A month ago we reformatted our computer through the recovery partition. We backed up everything and thought we had everything covered. So we proceeded to set the computer back to factory state. Everything went well: the computer started up with no error messages or anything like that. Great! That was until we moved to reinstall the programs that didn’t come with the computer (like Microsoft Office and all our design and editing programs) and realised— “Argh, the product keys!” We threw those away when we threw away the boxes that contained them a while back.

Fortunately, our programs were installed on another computer and there were programs that help us recover a few of the lost/misplaced program/serial keys. Programs like Product Key Finder and Magic Jelly Bean Keyfinder are free and help retrieve Microsoft Windows and Office product keys. To retrieve keys to other programs like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, or Dreamweaver, you will need to purchase a product key finder program. If you think you can download a trial version or a demo of such program and retrieve the key, you won’t have any luck as these trial versions/demos only show a partial key. Some sites have also suggested going through the registry and finding keys there, but we’ve had little luck with this method.

A very important note we must draw attention to: you must have the programs installed on the computer for these keys to be retrieved by the key-finding programs. So if you’ve uninstalled the programs from the computer and haven’t got them installed anywhere else because you decided not to install it on your second computer or simply don’t have a second computer, you won’t be able to retrieve the keys with the key-finding programs. Your only option then is to repurchase the programs.

Fortunately for us, we had Microsoft Office on another computer and were able to retrieve the keys through the freeware mentioned above; and for the design/editing programs, we ended up finding the boxes and CD envelops they came in. We were able to retrieve the keys without having to purchase the key-finding programs or repurchase any of the software. That lapse in thinking could have cost us thousands of dollars. Lucky!

So, learn from us. It is important that before you think about throwing those boxes or CD envelopes into the recycle bin, make sure you note these keys down somewhere for safekeeping. Even if you’re thinking of keeping the boxes and those CD envelopes, note them down so that just in case you forget that you shouldn’t throw them away, you still have a copy.

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