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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 3 Ways to Recover Serial Numbers in Windows 3 Ways to Recover Serial Numbers in Windows Read More .

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 How To Recover Your Lost Video Game Keys (Windows) How To Recover Your Lost Video Game Keys (Windows) Read More .

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

  1. AncientWisdom
    September 1, 2015 at 7:24 am

    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
      September 1, 2015 at 7:40 am

      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
        September 1, 2015 at 9:23 am

        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
          September 1, 2015 at 9:42 am

          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?

  2. Giggity Goebbels
    December 30, 2012 at 12:19 am

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

  3. Brenden Barlow
    December 14, 2012 at 7:59 am

    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).

  4. Brandon Lockaby
    December 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    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.

  5. Greg Zeng
    October 29, 2012 at 10:53 am

    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.

  6. Overlod Eyser
    October 27, 2012 at 1:15 am

    I rarely have this problem because I usually use portable software so I can sync it to my Dropbox

  7. Nikhil Chandak
    October 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I downloaded NirSoft ProduKey
    then i was able to see the product keys
    amazing softwares !!

  8. Alex Perkins
    October 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Something similar came on the LaCie Cookey from Makeuseof. Great as I'm switching computers soon.

  9. Art
    October 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I have used Magical Jelly Bean in the past but I also like to use Belarc Advisor. Belarc Advisor is a great tool.

  10. Andy Bristow
    October 25, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I keep ALL my software serials using the FREE open source KeePass Password Safe from http://keepass.info/

  11. Rajeev Rohatgi
    October 25, 2012 at 4:27 am

    All my keys are in my Outlook, and since I POP from my Gmail account, they're automatically backed up in Gmail

    • Tina Sieber
      October 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm

      Perfect setup, Rajeev. Backing up to Gmail is great.
      Any particular reason why you use Outlook, though?

  12. William Smaling
    October 25, 2012 at 4:09 am

    Have used SIW for like ages, will try the others thanks!

  13. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    October 25, 2012 at 3:32 am

    They say preventing is better than curing. Even if you don't have plan to buy a new computer, always copy your licenses before you install a product. Put it for safekeeping, whether in .txt files, your notebook, Evernote, OneNote, FetchNote, or whatever you want. You'll thank yourself later. This will not only help when you're migrating your system. Sometimes software support will ask you for the license to detect if you're a valid customer.

    Above programs are good. However, these methods will help you in the long run.
    You never know when your hard drive will fail, so writing the license keys with traditional pen and notebook will also be worthwhile.

    • Bundy
      October 25, 2012 at 8:25 am

      @ Lisa

      so writing the license keys with traditional pen and notebook

      OMG you should see some of the serial keys lengths that
      I have my massive software lists. Writing them down for safe keeping
      is not an option LoL

      9920m9Vd3quayantWjwGYvDOPST8Xz
      x5cDTjAz6e0VzfVDkVoDJA+dPnhcOV
      N2a5/lXIFO6KPQbiLCZRl7T8fz0LdQ
      JsyFKaMEswsej7B9UkRfuMBHOP7pFv
      mnRJjrCmgFULEzYmUHyY+lNTn9xZoO
      popuX/P+5CZHxj9LSD+7tplJc=|011
      0veRBhDOU35A4Jz/PBuL4CO7wALco4
      XAOXTOXeVc9d6Is9n7A062J344Qmmp
      58q1AkTatk2eF+bg+7sd0wBBMOdaej
      /hybGjURH03YEybpLhFVdGRvHjJkG4
      RK3yjQyULGsUG+ktULtAvua5hR5rkD
      4fEghaEcK53SJa+hjsKGj0=

      I have changed a couple of these letters and numbers around
      but you get the picture and then there is the possibility of mixing O and 0
      and l and 1 (depends on font)

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        October 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

        Ouch. I see.

        Well. you can always print the list:)

    • Tina Sieber
      October 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      True Lisa. Instead of writing down everything by hand or printing it, though, one could simply have a backup on a second/external hard drive. Actually, that should be the standard procedure because as you say, hard drive failure can happen anytime.

  14. Ashwin Ramesh
    October 25, 2012 at 2:51 am

    SIW is a great tool. It has a simple user interface. Very effective and small but powerful tool. You could think about adding it to your portable apps list :) What say Tina?

    • Tina Sieber
      October 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      Ashwin,

      I think you're right and I forwarded your comment to the team that is currently reviewing our Best Of pages. If they agree, the tool will be listed there with the next update. Thanks for the suggestion!

  15. Nguy?n Tân
    October 25, 2012 at 2:16 am

    It's so easy to use. Thank for sharing!

  16. kelvin
    October 25, 2012 at 12:52 am

    I use to Winguggle to recover my product keys and list all of them on my note.

  17. Andrey Zvyagin
    October 24, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I'm old-fashioned, all passwords in a file recorded

  18. Rahul
    October 24, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    I have already used all these tools, but appreciate your work to list them all. Most of the time they don't work for popular programs. I usually find the license of software in registry easily, only the issue is, one should be very knowledgeable in registry

    1. All my license purchase is stored in particular label of Gmail
    2. I keep all my license keys, and invoices in folders and collectively, i lock them up with password
    3. I take a backup in a CD for emergency purpose

    • Tina Sieber
      October 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      Great recommendations, Rahul. Thanks for sharing!

    • Nicola De Ieso
      December 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      I do this also. But there is a method for save the activation of the various licenses? Because some programs don't function every they activated once

  19. LaDonna Garner
    October 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Software tracking is a great idea. But I prefer to keep track of the keys the old fashion way, writing it on the cd label of the install disk! :)

  20. Yang Yang Li
    October 24, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    I have used NirSoft ProduKey and Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder to try to find the key for my copy of Microsoft Office Professional Plus. So far I have been unsuccessful. The hard drive MSO is installed on will fail soon and I don't have the key any more so I'm worried. I'll have to give SIW for Windows a try.

    • Tina Sieber
      October 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      Have you tried SIW?

  21. Timothy Liem
    October 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    well.. since I only use FOSS and freewares, it doesn't really matter for me. but still great articles and great softwares need to be honored. thanks a lot for sharing. may it will be useful for me someday.

    • Tina Sieber
      October 24, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks Timothy!

  22. Malkhaz Abuladze
    October 24, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    All my keys are backed up in my external drive

    • Lavonna White
      October 30, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      But, do you have the external drive backed-up?

      • Malkhaz Abuladze
        October 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm

        unfortunately no

  23. Anonymous
    October 24, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Good programs, thanks for sharing.

  24. Richard Wesley Eby
    October 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    These are some great software products!
    Thanks for sharing

    Richard Wesley Eby

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