Activating Windows 8.1 after changing my hard drive

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Two years ago I bought a laptop which came with Windows 8 already installed. Upgraded to 8.1 last year. The warranty expired a year ago.

I got a new hard drive recently and installed it today. Made a bootable USB with 8.1 (which did not require a product key) and started it up from that. Now the installer is supposed to read the product key from the BIOS according to most posts out there but it didn’t, it just kept asking for a product key.

Now I hadn’t expected this beforehand, so plugged my old hard disk (it still works) into an external dock and ran a program called ProduKey (still not sure how legitimate it is) on it, which gave me a product key for ‘Windows 8.1 Single Language‘. However installers for both Windows 8 and 8.1 refuse to accept this key, saying either that ‘the version does not match’ or that ‘this Product Key cannot be used to install a retail version of Windows 8.’

I contacted my manufacturer and Microsoft as well and while the manufacturer suggested installing Windows 8 (which I cannot do without a product key, which I do not have) they didn’t offer much else.

So my question(s):

Is there a way to get 8.1 to recognize my product key?

If it will work with 8, where do I find an installer that will set up on a USB without a product key?

If there is no viable answer to the above, what should I do now to get an activated version of Windows on my new hard disk without buying it again?


To solve the problem I just had to install Windows 8.1 Single Language instead of the standard Windows 8.1. It then automatically recognized my product key.

The version of Windows 8.1 you install should match the version of Windows 8.

Most laptops come with a recovery partition (which includes the ability to burn recovery discs). That is my #1 tip to people with new computers. If you can, boot off the old drive, make the discs. You could also look at copying the partition or seeing if WIM’s are in it, then using imagex to apply it. However you’re getting into convoluted areas. Lastly give in & purchase recovery discs from manufacturer. Windows comes in many editions: volume license (mak/kms), retail, & OEM. Yours is the latter, so you need THAT build of Windows (with the proper key embedded) as well as the BIOS SLIC table I think its called (you seem to be aware of that). Sadly what you’re trying to do isn’t that uncommon, but with all the anti piracy stuff its going to VERY hard

You can clone the boot and restore partition off the old drive to the new drive.

Boot from the new drive and perform a system rescue/ system restore from Windows recovery features. Follow the prompts and choose the restore factory image option.


Get the model and OS specific OEM disks sent to you by the manufacturer and install from them.

You cannot activate Windows from a generic installation any longer.

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