Retrieving Windows Essentials 2016 activation code after a hard drive crash

Dear Experts,

I took over the maintenance of a Windows Essentials 2016 server last October 2017.  The OS was already installed on the server by a previous employee, who is no longer with the company.  In December 2017, the hard drive crashed; fortunately, I was able to recover, re-install the OS and not lose any data.  However, since the re-installation, the OS is always asking to be activated.  The ex-employee, who installed the OS, was let go before I could retrieve the activation key.  Unfortunately, when the ex-employee purchased the software, his personal email account was used and not his business account.  I contacted the company that Windows Essentials 2016 was purchased from, and obviously, they could not give out any information, which is understandable.

Question:  Is there anyway that you know of that could help me retrieve the activation key?

The OS must know that it was previously activated because since the re-installation of last December 2017, the server has been running perfectly fine.  The OS has not stopped running due to an expiry activation code; the server hums along with no issues (Thank God).  The only issue (which so far is a non-issue) is that on the desktop in the lower right hand corner it says "Activate Windows   Go to Settings to activate Windows."  I know I have dragged my feet in the getting the activation code entered; but, I don't know how to retrieve it.  I want to get the OS activated before it comes back and bites me.

Thanks,
sla0610
sla0610Asked:
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Unfortunately, when the ex-employee purchased the software, his personal email account was used and not his business account.  I contacted the company that Windows Essentials 2016 was purchased from, and obviously, they could not give out any information, which is understandable

If this is a volume license, then it should be under the company name, even if a personal email was used.  Have you contacted Microsoft?

Also, Since 2016 is based on the Windows 10 code base, have you tried just activating?  It's POSSIBLE Microsoft's activation servers will recognize the hardware (POSSIBLE, not certain; I haven't tried this but it shouldn't be a problem just trying).
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sla0610Author Commented:
Lee,

Thank you for your response.

It is not a volume license.  I work for a consulting/contracting company and I support a customer site, whose server is the one with the Windows Essentials 2016 that needs activating.  I have checked with the customer (the owner and his secretary) and they both responded back that they have no records of any emails from the vendor that the OS was purchased.

I haven't call Microsoft; but it looks like I have to.

I have tried just activating it, and it did not work; but, on your suggestion, I will try again.  I will let you know what happens.

Thanks,
sla0610
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
As far as I'm aware, there is no way to put a license under an email address for Essentials UNLESS it's a volume license - in which case, the company should be able to reclaim it.  In which case, he may have bought a key illegally or purchased a retail copy and just took the box with him, in which case, you can contact a lawyer and threaten to sue the ex employee, but you're probably better off just buying a new copy.  Volume I would recommend. (If you're a contractor, consider how much time you're putting in to this and your hourly rate... odds are, they'd already have paid half of what a new copy would cost just by having you try to find the old one!
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sla0610Author Commented:
Lee,  Buying another licenses has certainly crossed my mind.  It looks like I will have to do that in the end.

Thank you for your support and guidance.
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