Windows 7 install fails with invalid activation key

splait
splait used Ask the Experts™
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A client of mine has a Sony laptop and the hard drive went bad.  I purchased a new drive and atempted to use his Win7 upgrade CD on it.  In the "old" days, if you had a Win OS upgrade disk, you started it up and at some point it asked for proof that you had a previous Windows OS, so you put in a disk as proof.  Not so here.

I installed the virgin drive, and the installation DVD didn't recognize it.  I formatted the drive and it still wasn't recognized.  Somehow, I got past that point and was able to run the DVD.

I got all the way through the installation and was asked to enter the activation key.  At that point, I got an error message indicating the key was not valid.  The installation disk I am using came in a standard Microsoft retail box, and the client had installed from this disk several months ago, so I know the key is valid.  In addition, the installation process never asked for proof of a previous OS.

I found a post online indicating the invalid key message is indicative of the upgrade process not finding a previously installed OS.

Is that correct?  Would our friends in Redmond actually create a process whereby we cannot install an upgrade without the previous OS being installed?  Would they allow me to go through the entire installation process before it looked for it?   Would they also create an error message that is so totally useless (say it ain't so!)?

Back to the point, how do I get Win7 installed on this disk?  Must I install XP on the disk before I can go forward?  I don't see an answer anywhere on the Web.
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Commented:
Is the disk an upgrade disk? If so you dont need to have an older OS installed you just need an older OS disk and not an upgrade disk. It will ask you and just insert it to verify you own it.

If the disk is not an upgrade disk then it sounds like you are using a Retail disc with an OEM key. In other words a disc that came from a copy that was purchased from a store and your key will say OEM and the brand of the computer on it.
If this is the case you need an OEM disc. Also Windows 7 shouldnt even ask for a key on install. They started this with Vista as part of the trial install. You should be able to install Windows 7 and then active with key after fully installed which at that point if you still have issues you can call Microsoft.

If you dont have an OEM CD just borrow one. You can use any one from any manufacturer and ALL DELLs come with the CD unlike HP and others. So just find a DELL disc and use it or download it.
retired
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Hi,

Have you tried entering no key, and that should let you install it in a trial manner, with 30 days to enter a key, and then try to add the key in?
You could always try installing the Full version as far as it will let you go, then put the upgrade disk in, boot to it, and try to install windows, when it states that there is already an OS there, tell it to repair it. That may allow you to get through the process

M@

Author

Commented:
I thank you all for your support in this effort, however, it looks like there might be an intermittent error with the hardware, possibly the drive connector inside the PC.

I will talk to my client and he will decide whether or not to have it diagnosed.  I will let you all know the results in the next few days.

For more information, please go to this thread I started after I removed the drive, formatted it (again), and put it back:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/Windows_7/Q_26307979.html#a33139629
LeeTutorretired
Top Expert 2009

Commented:
Thanks for the feedback.  Your possible hardware problem is certainly relevant, but be sure to read the article I gave a link for above on how to install an upgrade version of Win7 on a blank hard disk...

Author

Commented:
Thanks, @LeeTutor.  I am aware of several different ways to do this (found 'em while searching for the error messages I was getting).  

I will read it, and thanks for the help!
LeeTutorretired
Top Expert 2009

Commented:
splait, how is it going?

Author

Commented:
LeeTutor (and all of the others) -

The hard drive connector was bad, and I replaced it.  A few moments ago (LeeTutor, how did you know???), I was able to install Win7 on the new drive through the double install process.  The other processes didn't work.  SInce LeeTutor's link was the only one to mention the double install, he gets the points.

Nice try, usecomp, but the article you sent me to didn't discuss the double installation method, unfortunately.

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