Recovering Office Product Key from OEM installations

Why can’t you get the right key from a pre-installed copy of Office?

Buying a pre-installed copy of Microsoft Office has some pitfalls and one of them is trouble recovering the Product Key.

If you’ve lost your copy of the Office Product Key (essential for installing Office) then usually you can get the Key from the Windows Registry using a special tool like ProduKey from Nirsoft see our article “If you’ve lost your Office install disks”.

But that might not work for OEM copies of Office, that’s one which is preinstalled on a new computer. This doesn’t apply to Trial or Starter editions of Office.

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Computer makers (aka OEM’s) use a disk image to setup a new computer. It uses a special Product Key which is NOT the one on the Office Product Key sticker that comes with your machine.

If you retrieve that key using a tool you can’t use that key to reinstall Office because Microsoft will NOT activate software using that special key.

If you need to reinstall Office on your computer, use the Product Key on the sticker.

When you get a new computer – make a careful, separate note of any software Product Keys (ie Windows and Office). Maybe take a photo of the stickers. This can be a useful backup and reduces the risk of hand copying the key incorrectly.

Keep in mind that OEM pre-installed copies of Office are limited to a single installation on the purchased computer only. Unlike retail copies of Office you can’t transfer Office to another computer or install on a laptop as well as a desktop machine.