In today’s world, people buy their software digitally, rather than through physical means, such as “boxed” software with its printed manuals, licenses, and product keys. While this offers many benefits, including near-instant delivery of titles and reduced packaging materials, it has an important downside; the ease of losing the codes/keys needed to activate/register their software. This compounds, when software needs updates/upgrades, or complete reinstalls, due to malware or hardware failures. I can tell you that even under my best auspices; I have lost such codes and had to go through a hassle to get them retrieved/replaced. This is magnified, when it comes time for an OS upgrade, when you must provide your product keys for reinstall or for proof of upgrade eligibility for the upgrade product/price.
In anticipation of needed said information, I was wondering how to best track down my Windows 7 Product Key, as I was going to being upgrading up to Windows 10, since they were offering it for free, for one year for individuals. I knew that they would require me to go through the Upgrade Wizard for an in-place upgrade, but I wanted to capture my product keys so I could do a fresh install. (I plan on taking this on, when I finish my hardware upgrade, later this year, as my new hardware will need DirectX 12.)
I have used various methods to get my licenses recorded, with mixed results. There used to be registry tweaks, small executables (with risky sources) to recover keys, all the way to just putting everything down in a text file or physical notebook. Nowadays, with greater encryption methods, more software using Product ID/Product Keys activation servers and even a return of hardware dongles (iLok), more advanced tools are needed. One of those tools that meet these challenges head-on is One-Up, Ltd.’s Recover Keys.
This fine tool allows you to view, recover, backup, and save your keys into a myriad of formats. You can save them as a PDF, text file, XML, Excel, or even print them out, to have a hard copy on hand; all while supporting 6500+ software titles for decryption. Many of the tools that I alluded to earlier would only show you the Product Key on a screen, which you would have to write it down, manually, to use later. Not to mention that they would only support one product family (maybe Microsoft products, like Windows or Office), and maybe contained malware, to boot.
This excellent software program/suite allows you to scan your main HDD that it is installed on, other HDD’s/partitions on your system, or other computers connected to it by a network. When you get your results, it will show you the Product Name, Location, License Keys, and version numbers for supported software in a table format. It is able to do this, with a small installation footprint, so it does not take up significant storage space on your system. In fact, they make a portable version, which can be installed to a thumbdrive for analysis on multiple computers. As I stated before, you can easily take your results, and save them in multiple formats or print them out for your records. Whatever works best for your disability or record keeping, you are covered. You may be asking, how does this work in the real world, with an actual usage sequence; fear not, I will use myself for an example of this in action.
Using my current experience as a case study, I downloaded and installed Recover Keys for Windows (Single-User License Version), and decrypted my keys for Microsoft Windows, Office, and all of my other installed software, before I attempted the upgrade. (As I side note, backup/archive practices should include retaining your software installers and decrypted keys, for a complete backup.) I took my results, and saved them as a PDF, so I could reference them later. I was then ready to take the plunge, and start the Windows 10 upgrade process.
After some hiccups, with my older hardware (particularly my old NVidia video card), and internet connections/speed problems, I was ready to re-run Recover Keys, and see what keys changes that have occurred, particularly the changes to Window’s Product Key/Product I.D. (In my process, Windows 7 to Windows 10 keys, so I could do a clean reinstall of either OS, at a later date.) I got my results, and saved these new results in a new PDF, for comparison. I now have both keys for each Windows version that I own, so I am ready to go forward.
This may seem a cursory review or advocacy for this software tool, but the reality is that this tool is very straightforward and easy to use. Its purpose and usage is very well focused, and meets the goal set for it. As you can see, if you get your keys, and save them, like it did, you will be set for any unforeseen or mandatory installs, alike. Take my advice, try out the demo of this tool, and you will see the $29.95/ 1 PC is worth it. If you need more PC’s covered or a portable version, the price for these are competitive, considering the loss of your software licenses or having to pay additional fees to get them restored, makes them well worth it. The bottom line, saving your keys, saves money! Until next time, keep your keys to the kingdom . . .