirably.

What’s the Best Key Finder?

None of these three solutions are perfect. There’s no single program that will reveal 100% of your product keys. Nonetheless, they may be able to get the job done where your memory, email, or printed documents have failed. It’s good to have these options.

Also, please be advised that these applications are safe and virus-free. I’m sure you can imagine why many anti-virus applications would see an application that reveals serial keys 3 Ways to Recover Serial Numbers in Windows 3 Ways to Recover Serial Numbers in Windows Looking for your Windows product key? Lost the serial number of a premium software? We show you how to recover your license keys with free tools. Read More and crawls sensitive system areas as malicious. It is simply a false positive.

Let me know what you think of these key finders in the comments!

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  1. Anonymous
    October 2, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    i have upgraded my windows 8.1 to Windows 10 . if i use this product key finder and move back to windows 8.1 , can i use this key to get original activated windows 8.1?

  2. Eloh
    February 24, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Avg found this as Open Candy and removed it

  3. Justice Lord
    January 11, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Thanks. Because of this I solved my Windows CD Key problem.

  4. ice manx
    January 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Thats why if you need to use these you may as well reformat and start from scatch

    always keep KEYS written down and away safe for later use

    I keep many many serials on a flash drive so I know it safe and keep HARD Copies for later reference

  5. hotdoge3
    January 11, 2013 at 12:45 am

    http://www.piriform.com/speccy/builds

    from Ccleaner take your pick Speccy - Portable is best for me

  6. Darrell Thomas
    January 3, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    thanks

  7. Raman Bathina
    January 3, 2013 at 6:19 am

    Nice tools to recover lost and forgotten passwords and these are useful in risky situations.

  8. Mordred
    December 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Why cracking (ugly) softwares when we have GNU/Linux and a lot of others GNU softwares, full free, for 0$ ?

    Are you crazy ?

  9. Ashwin Divakaran
    December 29, 2012 at 10:39 am

    These apps are mainly used in pirating Windows!!

    • S Hibbs
      December 31, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      I'm sure some people might use this to pirate software. However, when you've moved a few times, have your computer crash, have the install CD, but failed to write the key on the CD, it's nice to have a way to not have to buy the program again...

    • S Hibbs
      December 31, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Can anyone recommend a keyfinder program for Mac?

  10. Dave Feland
    December 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Try Belarc Advisor at belarc.com - it will tell you all the keys for all software and OS's, as well as a full and VERY detailed information sheet. It finds hardware s/n's, installed hardware id's, it'll even tell you what memory is in what slots on the motherboard - saves opening the box! Free download for non-commercial use.

    • Craig Snyder
      January 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks for the share!

  11. dragonmouth
    December 28, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    FWIW, there is also Ophcrack from Sourceforge.com.

  12. Thomas Petrucha
    December 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    ... yup for some reasons it´ll be useful ;)

  13. Chew Jian Yue
    December 28, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I don't think I need this at all.

    • Ole Funch
      December 28, 2012 at 7:34 am

      I'm with you, BUT IF it should be nessecary I would use SIW, which brings all the info's I need.

  14. Anonymous
    December 28, 2012 at 2:48 am

    that's why i use Linux.. he he

    • EdmarJohn SanDiego
      January 3, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      what linux do you use?

  15. Rohit Jhawer
    December 28, 2012 at 2:34 am

    This is a nice post i was looking for something like this.

  16. Dane Morgan
    December 28, 2012 at 1:40 am

    I've been storing my keys as encrypted notes in Roboform for a couple years now. Makes them very easy to find, very manageable, secure and accessible everywhere.

  17. Richard Steven Hack
    December 28, 2012 at 12:56 am

    I'm not sure how well these work on Windows 8. Reportedly many key finder utilities on 8 do not find the real key, but merely the install key which is different from the activation key. The actual activation process is different in 8 than previous Windows versions.

    What I really need is a freeware program that finds keys for more than Windows and Office - things like Adobe products. Belarc Advisor finds some of them, especially keys for Adobe Premiere and the like. But there doesn't appear to be any free product that finds keys for dozens or hundreds of programs. There are paid versions that allegedly do but I'm wary of paying for something that may not do the job.

    Still, for Windows XP and Windows 7 at least, the above tools do the job.

    • Giggity Goebbels
      December 30, 2012 at 12:17 am

      Complete agree