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Does a Windows 8.1 backup retain the product key?

Posted on 2014-09-12
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Last Modified: 2014-09-22
My client bought a Windows 8.1 (home) PC and is asking me to wipe it and install Windows 7 Pro on it (he has the product key for 7 Pro).  

So that they have the option to reinstall Windows 8 at a later date, I wanted to back up the system before installing Win 7 Pro.  I ran:   recimg /createimage C:\Custom_Image_Refresh    and copied the 13GB result to a 32 GB memory stick.

Can I use this image on the same or another PC in the future to accomplish a full install of Windows 8?  (This Windows 8 PC is brand new, no user info at all).  This is a retail Acer desktop from a Best Buy or Futureshop store, no product key on the side.

Thanks.
Dave
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Question by:DaveWWW
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10 Comments
 
LVL 35

Accepted Solution

by:
Kimputer earned 300 total points
ID: 40319635
I'm not familiar with recimg, but if it is indeed a full image, you have nothing to worry about. This image will work on ANY SAME HARDWARE (i.e. EXACT SAME Acer model/type/number), and will activate without any problems. That's because the important part, the key to identy to Windows, is embedded in the BIOS (that's why the sticker has no key).
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LVL 20

Assisted Solution

by:marsilies
marsilies earned 100 total points
ID: 40319644
You can use the image on the same PC and you will have an activated Windows 8 install. However, you can't use the image on a different PC; even if it loads up, there'd be an activation issue since the activation info in the image doesn't match the PC anymore.

With PC that come with Windows 8, the activation info for that specific PC is stored in the BIOS, so you can use standard Windows 8 install media and it should scan the BIOS and activate itself without needing a key.

Major OEMs also include their own recovery options. Acer provides an Acer Recovery Management application for creating a bootable USB drive with the factory restore image on it:
http://acer.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/29934/
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by:jcimarron
jcimarron earned 50 total points
ID: 40319657
DaveWWW--
Having a Product Key is very important if future problems arise. Or the client wants to revert to Win 8.
I do not know if Belarc ( http://www.belarc.com/ ) works on Win 8, but if it does a scan with it will give you the existing Win 8 Product Key.
Then just write it down somewhere and keep in a safe place.
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LVL 35

Assisted Solution

by:Kimputer
Kimputer earned 300 total points
ID: 40319668
Actually, for Acer/Dell/HP etc etc, there are no activation issues if the PC is from the exact same series. Even if you put the image back on a different PC (but exactly same model), it will reactivate immediately! There's no need for any install media.
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Expert Comment

by:jcimarron
ID: 40319676
DaveWWW-
This Belarc home page says it does work on Win8
http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html
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LVL 54

Assisted Solution

by:McKnife
McKnife earned 50 total points
ID: 40319704
Your command recimg creates an image to be used with the refresh function. I am not sure if it can be used when a computer is newly setup and if it can be read from any media. I would prefer
wbadmin start backup /allcritical

-allCritical   Creates a backup that includes all critical volumes (critical
                volumes contain the operating system files and components) in
                addition to any other items that you specified with the
                -include parameter. This parameter is useful if you are
                creating a backup for bare metal recovery or system state
                recovery. Should be used only when the -backupTarget
                parameter is used.
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 40319982
The product key is stored in the BIOS (provided you bought the PC with Windows 8 preinstalled from the factory).

Windows 8.x includes a utility in the control panel, "Recovery". With it you create a recovery USB stick or Disk along with the contents of the recovery partition. Make sure you have used that to create a stick (and lock it away when done). Also don't take a stick that is too large, it only needs a little more than the size of the recovery partition. Any larger is a waste of space (and money).

With that stick you can restore the system to it's factory delivered state.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 40320578
before wiping the disk - best diasable secure boot, and set the Bios to boot from cd /usb...
here's how :  http://itsfoss.com/disable-uefi-secure-boot-in-windows-8/
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LVL 3

Expert Comment

by:Stef95
ID: 40322804
If you do it via the settings in windows 8.1 (recovery) and do it in that way it retains the product key, I think if you was to get the installation media and completely reset it in that way it most likely will ask you for the product key.
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LVL 54

Expert Comment

by:McKnife
ID: 40336497
Did you already try it? Or did you just select the solutions that "sounded best"? :)
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