There’s been a discussion of Microsoft keys on our state bar member’s only discussion board, the OBA-NET, led by Oklahoma City attorney John Brewer and Tulsa attorney Ken Bodenhamer. When you install Microsoft products, you must have the key, which is printed on a label on the sleeve the CD comes in or on the CD. With pre-installed software it is easy to overlook the importance of keeping that disk and key safe and handy. But you will need it should you have to reinstall the software.
My first thought is that you need a special colorful CD storage box that says Original CD’s on the outside for all of your original CD’s and sleeves. The CD that comes with each new application, printer or camera goes right into that storage box along with the Microsoft CD’s in their sleeve. In a situation with several computers, you should either have such a storage box for each computer or note the particular computer on each CD or sleeve. The vigilant would photocopy or write down each key and store that information offsite.
There are utilities that can help you if you have lost your key and need to reinstall the software. One is a freeware program named ProduKey v.1.05. "ProduKey is a small utility that displays the ProductID and the CD-Key of MS-Office, Windows, Exchange Server, and SQL Server installed on your computer. You can view this information for your current running operating system, or for another operating system/computer – by using command-line options. This utility can be useful if you lost the product key of your Windows/Office, and you want to reinstall it on your computer."
Another freeware product is Magic Jelly Bean Keyfinder. "The Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder is a freeware utility that retrieves your Product Key (cd key) used to install windows from your registry. It has the options to copy the key to clipboard, save it to a text file, or print it for safekeeping." Testing revealed that MJBK beta 1.5 would find some keys that 1.41 would not.
The interesting point from the discussion is that these two now keep these utilites on every USB thumb drive they own, in Ken’s words, "just to keep it handy before I start messing with a computer."
There’s another product, that does all of this and much more: Belarc Advisor. It generates a report of MS keys, computer serial numbers, type of circuit board, memory installed (and open slots), all installed software licenses and versions, Microsoft updates installed and security benchmark score. It is only free for personal use and there are other products from the company for commerical use.
Now hopefully you will not lose these keys!