microsoft product key code problems

A ‘Product key’ is a special code which activates computer software on the license-holder's computer. The ‘key’ is a 25-digit code supplied by Microsoft for the purposes of activating Microsoft Office software. By registering this code online, you're alerting the Windows server to the fact that you are a valid Licensee, and that you have permission to use Office according to the terms of your licensing agreement.

The Knowhow

Activating your product key

Registering your software as a valid (i.e. a legally licensed) application can be a bit confusing. If you have tried and failed to enter the license key supplied, then follow the steps listed below to troubleshoot common problems and identify why your application to register the license has failed.

Check the validity of your product key code

First things first, check that you have keyed in your product key code correctly by carefully re-entering the 25 digit code supplied*

Get in touch with the retailer who sold you your product key, and ask whether they have received reports from other customers who have experienced similar registration problems (the license key codes may be counterfeit, or the licences may simply have expired; if this is the case then the retailer will have to refund your purchase).

Remember that the product key code itself is not the software; it is merely a PIN code to access the software.

The PIN code acts as a secure gatekeeper for the Microsoft website hosting the available software downloads; once you have entered a valid PIN, you can then access the downloads and install or update your software.

If your retailer maintains that the code sold to you was valid, you may be redirected to the Microsoft website. Microsoft, as the manufacturer, is the only entity which can confirm or deny the validity of your code.

Troubleshoot an invalid code

Consider which type of product key you hold. Have you purchased a license to install Office from scratch, or merely to upgrade your current Office tools?

Your code may well be valid, but it may not be suitable for your PC, for example if you have just bought a new laptop and need to install Office Home and Student, but you are using a key code which only allows you permission to download a simple upgrade, then Microsoft will not recognise the code and this may well be the problem.

To check whether your license code is sufficient, use the ‘Anytime Upgrade’ facility by clicking on the Start-up menu and selecting the ‘Anytime Upgrade’ tool, or by downloading the ‘Anytime Upgrade’ advisor here.

If your license code is insufficient, you may need to proceed to buy the appropriate software package from the Microsoft Windows shop

If your license code appears to be suitable, check with Microsoft what the problem may be. You have two options here; you can either troubleshoot via their product key information pages, or simply get in touch with their customer services department by sending them an email.

Tips and tricks

*If the following error message appears: ‘The Windows Product Key you entered is not valid for your current Windows installation. Please try re-entering the Product Key’, be warned; Microsoft usually automatically locks an account in the event that a product key code has been entered incorrectly three times in quick succession. In order to unlock your account, you would then have to contact the Microsoft customer services team.


Updated On:

Jul 05, 2012

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