Trying to understand Windows 7 Activation methods

I have a few 3+ year old Lenovo desktop machines that do not have any sort of OEM or otherwise Windows product key stickers.  These came from a remote office and I have tried contacting Lenovo several times to see how they were ordered and configured (software wise) but they can't tell me since they were the "CTO" model, which stands for Configured to Order.  These were built well after Windows 7 was released, and while they might have been originally ordered as CAD machines, I would think they would probably had Windows 7 installed.  For my current purposes, I want to set these desktops up as lab machines and install Windows 7 Pro on them.  My company has a standard Lenovo Windows 7 image we put on all our Lenovo machines.  When I imaged these computers, the imaging was successful, but Windows activation was not successful.  When I look behind the scenes at the scripting tool that does the Windows image (based off the Lenovo Win 7 disks), I see there is a "Windows Activation" step that runs the following command:

slmgr.vbs /ato

After the imaging on these machines is completed, I manually go to a command prompt and run this command, and Windows says it's activated successfully.  My question is, what exactly is this command and where is it getting a valid product key to activate Windows???  I know this command is the command to activate windows obviously, buy I don't understand how activation is happening successfully.  I also don't understand why it works when I run it manually, but in the imaging script, it doesn't work.  That last question is going to have to be directed at someone in my company that manages the LanDesk scripting.  The only possible answer I can think of is that since Lenovo ships their "branded" windows 7 disk, they must have some sort of volume licensing key built into their media.   Since our image is based on this, it must be getting a valid product key from their branded version of Windows 7.

Even though they are activated successfully, I still need to be compliant with Windows licensing, so I assume I'll need licenses since these don't have product stickers on them.
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jbobstAsked:
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☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
OEM acivation for Windows 7 on Lenovo machines uses Microsoft's SLP 2.1.  This is usually in conjunction with a valid CoA sticker and the sticker's absence is clearly the "fly in the ointment" here.  Lenovo used to have an online lookup using the Serail# to get the original system specifications including operating system supplied but they have discontinued making that information available publicly (although their support team should be able to access it and let you know what OS was supplied) otherwise your only paper trail evidence for OEM licencing would be the invoice when these were supplied which would include the CTO build and if an OEM OS was included.

For completeness, slmgr.vbs /ato doesn't just force activate OEM licences, it also will activate against an imaged volume licence, so you could have either.  You may get a little more detail about what the licence is by running slmgr.vbs /dli from an elevated command prompt on one of these machines.
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jbobstAuthor Commented:
I found out that the person who created the image files did use a volume license key.  I still don't understand why Windows is not activated (with the volume license key) in the imaging process, but then it works when I do it manually, but it probably has something to do the unattended answer file thing with the windows image package.

Thanks for the help.
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