Getting a New Computer Or Reinstalling Windows? Make a List Of Your License Keys

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store license keys The biggest hassle of setting up a new system is re-installing and re-configuring software. What can make matters worse is if you discover halfway through that you don’t have a copy of the license key to some of your programs. Unless you manage to find a record in your emails or in your account at the manufacturer’s website, your only hope will be the support line. Save yourself a headache and store a list of your license keys for emergencies.

There are several free programs that can reveal product keys of your Microsoft and third-party software. However, be prepared to try and use more than one program to retrieve the licenses of all your commercial programs, as most free tools come with limitations.

NirSoft ProduKey

ProduKey should be your tool of choice if you need to recover Microsoft license keys. The tool can identify serials for Microsoft Office, Windows, SQL Server, and Exchange Server. Like all of NirSoft’s applications, ProduKey is a portable app. I have previously introduced this app: 3 Ways To Recover Serial Numbers In Windows.

store license keys

To my surprise, ProduKey did not find the key for my Windows 7 installation. If you are running into this issue, try the following program.

SIW – System Information for Windows

SIW is a monster of a tool. It will give you an overview of your entire system specs and also has a section for licenses. When you try to download the tool, be sure to click the right link. You will see the Home Edition is listed below the pro versions and the download link is nested between ads.

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manage license keys

After installing the program and allowing it to finish its first scan, switch to Licenses under the Software header in the left pane. This successfully revealed all licenses for me.

manage license keys

A similar and often recommended tool is Belarc Advisor. However, while it does have a nice section for software licenses in its report, it did not reveal the key for Windows 7.

Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder

This used to be one of the best tools to gather and store license keys. However, the free version now is very limited and does not reveal serials of Adobe CS2-CS6 products, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Office 2010. In my eyes, this makes Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder a little useless, as those are the most commonly purchased professional programs. Of course you can upgrade to Recover Keys, a paid version, which supports more than 10 times the programs.

However, if you need the license keys of other programs or if you want to recover serials from a Windows installation that no longer boots, Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder may still be a gem. The program comes with a hive function that allows you to scan the Windows directory of a system drive connected to a running computer. Unfortunately, there is no complete list of supported software.

store license keys

Conclusion

Backing up your license keys is fairly easy, but it takes some time and possibly more than one tool. Even if you are not planning to re-install your computer, it’s always a good idea to know your software licenses are safe. Better yet, create a backup of your entire system, so you don’t have to jump through the hoops of setting up Windows and finding those product keys. Here are a few alternatives to a Windows installation from scratch:

Gamers might want to know How To Recover Lost Video Game Keys.

Discussion

Do you know all your license keys and where do you keep them?

Personally, if I have an installation disc, I make sure the code is written on the disc itself or its case. If I just have installation files, I keep a text file with the license key in the same folder. And obviously those discs and files are backed up.

Image credits: Key Barcode via Shutterstock

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Comments (40)
  • AncientWisdom

    Just a correction… Magical Jelly Keyfinder free does allow retrieving serials for Windows 7, 8 and Office 2010. What it does not allow is recovering serials for Windows 7, 8 and Office 2010 FROM BIOS. If I needed that I would have no problems paying the asking price.

    I’ve used this tool for many years and it has never failed me. Highly recommended.

    • Mihir Patkar

      Hey, I had no idea about this one, this is a really cool tool. Thanks for sharing!

      Here’s the link, for anyone interested: https://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/

      Any idea how safe this is, AncientWisdom?

    • AncientWisdom

      Safe in what sense? It’s clean from adware or malware. It does not change any settings on the computer, only reads Registry\Files so it is very safe otherwise.

    • Mihir Patkar

      Does it talk to the internet? Is there any chance of my registry keys being sent to a remote server/falling into the wrong hands in any way?

  • Giggity Goebbels

    Sometime you can not reinstall even on same computer or it is violating the license agreement.

  • Brenden Barlow

    since i reinstall windows frequently, this will be quite helpful for all of my purchased products (thankfully almost all of my games run through steam, so the key is account bound, not machine bound).

  • Brandon Lockaby

    I’ve learned this lesson. I have several copies of Windows Server 08 and I’ve lost all my keys.

    I make sure I keep all me keys organized.

  • Greg Zeng

    Keys in my case are stored in several places on the drives in several ways, ensuring that on backups, the key-data is auto-saved.
    Since directory file names take no disk space (0 bytes), I create a file name of the key, if it is short enough. If too long, put it into a text file, and also create a gif picture file using screen capture software (builtin in Windows 7).
    These extra files are stored in all backups from the program’s folder, and the folder that is created as a dircetory on every drive I use.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.