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Windows 7: Windows Activation Error - Dell Inspiron, Win7 Home Prem. SP1 64-bit

16 Jan 2015   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Windows Activation Error - Dell Inspiron, Win7 Home Prem. SP1 64-bit

Hi all,

Pretty sure I am screwed, but if that is the case, I'll be pretty pissed....this is a bit of a story, so bear with me.

I do some light computer work on the side. I was recently given a client's Win7 desktop that was acting up - wouldn't boot. Tried everything I could to fix it, nothing would work, so I took the key off of it (it had a Win7 SP1 Home Prem install...honestly not sure if it was 32 or 64-bit, but PRETTY sure it was 64-bit as it's a machine with 8gb of RAM) and reformatted. Now I can't get it to activate. The machine is a Dell Inspiron 545 desktop, but there is no Windows sticker with a key anywhere on it (I retrieved the key using a keyfinder program).

The machine was sold used to my client by another local computer tech. He had to format it last time I had this issue because I didn't have a legit Windows key or disk to format it with and he never gave them any reinstall media (no Win7 install disk and no recovery disks from Dell, and the machine has never had a recovery partition since I've first seen it). This time, he left the Windows key on the machine in a .doc file for any future techs....however, as I said, the key isn't allowing itself to be activated.

MGADiag claims it's an OEM_SLP key (MGADiag log attached below)...if that is the case, it's supposedly the key that came with the machine from the factory, and if THAT is the case, how did he pull that one off in terms of installing it...? The machine has no recovery partition, unless he never gave the proper install disks for it that belong to the machine to the new owners and still has them...?

Thoughts? I'm a bit confused as to what is going on...any way I can get this key to activate? Is this key even for this version of Windows...?

EDIT - The MS website is saying it is a genuine Windows install...??? Also, Not sure how to activate by phone...I know it's possible as I've done it before, but the option isn't coming up for me!

My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #2
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ult. x64

Asked NoelDP to take a look at this.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #3

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Thanks Golden - I'm stumped...If the other tech DID keep the original OEM disks, that's very sketchy of him, means he's the only one who can legally install that copy of guessing that is the case, or he somehow has a copy of the original OEM disks, or he used a hack to install...I won't stoop to that level in my work. But that means I may now have a client's machine that I can't finish setting up for them and I would feel guilty charging them for my work if that were the case...
My System SpecsSystem Spec

17 Jan 2015   #4
Layback Bear

Windows 10 Pro. 64/ version 1709 Windows 7 Pro/64

Darkstrike I'm no expert nor do I ride a high horse but I would suggest before trying to repair a customers computer to check and make sure the system has a proper install Windows along with the proper COA key activated.
At that point you would know how to continue with this customers computer repair.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #5
Microsoft MVP


We have no model number, only from the previous thread that it is a newer Inspiron that supposedly came with Win7 which we can't confirm without the model number. If so then Dell would have placed a COA sticker on the PC lest they be in violation of the EULA for factory OEM. So there is something sketchy there that needs to be resolved first since the mgadiag report will only tell us that it isn't activated yet and includes no history.

If you didn't format the partition first then there may be a windows.old folder in C which can be used to restore the previous install for the purpose of either correctly repairing it to start, or audit the Product Key out of it's encrypted file from boot. This will protect you because if it proves to be counterfeit activation then you are off the hook for being able to reactivate it and it falls back on the owner to make it Genuine.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #6

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem

If I understand the issue:
The machine was sold by a shop or tech without a COA sticker or install media.
The issue occurred previously and he (the other tech, or your friend/client ???) formatted the drive
?? because I didn't have a legit Windows key or disk to format it ??
and presumably reinstalled Windows somehow with some media

There is not a Dell Recovery partition on the drive and no one bothered to create Dell Recovery media

This time, he left the Windows key on the machine in a .doc file for any future techs
This is probably the OEM key and it won't help activate Windows.

You can do a few things until you resolve the License issue:
Install Windows from the official source (you're on to that already)
The bit depth you choose depends on the hardware - less than 4 GB of RAM? Use the Windows 32 bit even if the machine architecture is 64 bit.
If it is a 64 bit machine with 4 GB or more of RAM - install the 64-bit. The license can be used for either bit depth.
Which brings you back to the licensing issue.

Use Windows on a trial basis - don't try to activate - I think it's a 90 day trial.

Beat up the first shop / tech for a valid key.

The only other thing you can do is purchase a Windows 7 license. But Win8 is out and Win10 is coming out, so you might consider upgrading if you have to spend money. When I say you, I mean you or your friend/client.

Good luck

My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #7

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Hi guys,

That's the thing Layback - it was supposedly a legitimate install when the install was working (I've done work on this particular machine before). Updates always worked normally, Windows never said it wasn't genuine, the MS website claimed that the key is genuine when I had run that test on it in the past and still claims it is genuine now, it just won't activate...

The other tech that sold it to them got it used and sold it to them used, he claims the COA sticker was missing from it when he sold it to them. But that he got the key he had used (and the one I am now using) from the machine when he first received it. This is the same key that was on it the other day when I picked it up (I got the key from a DOC file that previous tech had left on the hard drive due to the lack of a sticker). It is an OEM_SLP key according to MGADiag, so as it is an OEM key, I should theoretically be able to activate it on a Retail install of Windows (I formatted with a retail, digital river download disk of the same edition / type / service pack that it had on it) as I've read that, if it is a legitimate key as the MS validation website claims, retail installs will activate OEM keys fine? (Link here for example: Can I use Windows 7 OEM Key with a non-OEM disc? - Microsoft Community ) So, not sure why it won't activate...

It's a Dell Inspiron 545 desktop - I am at work atm, so I don't know the product number or service tag....Intel Quad Core 2.3ghz, 8gb RAM, 1tb HDD, etc. I only formatted the partition that had Windows on it to reinstall - I noticed there were no factory partitions on it as there should be. The previous tech says he completely wiped the machine before he sold it, including the factory partition. There is a Windows.old folder from when I just did the format, but none from before that. I had used a keyfinder as well to make sure the used key matched the one he had written in the DOC file he left on it.

Long story short, this (according to the previous tech) is the same key that was on the computer when he got it, and I have witnessed this same key working fine before (when I had done work on it in the past). I think my install method was sound if the key is what it is supposed to as OEM keys can be activated on retail installs...I just can't get it to activate (and the option doesn't come up for me to try and activate by phone...)

He says the last time he did a format on it, "the windows Key was extracted from the original install and then used to reinstall OEM windows 7 Home. That key worked fine for me." - as far as I can tell, that is exactly what I have done....I just didn't use an OEM disk, which shouldn't make a difference, should it...? Sorry for the rambling, just trying to wrap my head around it all...

EDIT - Hi Bill, you posted your response while I was typing mine...yeah, I know the newer versions of Windows are out / on their way, but you are saying what I was afraid of...the tech claims he has reformatted and activated Windows ON THIS KEY ON THIS MACHINE before, that is what I don't understand. You say if it is an OEM key, it can't be used to activate Windows, so how the heck did HE do it that time unless not legitimately, or by using this computer's legitimate factory partition or install disks (or copies of install disks...?)? :S Not angry at you guys, just rather confused / frustrated as I am the one dealing with the fallout, haha!

?? because I didn't have a legit Windows key or disk to format it ??
and presumably reinstalled Windows somehow with some media

^^^ - By this I meant that I didn't have legal disk copy of Win7 Home Premium (I had no illegal copies either, just said legal as I meant I had no official disks nor unused legal Win7 Home Premium license keys) at the time to do the reinstall, and didn't know that the Digital River downloads existed at that time, so yes, he presumably installed Windows somehow with some sort of media, but I have no idea what as I've installed things, as far as I can tell, a "proper" way and they aren't working.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #8

x64 (6.3.9600) Win8.1 Pro & soon dual boot x64 (6.1.7601) Win7_SP1 HomePrem


I might have missed some information.

If the key has been previously used to activate Windows then it should work this time.
Microsoft might have blacklisted it if too many attempts or uses were logged in their DB.

If you believe the key to be legit and it won't activate Windows, the only thing I can suggest is that you try to activate by phone. It's an automated process, but if there is an issue with the process then you'll be connected to a MS rep.
Explain the situation and give the rep your key (usually just the last 4 digits are enough for them to make a decision)

Dell might also be helpful, the OEM is actually responsible for the Windows license - explain the situation to them and tell them that the machine was refurbished and resold a few times. Just be honest and patient - these are legal matters and neither Dell or MS will be quick to just hand you a license. Ask Dell to transfer all information to the current owner (your friend/client). You will need to provide all of the registration information (name, address, telephone#, eMail address, Svc Tag, S/N, etc) for your friend/client and the machine.

It might expedite matters if you register the machine on-line with the current owner information. That way, the actual machine can be checked for S/N, SVC tag, current configuration, ...)
They will do some due diligence required and get back to you. I think I'd start with Dell.

Before any reminds me that you cannot boot the machine - install and run on a trial basis.

Without a COA, I'm not sure how far you'll get with either - but maybe the Dell Service tag will get you somewhere.

We're constrained by the fact that you don't have the COA. I don't know the history of the machine other than what you've told me (us). It's nearly impossible to do forensics on a machine, so I don't bother. If I can help get the machine working and it's a legit version of Windows, that's why I'm here. not to figure out how it got that way - that's your mission ... if you chose to accept it.

That's all I can think of.

Good luck,

My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #9
Layback Bear

Windows 10 Pro. 64/ version 1709 Windows 7 Pro/64

My understanding is.
If you system came as a oem/slp no keyfinder fill fined the oem key.
The seller of the computer should of made sure that Microsoft COA sticker with the proper Key for that installation was attached. If for what ever reason you don't have that Windows Key one will have to be purchased.

A OEM and a OEM/SLP keys are two different things.
As far as I know you can't buy a OEM/SLP key but you can buy a OEM (System Builders) key. Trying to find a legal Retail key is like finding hens teeth.

To me it sounds like the owner of the computer got scammed by the seller. Any key you find in the registry is probable part of the scam.

Using this tutorial is the way this forum checks to see if a system is properly activated.

By Brink:

Windows Genuine and Activation Issue Posting Instructions
My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 Jan 2015   #10

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Thanks Bill, I appreciate it. I'm calling MS tonight when I get home. SLUI 4 doesn't give me the option for phone activation there a way to manually call up that function via command line or some such when it won't automatically come up?

I'll see what the service rep tells me and let you know...the last tech I was referencing charged them $180 CDN to backup, format and reinstall it for them, which is really high IMO, They could go get a new machine, or buy a new license, but I would feel bad knowing the money they've sunk into it between he and I (mostly him as I charge $15 an hour), so I am loathe to recommend they have to buy a new license key if this all works out poorly...

I'll get back to you all tonight!

EDIT (You posted your reply as I was typing mine Layback! )

@ Layback - Yeah, I am thinking that as well....I've met the guy once or twice and heard a lot of sketchy stuff, he's got a bad temper and is really curt with everybody, customers included. I sent him a quick e-mail last night tech to tech just asking the simple question of "what installation media did you use the last time you formatted this machine?" and he lambasted me back with a really harsh e-mail asking if I knew what I was doing, implying that I was a fraud that that I should "come clean" to the clients I am trying to fix this computer for...I've done work for a LOT of people over the years and this is the first time I've ever run into this before, so I like to think I know what I am doing, even if I am not an officially certified tech! I've met some pretty crappy techs before who are certified and don't know as much as some regular users!

Thanks for the description of OEM and OEM/SLP keys.....I had known that actually, but with the zillion internet searches I have been doing, I was starting to wonder if they were one and the same (my head is spinning from all the reading of forum threads, etc!)...glad to have some clarification! I had read somewhere that OEM/SLP keys cannot be activated as I have been trying to do on a Retail install as they only come on machines shipped from factory and can only be re-activated through install media like the original Recovery Partition or original Factory Reinstall disks...not sure of the truth to that, but it would make sense considering the circumstances...
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Windows Activation Error - Dell Inspiron, Win7 Home Prem. SP1 64-bit

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