Installing Win XP OEM when you've lost your Product Key
by sirwriter - 11/1/05 9:50 AM
It was a version of Windows XP Home that had been laying around for months with no home. I just finished a small footprint micro ATX with everything I needed for a media center and grabbed the disk. I popped it in the DVD drawer and told the install to reformat my old hard drive, after all, it was time for a fresh start. (MIstake #1 - that old hard drive had this particular version of XP installed on it).
I got through everything to the part where the screen popped up for the 25 digit product key. I opened the CD holder where I thought I'd put it last. Nothing. I looked on the inside door of the last case this hard drive had been in. Nope. I picked up the phone and called Microsoft, and after a moderate wait, told the technician what my problem was. Could he simply give me a code that would work?
He asked me to read off some numbers on the surface of the disk. After a moment he came back on. "Sir, is that OEM software or retail?" I'd bought it OEM with a bunch of parts to build a computer over a year ago.
"Sorry sir, there's nothing I can do for you. We do not provide product support for OEM products. You might try the dealer you bought the software from."
I said wait, doesn't Microsoft SELL this OEM software to those dealers?
"Well yes, but there is no service provided to the dealer or the customer. We'd be happy to sell you a fresh copy of retail software." But I already paid for the software, I just needed the product code I'd lost.
I called the dealer, but it had been well past the length of time they provided service for the products they sold. But they would sell me a key that would work for the price of another package of OEM software.
In frustration I signed on to Ebay and looked for product keys for MS software. There are a host of small programs that will read the product key off the software you have installed. So, if I'd done that before I reformatted, I'd have the software installed and on to better things. Googling produced the same thing. Lots of programs will read the key off an installed program, but none can read it from a disk.
Why should I be penalized for buying OEM software when building my own computers? Why does Microsoft sell it and turn their backs to consumers with problems? Why even sell it at all?
That night as I lay in bed, tossing and turning, in my mind's eye I saw a mental snap shot of a big cardboard box of empty software and component boxes inside it, packed away in the attic. Immediately I jumped up, ran upstairs, and tore through the boxes. There, near the bottom, was the empty XP box, with the product key taped to the outside of the box.
I could not wait til morning; I installed it that night. I wrote that number down and put it in 3 different places. I have 4 different versions of Windows XP. And 4 product keys, each tucked away in a safe place.
But the incident with Microsoft and the dealer still irritates me. What are your thoughts, fellow MS software owners?