Invalid Product Key


      I recently purchased Windows 98. I received the CD with the OS manual. I was able to install the OS, but when the system asked for the product key, I eneterd it as mentioned on the book. I got an error message as an Invalid product key. I checked back with the online vendor and the person said that it was a valid CD that they had sent to me. Is there any suggestion as to what I am supposed to do. My question is to first find out if this a problem with the CD or is there some kind of a fix for this error.

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I doubt that this is a problem with the CD (but see my note at the end **).  Windows 98 came as a number of different types, eg. Full Retail, Upgrade, OEM supplied with a new PC and containing elements relating to the manufacturer, etc.  Probably also as a "recovery CD" with some Compaq, Dell, and other vendors.  There is also the consideration that all of these would also be available as Windows 98 SE (second edition).

As far as licensing is concerned, anyone who holds a REAL and valid license for that operating system can install it legally on a single computer.  It is the license, and not the CD that has this restriction.  For instance, you can legally make a copy of the CD as a backup in case your original gets damaged.  If, for some reason, you ended up with a damaged CD, but still had the license, it would still be legal for you to use another CD of the same product version and install that instead.

You don't OWN the software, you are only allowed to USE it.  An OEM version of an operating system can only be legally sold on to another person along with the computer that it came with.  The license and any accompanying floppy disks should also be passed to the new owner.  Resellers often cling to a legal detail whereby they will only sell a Windows CD along with a piece of computer hardware.  I suppose, technically speaking, this was intended to be the hard drive, but many bypass this and sell you a "mouse (plus a Windows 98 CD)".

Anyhow, from what you have said, it looks like you have probably been sold either an illegal COPY of the CD, or a genuine CD with a bogus KEY.

It is a known fact that these license KEYS are like the locks in the doors of new housing developments.  If you take one key and sneak around trying it in the doors of other peoples' new homes, you will probably find that the same key will fit more than one house door.  It would have been virtually impossible for Microsoft to use a unique CD Key for every single CD sold, so you will find that there are hundreds of Win98 or Win98SE CD Keys floating around on the Internet that will work successfully with many CD's from different sources.  This obviously hurt Microsoft so much that they imposed "product registration" with Windows XP to prevent this.

Depending where you stay, you should have some sort of "Trading Standards" departments as part of the Local Government departments, or perhaps operational through an independent investigatory body.  They exist to bring rogue traders to justice where possible.

If this was bought through an online auction like eBay, then this can also be investigated by them.

The only way that you would probably get your money back would be if you had paid by Credit card, and the Credit Card company reimburses you due to a fraudulent sale.

** As I said, I doubt that this is a problem with the CD, but there is always a slight chance that it is to do with either a damaged CD OR perhaps an existing operating system.

Are you installing this on top of an existing operating system or onto a formatted hard drive?

Remember that an 8 can look like a B when you are reading the license on the manual or CD case.  I have been caught out like this before.

The vendor stated that this IS a valid key, but there is always a possibility that they have given you the wrong manual and someone else has yours along with another CD which doesn't work for them either.

Ask them if this is a possibility.  In my opinion it is a very strong possibility, given that they probably sell a lot of these.

Does the license certificate definitely have the hologram on it?
Here's an example:

How would you know whether the manual with the license on the front actually relates to THAT CD?

You would clearly have some comeback, and protection through ebay, with the wording of this item:

"This is a genuine Windows 98 Second Edition CD (MINT CONDITION).  A genuine product with certificate of authenticity and product key".

I suggest that you get something in writing from the vendor, because a telephone conversation might not be evidence unless you have an original advert that states something like the above.

On ebay, you have some protection through PayPal:

but payment for a fraudulently advertised product MIGHT be able to be recouped even if you paid by other means.

This, of course, assumes you bought it at an online auction.

If bought online, then there are other means of consumer protection depending on where you live, eg:

Credit Card example:

The list goes on.

Does any of this apply to your purchase?

Thank you, radavappa.
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