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Taking Ownership of Your Product Keys

This is a scenario I’ve been running into alot lately: Client: “My computer has been giving me alot of trouble lately and i’m interested in getting it completely wiped and having a fresh installation of Windows put on it in order to eliminate any nagging issues. Can you do this for me?”

Myself: “Sure I can. Having a fresh copy of Windows installed on your computer is a great way to eliminate corruption that can cause generalized computer slowness and errors within the system. Do you by chance have Microsoft Office loaded on your PC?”

Client: “I do. Isn’t Microsoft Office part of Windows?”

Myself: “No, actually Microsoft Office is a completely seperate software suite that is sold independently of Windows and is not included in it’s installation. Some computers come pre-installed with Microsoft Office on them but only if Office is purchased as part of the computer package. I would be glad to re-install it for you after windows has been reloaded if you can provide me with the license key that came with your version of Office.”

Client: “I don’t have my license key, I think I lost it or it got thrown out or something. Can’t we just call Microsoft and get a new one?

Myself: “Unfortunately, no. There is no way to prove to Microsoft that you ever paid for Microsoft Office in the first place. Your 25 digit license key is the sole proof of your purchase and ownership of the software.

Client: “Well, I bought my computer through your company, don’t you guys keep track of information like license keys?”

Myself: “No. We don’t own the product, so we don’t keep the keys. That would be like if we kept a spare set of keys to your car or house just lying around our office.”

Client: “Fair enough I suppose. So what should I do now? I really need Microsoft Office on my computer.”

Myself: “Unfortunately, without a key, your only option is to purchase another copy of Microsoft Office. This time, be sure to hang on to your product’s license key in case you need to reinstall it!”

Client: “Will do!”

That little scenario is almost word for word what happens with alot of our residential clients and business clients who don’t have access to Microsoft’s license tracking center for businesses (the “Microsoft Volume Licensing Center”). At anywhere between $139.99 and $799.99 a pop, licenses for Microsoft Office are not cheap to replace. This scenario doesn’t just apply to Microsoft Office either. It applies to any paid software that comes with a license key. Adobe Photoshop and Camtasia Studio are two other examples of expensive software that come with license keys. Without a valid license key, it can be impossible to actually install the software on a computer even if you have a valid installtion disc. License keys are a software company’s way of making sure that people who are using their product paid for it and didn’t just download a hacked version online for free. If you call a support line and ask for a new license key without some vaild proof of purchase, chances are that they will just assume you’re looking for a free ride.

This brings me to my main point. Protect your product keys and don’t lose them! Put them in a filing cabinet or even a locked box if they software is expensive enough. Losing your license key is akin to losing your ownership of that software. Even if you still have the box, the disc, the case and the manual, it means nothing if you dont have the license key. Because the license key is akin to software ownership, it is the sole responsibility of the owner of the software to make sure they have it, noone else’s.

Believe me, I don’t revel in having to tell people that they need to rebuy software that cost them $400.00 initially, It’s really tough. Hopefully though, if enough people read this post, they’ll understand enough about product keys to never lose one again. They’re worth their weight in gold….or more!

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