I have a laptop here that cannot restore Windows. My cousin gave me her son's lap top because she said it was running really sluggish. I only got to actually look at it this morning and upon booting it up there was no Windows installation, it booted directly to the recovery console(Dell Inspiron, btw). It looks like the entire system was wiped out somehow and she has no idea as her son hasn't used it in the past month. Now when I say wiped out I mean if I just let it boot on its own it goes right to the recovery console.
I was able to bring up a command prompt via the recovery console and did some digging and it does look like the system is in a "right out of the box" state, if you know what I mean. However for whatever reason I cannot get Windows to reinstall via the recovery console or get anywhere passed it.
What I would like to do is totally wipe the hard drive, save for the recovery partition and reinstall Windows that way but I do not have a product key, nor is there on one the bottom of the system. I know some systems have stickers but this one doesn't unfortunately. I was able to also access the registry and was trying to see if I could somehow find the product key that way, but so far have had no luck.
EDIT: I had just read that the key is somewhere in the registry but it is encrypted? If I were able to extract it is there a tool or method I can use to decrypt it?
Is there any other way to recover the key? I know theres software out there but they either require you to be in the Windows Desktop environment, or they cost money. Is there any other way to get this done?