Windows or Office key: get a license on a PC

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Carlos Priora
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Are you planning to reinstall Windows or upgrade a PC? Remember to retrieve the official license key before you start the operation. And that of the Microsoft Office suite, if it is also installed on the computer...

Sometimes it is necessary – or simply preferable – to completely reinstall Windows on a PC. This is particularly the case when you want to start "fresh", as on the first day on your computer, but also when you want to install the system on a new disk, in particular an SSD, to gain speed, or when you modifies an important element during a hardware evolution – a change of motherboard and processor on an old PC, for example.



Admittedly, there have long been “clean” reinstallation solutions from hidden partitions – known as recovery or reset –, in particular on computers sold ready to use – those offered by major manufacturers – with Windows preinstalled. But this is not the case on individually assembled computers – at least, if one has not taken the precaution to do so. And this technique is not always suitable for large hardware changes.

Whatever the situation, it is however prudent, before embarking on this type of operation, to recover the license key associated with the version of Windows already installed. Including whether to upgrade from an older version of Windows to Windows 10.

Note that if you had installed the Microsoft Office office suite (with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and others) on your PC, you can also recover the license key to reinstall it, thanks to a free utility. Practice !


How to identify Windows license key?

Also called product key or product key, in English, the Windows license key is a 25-character code that comes in the form XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX. This key is used to authenticate and activate Windows after installation. It should not be confused with the product identifier (ID), another series of characters that is simply used to specify the version of Windows installed.


Contrary to what was practiced in the past, the new authentication device put in place by Microsoft manages the activation of Windows 10 automatically and transparently. This is particularly the case when you buy a new PC from a manufacturer, where the system is preinstalled. Or even when coming from Windows 7, for example (see our article on the free update from Windows 7 to Windows 10). In most cases, there is therefore no longer any need to enter the license key during installation, reinstallation or update: everything is automatic.

But prevention is better than cure, and generally speaking, it's a good idea to keep the Windows key safe, just in case.

  • In principle, the Windows license key is printed on a label affixed directly to the PC with the certificate of authenticity – on the back of the central unit on a desktop computer or under the chassis on a laptop –, when it This is a builder model, with Windows pre-installed.
  • If Windows was installed "manually", after manufacture, the license key is on a card or label, in the operating system box if it is a "physical" version, on DVD .
  • In the case of versions purchased online, in intangible form, the key is in a confirmation message sent by the seller – in general, these versions sold at low prices on specialized sites in a completely legal way are understood from other than the license key, the installation files being to be downloaded separately.

If you find the key in one of these forms, copy it and put it in a safe place. Failing that, use one of the following methods.



How to find the Windows license key with the command prompt?

The fastest way to find the license key for a version of Windows installed on a working PC is to use the command prompt.

  • Type the keyboard shortcut Windows + R.
  • The Run window opens. In the input field, type 

    cmd and validate with the key Starter.

  • The command prompt appears in an "old-fashioned" window, with just text on a black background. In principle, the cursor blinks at the end of the line 

    C:Usersvotrenom> .

  • type 

    wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey on the keyboard – or copy this command and paste it, then validate with the key Starter.

  • The command runs and the Windows license key is displayed. All you have to do is copy it to put it in a safe place!

How to find the Windows or Microsoft Office license key with a utility?

If you don't want to go through the command prompt to retrieve the Windows license key, you can use specialized software such as ProduKey. Free, in French and very easy to use, this very light utility knows how to recover not only Windows license keys (Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10) but also those of Microsoft Office (2003 and 2007).


  • With your web browser, go to the site of Nirsoft, the publisher of ProduKey, and click on one of the download links at the bottom of the page.
  • Once the file has been downloaded and possibly decompressed, launch ProduKey.exe.
  • The Windows license key is immediately displayed in the software window. Again, all you have to do is copy it to put it in a safe place!
 
Windows or Office key: get a license on a PC

Contents Identify the Windows license key Retrieve the key with the command prompt Retrieve the key with a utility It is sometimes necessary – or simply preferable – to completely reinstall Windows on a...



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