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My new laptop came preinstalled with Windows 8. Naively, as I am, I just formatted the harddrive and installed fine old Ubuntu. Now I want to install Windows 8 for dual boot again, but I have no DVD and do download the ISO one needs a product key. That key is not on the back of the laptop anymore but somewhere on the mainboard.

Is there any way to recover the product key from the mainboard using Ubuntu?

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Usually, OEM manufacturers have preloaded a key electronically on a ROM. Windows will identify this and automatically activate your installation. You may see some trace of this using

sudo dmidecode

listed as OEM-specific Types, encoded/encrypted, which may hold it. Major OEMs like HP and Dell use this. Ask on Windows websites for more details; this is the wrong place. The only detail I remember is that one needs an OEM version of the Windows installation disc (i.e. non-retail).

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Another way that doesn't require looking through a ton of output is:

sudo acpidump -b -t MSDM | dd bs=1 skip=56 2>/dev/null;echo

acpidump dumps the table (default in hexdump format), but the -b options tells it to output the raw data. Since we only need the last part of the table, pipe the output into dd, but but skip the unnecessary junk. Finally, add an echo at the end to make it terminal-friendly =D

acpidump -t MSDM will work as well, but the key is broken over multiple lines, making it hard to copy.

A legitimate Windows 8 installer should automatically detect the key in the ACPI and continue installing with a key.

It should be noted, however, that I used this method to try to install Win8 in a VM using my own product key, but it automatically deactivated saying that the product key was in use. So, it's of little use in all reality. Since Win8 OEM keys are designed to be tied to that specific computer, you'll hit a brick wall if you ask Microsoft to unregister the key so you can use it in a VM, let alone another computer.

The only way you could use the key is if you had never booted into Win8 to begin with or weren't connected to a network when you did. Even so, if your VM/new computer is ever allowed to connect to the network, it will automatically register the key making your actual installation unusable.

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Was just trying this out, and the command above cut off one of the characters. I used sudo acpidump -b -t MSDM | dd bs=1 skip=56 2>/dev/null;echo and I got the full key out. –  Andrew C Aug 29 '13 at 5:49
You are correct, sorry about that. Updating my answer. –  Githlar Sep 5 '13 at 22:31
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