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how to find product key for installed software

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If you're preparing to reinstall a program or an operating system (like a clean install of Windows), you will need to find your unique product key (CD key) or serial number.
Normally this product key is located with the original CD or DVD. If you've lost your product key you can often find it in the Windows Registry but this can be very difficult to do. Luckily, there are many free key finder programs available to help.
Below are the top 13 free key finder programs. I keep an updated list of commercial key finder programs too.

1. Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder

Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder v2.0.8
The Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder program is a free utility that retrieves product keys from the registry. It also has the ability to find product keys for Microsoft Office programs, along with product keys from many other non-Microsoft programs.
Advantages include very small size, ease of use, instant display of product keys and multiple product key saving options.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows 98, and Windows 95.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, Office XP, and several non-Microsoft programs.
The Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder website says that this free key finder will not find your Windows 7 product key but in fact it does (as of v2.0.8). However, the Windows 8 product key found with the free version of MJBK is not correct.
2. Winkeyfinder
Winkeyfinder v1.73 RC2
The Winkeyfinder program is another free utility that retrieves product keys from the Windows registry.
Advantages include small program size, no installation required, and additional features such as a password generator, the ability to change registered user information, and activation backup capabilities.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, and Windows 98.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, Office XP and Office 2000 SP2, and Office 97.

3. Keyfinder Thing

Keyfinder Thing 3.1.6
Keyfinder Thing is another free, easy to use utility that finds product keys and serial numbers hidden in the Windows registry.
Advantages include small program size, nothing to run, and support for a large list of non-Microsoft programs.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows 2003 Server, Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows ME. Keyfinder Thing does not work with Windows 7 or Windows NT.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, Office XP, Microsoft Money, Nero, Corel Suite, The Sims, and many more programs.

4. LicenseCrawler

LicenseCrawler 1.3
LicenseCrawler is another well put together free key finder tool.
LicenseCrawler differs from other key finder programs in its almost full-text interface, which I like. I found LicenseCrawler to be very effective at finding serial numbers for the many programs on my PC.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, and Windows XP.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, most Adobe products, and many more.

5. ProduKey

ProduKey 1.35
ProduKey is another completely free and easy to use key finder tool.
The thing I liked best about ProduKey is how easy it is to do advanced key finder tasks like loading product keys from remote registries.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows 2000.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003, Exchange Server, and SQL Server.

6. Product Key Finder

Product Key Finder v2.0.9
The not-so-originally-named Product Key Finder tool is actually a pretty good key finder program.
After executing Product Key Finder, a simple window opens displaying your Windows product key along with other product keys and serial numbers that Product Key Finder can locate.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 & 2003, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows 98, and Windows NT.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Most Microsoft and Adobe applications, more than 200 in all according to the Product Key Finder website.

7. KeyFinder Pro 2007

KeyFinder Pro 2007
Gear Box's KeyFinder Pro 2007 is another fantastic utility that can find your Windows product keys. It can also find product keys for several Microsoft Office programs.
Advantages include a very small download size, no installation required, no compressed files to extract, and nothing to run. KeyFinder Pro 2007 instantly displays product keys and allows you to save or print them for safe keeping.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, and Office XP.

8. WinGuggle

WinGuggle 1.6
WinGuggle is a very simple key finder program. WinGuggle easily finds product keys for popular Microsoft Windows operating systems and several Microsoft Office programs.
Major advantages include a quick download size, no installation required, access to a few advanced tools, and a very simple interface. WinGuggle instantly displays your Windows and Office product keys.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2010, Office 2007, Office 2003, and Office XP.
9. RockXP
RockXP v4.0
RockXP is another free program that retrieves lost product keys from the registry.
Advantages include small program size, no installation required, and additional features such as a password generator and password retriever.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows XP (officially) and also Windows Vista, Server 2003, 2000, ME, and 98.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2007 and Office 2003.

10. Product Key Finder (OTT Solutions)

Product Key Finder 1.0
Product Key Finder won't win any creative name contests but that's not important - it's a very good key finder program.
I like Product Key Finder because it's designed very well, instantly finds product keys, allows an easy XML or CSV backup of keys found, and also lets you change your Windows registration or product key right from the tool.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 & 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Most Microsoft Office and other Microsoft programs, and many non-Microsoft applications.
MSKeyViewer Plus 2.1.0
MSKeyViewer Plus is another good product key finder program.
Major advantages include a really small size, no install needed, and super easy interface. MSKeyViewer Plus instantly displays product keys - no scanning of your registry required.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows 95/98, and Windows Server 2008 & 2003. 64-bit versions are also supported.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Most Microsoft Office versions including Office 2007, plus a long list of other Microsoft and non-Microsoft programs.
I'd probably pick several other key finders before MSKeyViewer Plus, but if you're having trouble finding a specific key, give MSKeyViewer a try.

12. geProductKeys Finder

geProductKeys Finder
geProductKeys Finder might be the most simple key finder program I've ever seen. If all you're after is a quick product key display in Windows XP, geProductKeys does the job.
Advantages include a super small download, no installation needed, and as I mentioned above, a very simple interface.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows XP (officially) and possibly some older ones. geProductKeys does not work with Windows 7 or Windows Vista.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Some Microsoft Office programs and a few third party programs as well.
Note: You may have to disable Data Execution Prevention to use this program in Windows XP SP2 and later.

13. Product Key Informer

Product Key Informer 1.0.0
Product Key Informer is another free product key finder program but it only finds product keys for a few Microsoft programs other than the operating system.
Finds Keys for Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows ME, and Windows 98.
Finds Keys for Other Software: Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, and Office XP.
I didn't care much for Product Key Informer. I think it was the baked-in fields for specific product keys that bothered me. It's a waste of screen real estate and confirms that the program's product key finding abilities are very limited.

Important Product Key Finder Information (Windows Product Keys)

If your system was purchased with Microsoft Windows pre-installed and you have not reinstalled it or upgraded it yourself, a key finder may only find the generic product key that your PC manufacturer used to install Windows.
This product key may not work when attempting to reinstall Windows. In this case, you must use the unique product key that is on the sticker attached to your computer case.
If you can't locate your product key sticker you'll need to request a new Windows product key.

Important: Please read my Key Finder Programs FAQ for more information.