The OEM license model has changed since Windows 8. If you buy a Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 pre-installed computer, you will no longer see a sticker on the back or top of the machine with 5×5 product key printed on it. There is only an official Windows 8.1 / 10 logo sticker instead. That’s all.
The main intention for this change by Microsoft is to limit the number of keys being compromised. But to most of the end users, it’s merely a good news not needing to worry about the sticker fading or getting scratched. The downside is that they will have a little chance of seeing or saving a copy of it for future use, or as the physical approval for having a proper licensed Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 computer.
The key is now embedded in BIOS and can be retrieved automatically during the activation process in Windows 8 / 10. Theoretically, you will never be asked for a key to activate your machine. But to have the process run smoothly, you will need the right Windows 8/10 installation media that matches the one stored in BIOS. Or, you will be prompted to type in the right product key.
So is there a way of knowing what my Windows 8 or Windows 10 product key is?
If you have Windows 8 or 10 installed and activated
NirSoft’s ProduKey is your friend. It’s a free portable tool that reveals the keys not only to your installed Windows operating system but also other installed software as well, such as MS Office.
But if not
For example, how can I retrieve the key from a downgraded machine that runs Windows 7?
That’s where RWEverything (Read, Write Everything) comes to the rescue. Let me quickly show you how:
First of all, download the proper version from its Download page. There is also a portable version available that lets you run and forget it.
Extract the program from the zipped file, and double-click the RW.exe executable file to launch the program.
Then, click ACPI icon from the top toolbar, and MSDM table in ACPI table. And you will find your BIOS embedded key right in the Data row.
I’ve tested it on several Windows 8 pre-installed machine and have confirmed that the information retrieved within the tool is accurate.
/Update on June 28, 2018/
Apparently, the ProductKey tool from NirSoft has a new version, v1.93, that pulls the product key from BIOS as well. Run the tool and look for the line called Windows (BIOS OEM Key).
/Update on Feb. 2, 2015/
NirSoft released a new tool called FirmwareTableView that can also retrieve embedded Windows 8 product key from BIOS. Check it out.