Retrieving CD keys and codes
Image Credits; CJS CD keys

Imagine that you’ve got a new PC rig, and you have to reinstall Windows as well as other important software. It’s usually at such times that one costly realization sets in: You have lost the necessary CD key the installation process requires. What are you going to do?

How can you get what you need?

It’s a common yet easy problem to solve, really. Luckily for you, there are several ways to retrieve the codes. It depends on the version of Windows you’ve used and trying to reinstall, as well as what kind of software key you’re trying to recover.

For Windows OS

There are three likely places where you might find the all-important string of alphanumeric characters.

The first is in your PC’s registry:

When you (or the manufacturer) install Windows on any computer, the OS stores its product key in the registry. It will be encrypted, but there are programs to decode it. As long as the hard drive is functional, it doesn’t matter if the PC itself won’t boot. You can have another device to read the hard drive to get what you need. This method is also for Windows versions 7 and older.

The second is a holographic sticker on your PC:

It’s more common for laptops and ready-made CPUs to have this. An unfortunate downside to these stickers is that they’re prone to erasure by friction or wear and tear over time. Now that you know, it would be best to take a photo of these stickers as soon as possible for future use. Just be sure to store the photo in a safe storage device.

The third is in the UEFI firmware:

It’s more common in the more recent versions of Windows (8 and 10). The user doesn’t have to know the key. If you’re installing the same version of the OS, it will automatically install.

It’s convenient but it also locks the key to that device only.

For Microsoft Office Software

Several key finder apps can find the whole CD key of any MS Office software older than 2010. You can try using those for the more recent versions. The only downside to this method is it will only find the last 5 characters of the key.

Why? Microsoft changed up their anti-piracy policies, which led to the change in the storage of these codes.

As for the more recent versions, the best case scenario is a legal purchase from Microsoft’s online store or retail. Otherwise, an Office 365 subscription will also do. With the last 5 characters obtained through key finder apps, you can search your email inbox or electronic documentation for it. A subscription removes the necessity for the code. For retail, you may log in your Microsoft account to reinstall the program. Even if you lost the key, if you had registered the software beforehand, you’ll be able to view it. The last option is to ask Microsoft for another key. Make sure you’ve prepared any kind of proof of purchase before taking that option, though.

For Video Games

Having a Steam, Blizzard, Origin, or Uplay account helps to recover lost games. All you have to do is log into the respective account and reinstall it. The problem is if you bought the disc before any of those were in effect. Some of the services have the feature where you can register the software you bought a physical copy of. Even if you lost the disc, you’ll still be able to reinstall it as long as you remember your account details.

If you got your game in more convenient and cheaper ways, there are also key generators and key finder apps you can use. They’re the easiest ways to get what you need. You might not even have to download anything else, as one usually accompanies the download itself.
So there you have it! Now, you need not panic as you already know your options should physical copies of keys and codes get lost or inadvertently destroyed.

Do let us know if the article helped you out in the comments section below!

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Avatar for Amnah Fawad

Content writer by profession, but scientist at heart who secretly believes the conspiracy theories about AI taking over the world. Tech-savvy lover of sci-fi thrillers who loves to travel.

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