Product Key Verification

Posted on 2005-05-03
Last Modified: 2010-05-18
My computer seems to get trashed a lot by viruses, adware, etc.,
and so I wind up reloading the operating system frequently. Its
a pretty vanilla system, so I just find it easier than fighting
to restore it all the time.

Anyway, since I do this a lot, I thought I'd burn a slipstreamed
CD with the latest service pack to streamline the process. While
I was at it, I thought I'd also tweak it to whatever extent I
could to make my life easier.

One of the things I read about <somewhere ?> on the internet, was
that you could modify a file on the CD so that it wouldn't always
ask for the Product Key.  I thought, Why not? That’s always tedious,
so I followed the instructions.  It told me to change the letters
"OEM" to a certain number, and I supposed it somehow knew the rest
of the code <magically ?> ...

Now that I think about it, how could it know?  I had supposed that
maybe it knew all along, (that it was somehow burned-in) and it
only made you type it to verify that you knew it too...  But that
would mean that media was not interchangeable, and I always thought
it was (?!)

To get to the point, I made the CD, and it worked like a champ.
It didn't ask for my key, and it did install just fine.  But now
I'm concerned that perhaps it didn't use the right key.

 (1) How can I verify whether it did use my correct key?
 (2) If its not possible, (as I suspect) then who's key did
      it use?  The system IS working!
 (3) How can I fix this so it works the way I intended, WITH

Question by:ToughCustomer
    LVL 20

    Assisted Solution

    Microsoft release some code that lets you change your product key. Of course, people have taken it and made programs out of it.
    Magical Jellybean Keyfinder will show you your key and will also let you change it to your legal key. I suggest you do that so you can activate it and be eligible for updates

    Hope this helps!

    Author Comment

    Thanks, but this isn't really about fixing the load, I could always just reinstall the old fashioned way like I've done countless times before ....

    It's about know-how, and mostly about getting my new CD to work correctly.

    Using Magic Jellybean, I was able to verify that the product Key IS wrong, so
       (2) Whose key did it use? <that's the "knowledge" part>
       (3) How do I fix the CD?  <the real question>
    LVL 13

    Accepted Solution

    Here is a link to how to make an Unattended answer file.

    This can be setup so it wont ask for any info unless you want it to.  You can assing it additional commands to install service packs, etc.
    LVL 13

    Expert Comment

    Might I sugesst a program like Symantec's Norton Ghost.

    You install the computer, Install Service Packs and programs.  Then you create an image of your hard drive.  When it gets full of junk all you have to do is push the image back to the workstation.  takes about 20 min (depending on ur network) with no user interaction and everyting is installed exactly how you want it.
    LVL 13

    Expert Comment

    After re-reading your post.  If that is your only computer, Norton Ghost wont do you much good.

    Author Comment

    Thanks 2hype,

    No, Ghost isn't what I was looking for, but unattended installation
    looks like a winner.  I didn't know this was possible....

    I read the link you gave me, and it says to put the answers on
    a floppy.  How does it know to look there?   Also, I guess this is
    the most flexible way, but since this is just for me, is there some
    way I can burn a CD with this feature turned on so all I have to
    do is boot it?  That would be cool!
    LVL 13

    Expert Comment

    Just copy the Unattended answer file to the CD.  Boot the computer with a Windows 98 Boot disk (or a boot disk) and run the below at the command line.

    To run Setup in unattended mode from MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, or Windows for Workgroups

    At the command prompt, type:
    winnt /u:<answer file> /s:<install source> /t:<target drive>

    The following is an example of how Winnt.exe can be used:

    <path to source>\i386\Winnt.exe /s:<path to source>\i386 /u:<path to answer file>\Unattend.txt


    <path to source> and <path to answer file> are fully qualified UNC or drive-letter references to the locations of the Windows 2000 Professional source files and of the answer file.

    Here is the Link.  to the above.

    Author Comment


    So I ran the procedure, but it never asked me for my Product Key,
    and (accordingly) its not in the answer file.

    So do I still have to do that part manually?  How can it run "unattended"
    if its going to stop in the middle for that question? I'm confused ....
    Is there a way to manually add the key to unattend.txt ?

    LVL 13

    Assisted Solution


    Towards the bottom tells you how to edit the answer file and enter the Product Key and Your Name, etc.  That way you are not prompted

    Author Comment


    Okay, Well I read around and found that the answer file needed to be
    named winnt.sif in order for it to work booting straight from the cdrom.

    But it didn't work.  That is, it didn't work when I put the file on the cdrom
    itself, which is what I thought the article said I could do.  When I put the
    file on a floppy (still called winnt.sif) it worked, but each time it rebooted
    it hung-up on trying to boot the floppy.

    I suppose I could reprogram the BIOS each time I need to do this, or I
    could babysit the process, but I'd really prefer getting it to work straight
    from the cdrom.

    Any idea why it didn't work?

    ---- BTW, We've drifted quite far from the original topic ... I never did find
          out where the mysterious ID came from, but I guess it doesn't really
          matter anymore ... I'm way ahead of where I started.  Anyway, since
          the scope of this has grown, I'm bumping the points accordingly.
    LVL 20

    Expert Comment

    There is no better guide on the net that I've ever seen on how to completely automate an install and include endless additions...

    You could just skip to the part where you put the CD key in if you'd like...but I'd be willing to bet you'll tweak a bit more of the install than just the key...

    Author Comment

    Actually, I'm past the point where I needed to get the key accepted.... The last load went perfectly, except that I'm stuck with the floppy.

    Yes, the link above is a good guide ... In fact, I found that guide already from google .... that's the first place I saw that the file needed to be named winnt.sif .... but I still can't find how to make it work when the sif file is on the CD ... I searched a lot of sites last night ... can't remember anymore which site said it could be done.

    Author Comment

    I think I found it ... Apparently winnt.sif needs to be in the /I386 directory.
    (I had it in the root directory of the CD)

    I still have to try it out ...

    Author Comment

    Sorry for the delay, but I wasn't able to try this for a couple days ....

    I finally got to it today ... I burned a new CD with winnt.sif in the
    <CD>:\I386 directory, and it loaded perfectly.  I then double-checked
    my Product ID using Magic Jellybean Keyfinder, and it was just as it
    should be .... Job done!

    Thanks for the help.

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