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Windows 7: UEFI product key & OEM Windows 7 Pro SP-1

04 Sep 2015   #1
ciphernemo

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit RTM
 
 
UEFI product key & OEM Windows 7 Pro SP-1

I have an annoying dilemma right now. Hopefully others here who are familiar with installing and imaging Windows for businesses have some insight on the best path to go down next.

Background
I'm wiping and installing from scratch several newer Dell Latitude E5450 laptops. They have Windows 7 Professional pre-installed with that Pro Windows 8 sticker on the bottom (ie: free upgrade to Windows 8.1). We'll, we're sticking with Windows 7 throughout my workplace. Any ways, I've done the following to methods...
  • Configure one using the pre-installed OS, remove crapware, update drivers install software we use, add to domain, etc., then cloned the system via Acronis to an external drive. I then wiped three other laptops and copied this image over to them. Everything works great, I only had to change system names, IPs, and domain registration. Windows Activation took the built-in product key from the UEFI.
  • Wipe another laptop (from slightly different lot with discrete NVIDIA GPU), install Windows from another CD I had laying around of the same product type (Windows 7 Professional SP-1 OEM), entered the Dell pre-install product key for Windows (the one shared by all Dell images for laptops of the same set), Windows took the key, and everything was fine, until I went to activate it. The activation said the key was invalid with an error code that relates to it already being in use. So I downloaded the RW Read & Write utility to read the embedded product key from ACPI -> MSDM. It gave me the unique embedded key. I plugged that into the Activation wizard, and instantly it rejected it. It didn't even like the first character (product key started with an "N").
So, for the latter, I assume that the product key reported by RW is for a very special OEM version of Windows 7 Professional that has the Windows 8.1 upgrade included, correct? What puzzles me is that the non-unique product key for Dell laptop images was accepted without issue during a Windows 7 Professional SP-1 OEM install. It didn't complain. But now after thinking back, I'm sure it would have complained about the unique product key starting with "N". *if this were ST2: Wrath of Khan*... Microsoft! ... Microsoft! It seems that even if we completely avoid Windows 8 crap, it still injects its ways into our lives to make things more difficult, such as this embedded UEFI key isn't backwards-compatible with the same version.


I contacted Dell and they're sending a USB key to supposedly fix the issue, but I'm not sure if this is just the key fix or a total re-installer for the burdened Windows version that's pre-installed?


Since we're switching to doing imaging for all of our systems, I'm debating on where to go next. Should I...
  1. Stick with Acronis or other cloning software and continue to do these new laptops the old-school way of "fat" client cloning (entire partition cloning and resizing)?
  2. Use WAIK or my workplace's "SysMan BuildKey" to "thin" client install on laptops (custom set of drivers, apps, settings, etc., but starting from a Windows installer)?
I ask this because this whole next edition of Windows 7 Pro OEM with 8.1 upgrade installer is the only one to have UEFI access to grab embedded product keys. And If I use that, how would I go about getting that from Dell? Or can I use the USB key Dell is sending me to scrape the installer off of it for WAIK or something else?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
.
04 Sep 2015   #2
NoelDP

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

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

For Windows7 downgrades to be successful you MUST either
1) install using the manufacturer's Recovery media
or
2) Use Full License media with the appropriate Key (usually a Volume License Key)

Using Retail Media with the Dell OEM_SLP Key as you appear to have done, will never activate.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Sep 2015   #3
ciphernemo

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit RTM
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by NoelDP View Post
For Windows7 downgrades to be successful you MUST either
1) install using the manufacturer's Recovery media
or
2) Use Full License media with the appropriate Key (usually a Volume License Key)

Using Retail Media with the Dell OEM_SLP Key as you appear to have done, will never activate.
Correction, it's not "Retail" media. It's OEM media, a big difference.

The problem is that Windows 7 only media, regardless of being Retail or OEM, does not have the functionality to grab the UEFI embedded product key. And that product key, even if you grab it yourself, will not function with a Windows 7 only media, even if it's the exact same type/license. That's the crux of it. I blame Microsoft for the Windows 8 crap of embedded keys that are not backwards compatible, even if the license is backwards compatible with Windows 7.

But you didn't comment on what I asked in the OP. Would you recommend a WAIK-like thin-client imaging solution or a "fat-client" direct cloning like Acronis or GParted?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

08 Sep 2015   #4
NoelDP

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

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

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by ciphernemo View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by NoelDP View Post
For Windows7 downgrades to be successful you MUST either
1) install using the manufacturer's Recovery media
or
2) Use Full License media with the appropriate Key (usually a Volume License Key)

Using Retail Media with the Dell OEM_SLP Key as you appear to have done, will never activate.
Correction, it's not "Retail" media. It's OEM media, a big difference.
Not true - OEM System Builder disks and Retail disks are bit-identical. The ONLY difference is the Product Key

Using the OEM_SLP Key with either OEM System Builder or Retail media is guaranteed to fail in terms of activation, even if it works for the install.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2015   #5
ciphernemo

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit RTM
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by NoelDP View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by ciphernemo View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by NoelDP View Post
For Windows7 downgrades to be successful you MUST either
1) install using the manufacturer's Recovery media
or
2) Use Full License media with the appropriate Key (usually a Volume License Key)

Using Retail Media with the Dell OEM_SLP Key as you appear to have done, will never activate.
Correction, it's not "Retail" media. It's OEM media, a big difference.
Not true - OEM System Builder disks and Retail disks are bit-identical. The ONLY difference is the Product Key

Using the OEM_SLP Key with either OEM System Builder or Retail media is guaranteed to fail in terms of activation, even if it works for the install.
Incorrect. The license is also very different. While the retail copy allows usually 10 installs on different hardware before manual activation is required, the OEM disc is much more sensitive to hardware variations. This is because the license is different, so the product key used to activate dictates the license. The product key of every product should be unique, generated from the same algorithm, so of course the key would be different. But the license is what matters, ie: what sort of key goes to what license.

Also, if you want to get technical, the discs are indeed different. OEM is locked to either 32 or 64-bit installs, while the retail of specific versions (eg: Ultimate) have both 32-bit and 64-bit installers included.

So before you try to lecture me on the differences instead of being helpful in this thread and contributing to my questions (which you still avoided doing), you might want to learn more about the topic in which you're criticizing me.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2015   #6
NoelDP

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

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

I'm afraid most of what you are saying is rubbish.

Quote:
Incorrect. The license is also very different. While the retail copy allows usually 10 installs on different hardware before manual activation is required, the OEM disc is much more sensitive to hardware variations. This is because the license is different, so the product key used to activate dictates the license. The product key of every product should be unique, generated from the same algorithm, so of course the key would be different. But the license is what matters, ie: what sort of key goes to what license.
All Keys will allow a certain number of installs before demanding more than Internet activation. That number is NOT fixed, but depends on factors such as the frequency of activation and the number of machines apparently in use by the Key.
OEM Keys will require a telephone call at least if the hardware is significantly changed
Retail Keys will allow a lot more variation in hardware than OEM Keys before requiring re-activation - but changing the MAC address of the installed NIC will cause a demand for re-activation every time, since MS reckons that it's nearly certain that a motherboard change is involved.

The SLTs are irrelevant to the install itself - and OEM System Builder disks will work very happily with either Retail or OEM_COA Keys and well as their own.
Full or Upgrade Retail Disks will also work happily with either OEM System Builder or OEM COA Keys.
I've done all the combinations and never had a failure.

The Algorithm for CREATING the Key does indeed require prior knowledge of whether the need is for OEM/Retail/Volume/Upgrade

The Algorithm for TESTING/INSTALLING the Key produces a result which DEFINES the install as either OEM System Builder, OEM_SLP, OEM_COA, Retail, Volume MAK or Volume KMS. It's not until a Key is entered that the system knows.
Try it with an OEM System Builder disk - If you don't enter the Key on request, the install completes - and produces an install with a RETAIL Key - which can then be changed to any kind of Key that is valid for that OS/Edition (This is NOT like XP, where OEM and Retail would not cross-activate. MS finally produced a tool that could even make that happen, for Pro, at least, to enable people to make their systems genuine.)

The only Key that will not work as a straight swap-in is an Upgrade Key (either retail upgrade or Anytime Upgrade) - because it MUST be entered during the upgrade process to enable checking again the installed Key.

Quote:
Also, if you want to get technical, the discs are indeed different. OEM is locked to either 32 or 64-bit installs, while the retail of specific versions (eg: Ultimate) have both 32-bit and 64-bit installers included.
ALL MS install Disks are locked to either 32-bit or 64-bit - but the Keys are not. I've 'upgraded' (via reformat) OEM 32-bit installs to 64-bit installs using 64-bit Retail disks and the original OEM COA Key.


As for the OEM_SLP Key - it requires two things for it to be able to activate
1) a motherboard with a valid Windows 7 SLIC table for the Key - the 'certificate'
2) the proper licenses in the OS which are ONLY present in the manufacturer's Recovery media, and not in either Retail or System Builder disks.
Without those present the system immediately goes into grace mode at the next boot, and once out of grace period shows as non-genuine.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2015   #7
Layback Bear

Windows 7 Pro. 64/SP-1
 
 

Just some friendly advice.

Now would be a good time to heed to Noel's advice and wisdom on this subject.
He is a expert that deals with things like this 7 days a week and has for many years.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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 UEFI product key & OEM Windows 7 Pro SP-1




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