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Wise Tech Tips

Keep up with Software License Keys

By James Wise
web posted September 1, 2009
WISE TECH TIPS – Let’s say that one day you find yourself having to re-install everything on your PC. You have a backup of all your data, you have copies of all the software you need to install, and you’re ready to go. Suddenly one of the programs you’re installing asks for a license key and it won’t install without it!!! No problem because you’ve got all your keys thanks to proper planning and a free software program called LicenseCrawler.

License keys are typically included on the CD case or box with purchased programs. If you purchase software online, your key might be emailed or shown on the website where you order the program. I often don’t keep anything except the CD when I purchase a program. So, to keep up with license keys, I maintain a document with information on all my programs. This document has the program name and version and any other license information I might need like owner name and license key. There’s nothing fancy or special about it. You could just use the notepad program for it. I keep this document on my home computer and as such, I also have a backup of it. From time to time, I print a copy out as well for further protection.

But what do you do if you don’t have all your keys? Maybe you weren’t keeping a document or you missed updating it. If a program you’re using was already installed when you got your PC, you might not have anything showing the key. If you need to re-install Windows, you could check the case of your PC for a Microsoft sticker. When Windows is pre-installed on a computer, manufacturers typically place this sticker on the PC. The sticker contains the “product id” code needed for re-installation.

Another option for finding keys is to search your PC for this information. Often times this is stored in the Windows Registry. However, it takes time to search for this and you should always be very careful and know what you are doing when working with the registry. I read about a program recently called LicenseCrawler that makes this process quick, easy, and risk free (it only reads the registry and doesn’t make any changes to it).

You can download LicenseCrawler here: http://www.freewarefiles.com/downloads_counter.php?programid=44343
The program doesn’t require any installation. You can even place it on a “thumb drive” and run it from there. Just open the zip file you download and run the LicenseCrawler.exe file. Accept the license terms and then click “Start Search” (you don’t need to change any other items). After a few minutes, you’ll have a list of all the keys the program was able to find. In my case, I found keys for Windows, Microsoft Office, SnagIt, VMware, etc…

Note that I blacked out confidential information in the screenshot above.

The program probably won’t find all your software keys (some programs don’t store this in the registry) but it can help with some. It can even be used to scan remote computers by changing the “computer” box from localhost (but that’s a more advanced tip).

Just be sure to run this and get your document with all your keys put together BEFORE you have to re-install!!!

There are other programs that do this as well. Another such free program I found is “Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder” which you can download here: http://www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/.

That program only finds Microsoft keys though so it may not be as useful for general key finding. However, it does have one nice feature over LicenseCrawler. You can use Magical Jelly Bean to change the owner and organization on your PC. This is shown in several places and while it’s not really a problem, it can be annoying if the information is incorrect. To change this in Magical Jelly Bean, just run the program, click on Tools, click Change Windows Reg Info, and update the information accordingly.

No one likes re-installing but the more prepared you are (like making sure you have all your software keys), the better off you’ll be. Remember there are other things that can make re-installation easier as well like using AppSnap (http://www.edgefielddaily.com/wisetechtips050409.html) which can download and install many free applications.

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WEBNEWS –  Send in your favorite or favorites. There is no limit to the number of recipes you can send in. With the Editor’s wife being the driving force behind her own personal section, help her create an exchange of local favorites, home cooking, grilling, sauces, and deserts!  Send in your submissions here.