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Have you ever tried to do a fresh install of windows and you got stuck at the product key? You know the product key is a good one because it came right off the back of the computer. Don’t give up, you can get it to work, but it may cost you. In my adventures as a computer repair company I learn these things as you go.

There are really two versions of a windows reinstall. The first version is the retail installation you can buy. These are the upgrades and full versions you see at BestBuy and Staples. These are available for customers who want to upgrade their Win 98 to XP or XP to Vista themselves. The second kind of install is the factory manufacturer’s install.

You can’t take a brand name laptop or Desktop like Dell, Gateway or HP and reinstall windows with a retail version. The manufacturer has a special setting on the computer to recognize a retail copy and will deny product activation even if the product key is valid.

How do you install windows when product key doesn’t work?

You can’t, simple as that, or you shouldn’t let’s say. What you need is a OEM copy of windows. Now if you have a valid copy of windows with the product key on the back of the computer you really only need a OEM copy for the install. If you go out and buy a new OEM CD you won’t necessarily need the product key. Stay with me here. Here is what I recommend before buying a OEM CD.

  • Do you have the manufacturers install disks? if so use these.
  • Did you search the for a pre-installed installation? (most likely scenerio)
  • Will the manufacturer send you restore CD’s, most will with a phone call or visit to their support page.
  • If all of the above options are exhausted and your retail version is not taking the product key then OEM is the answer

You’ll need to buy an OEM version of Windows. This will be the only way if the above choices are not working. Keep in mind that the OEM version will not have all the driver specific functionality that the laptop came with originally. Your best bet is to visit the manufacturers web site for driver downloads. Once you purchased the OEM CD, keep the product key that came with it for use at another time. You can use the product key that is on the back of the computer during your new install. Now chances are, depending on your situation you’ll have an extra product key.

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