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Windows 7: Certificate of Authenticity Product Key Question(s)

27 Nov 2014   #1
boweasel

Windows 7 home premium 64 bit
 
 
Certificate of Authenticity Product Key Question(s)

I have an HP something-or-other (what happened to the days when the manufacturers actually put the model name on the chassis? This has nothing beyond the letters G62), laptop running 64 bit W7 Home Premium.

I noticed that all of the little rubber-like pads on the bottom are gone, and I wondered if the COA was still legible, now that there's nothing between the sticker and the top of the table.

Well it's not completely unreadable, but there's one or two characters that I'm unsure of so I download and run Magic Jelly Bean, just to verify the obfuscated digits.

MJB gives me something called Product ID, which is a whole lot of numbers with a -OEM- making up the 2nd grouping. At the end of that ID it reads 'match to CD Key data'. The next line in MJB is CD Key. It is 5 groups of 5 letters and numbers that for all the world look like a key that would be on my COA.

The only problem is that it is not my product key - at least not what is on my sticker.
  • So what do I do if I have to reinstall W7? Do I use the MJB key or the one on the COA?
  • If I'm supposed to use the COA key, then what good is MJB? What would I do if the product key was totally obscured?
  • Why ARE the keys different?
  • If the COA contains the 'real' product key, what tools will display that? And don't suggest Belarc Advisor, because that spits out the same key as MJB.
  • If the Belarc and MJB keys are correct what would happen if I reinstalled and used the key on the COA?
I'm sure somebody out there who's not sleeping off l-tryptophan can answer these questions.

And wakeup someone in the 'Hardware' subforum. I've had a question stewing in the 'unanswered' section for just under 2 weeks.


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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27 Nov 2014   #2
DavidE

Multi-Boot W7_Pro_x64 W8.1_Pro_x64 W10_Pro_x64
 
 

Yes, there are 2 different keys on OEM PCs.

The key in MJB and Belarc is the OEM pre-activated key.
This is the key used by the manufacturer to pre-activate Windows.
If you use the manufacturer's Recovery media, that will also use this key.

You can't use the pre-activated key you see in MJB to do a clean install of Windows.
For a clean install you need to use the key on the COA sticker.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Nov 2014   #3
boweasel

Windows 7 home premium 64 bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by DavidE View Post
Yes, there are 2 different keys on OEM PCs.

The key in MJB and Belarc is the OEM pre-activated key.
This is the key used by the manufacturer to pre-activate Windows.
If you use the manufacturer's Recovery media, that will also use this key.

You can't use the pre-activated key you see in MJB to do a clean install of Windows.
For a clean install you need to use the key on the COA sticker.
Aren't virtually all PCs OEM? If you go to a retail store and buy a PC I assume you're getting an OEM machine. What are non-OEM PCs? The ones you build yourself like an erector set? What is that - one half of 1 percent? So if you don't have the manufacturer's recovery media (and who does these days - almost nobody gives you disks anymore), and you want to reinstall Windows 7 using a disk you downloaded (maybe from this forum), and the key on the COA is scratched or worn, you're what? SOuttaLuck? If these COAs are so all fired important why do they not protect them more? I find it impossible to believe that a product key I've paid for is irretrievable in the event I need to do a clean reinstall.

And from my limited experience, if you've got a Dell Windows 7 Home Premium 64 PC, and a Dell Windows 7 Home Premium disk, you don't need any product key at all.

So for Windows product keys Belarc and Magic Jelly Bean are what? Just a waste of time?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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27 Nov 2014   #4
DavidE

Multi-Boot W7_Pro_x64 W8.1_Pro_x64 W10_Pro_x64
 
 

Belarc and MJB are just reporting the info they see.
I agree, the keys should be protected better.
Maybe that's why some laptops have the key in the battery compartment.
There are some things you can try if you can't read a worn COA key.
Read through this thread about this issue, especially posts #6 and #14 to see what was done to recover the key:
Recovering Windows Product Key
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Nov 2014   #5
boweasel

Windows 7 home premium 64 bit
 
 

Thanks David. I'm in the same position as the poster in the link you gave me. I do not need to reinstall and I have found that with good lighting and a magnifying glass I can see the complete 25 char key. It just irritates me that for years I've been hearing about tools (such as MJB) for retrieving product keys, and I assumed that they worked. I've read testimonials about how they've saved the consumer from having to repurchase a product key. Apparently, these stories were all pretty much made-up BS.

So who puts the COA on a PC? It can't be Microsoft, since they have nothing to do with the chassis. It has to be the manufacturer. So when HP was assembling my laptop they already had a COA ready to be slapped on the bottom. Since HP was installing the OS why couldn't they simply have made a registry entry containing the real product key. Then tools like MJB would be useful. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Nov 2014   #6
DavidE

Multi-Boot W7_Pro_x64 W8.1_Pro_x64 W10_Pro_x64
 
 

I can't disagree with anything you say.
I only know I've read many threads here where a person can't read a worn COA sticker.
Now that you have the COA key, record it and keep it somewhere so you always have it.

I don't know who "designed and authorized" the COA sticker and why it's not "more durable" ...

I don't think a registry entry for the COA key would be the right/cost effective solution.
Manufacturers mass produce PCs using the same Windows installation, hardware components, etc.
If the COA key was in the registry, each PC would need some type of custom install ... ???

imho it would be less expensive to design a more durable COA sticker ...
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Nov 2014   #7
whs
Microsoft MVP

Vista, Windows7, Mint Mate, Zorin, Windows 8
 
 

The OEM 'buys' the key that is on the COA sticker from Microsoft. And that is different for each and every PC.

But for convenience of mass activation they can use a special OEM key to activate thousands of PCs with the same key. But the OEM key means nothing for your system. Only the COA key counts.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
28 Nov 2014   #8
NoelDP

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Win 7 x64 Home Premium (and x86 VirtualBox VM)/Win10
 
 

Computers that come pre-installed with Windows from large manufacturers usually come with two Product Keys.

OEM SLP: This is the key that came in Windows (from the factory). It works by connecting to a BIOS flag (the SLIC table) found only on computers from that Manufacturer. It also checks for the existence of proper matching licenses in the OS itself. Once it sees both, it self-activates every time the machine is rebooted.

COA SLP: This is the key seen on the sticker located on the side, bottom or in the battery compartment of your machine. This key is for use if the OEM SLP self-activation stops working for whatever reason.
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