windows 7 from Dell not genuine after nearly 3 years
December 22, 2012 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Windows suddenly not genuine after nearly 3 years. What can I do?

I bought a laptop from Dell 3 years ago last February. A couple of months ago it said that validation had failed. I contacted Dell and they said the product key should be on the base on the unit and to just re-enter that. Well, the sticker is there but after 3 years of daily use there isn't any writing on it anymore. They said they only thing I could do was to reinstall. I spent 2 days backing everything up and reinstalling and everything seemed fine.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago and it happened again, I contacted Dell and all they said this time was that software wasn't covered by my warranty - which I guess is technically true, it is a hardware warranty but I didn't expect to have this problem, obviously! I thought I written it down somewhere but I can't find it and if I photographed it then the memory card it was on died a couple of months ago.

I filled in the microsoft counterfeit software report but they want me to send the product key which I don't have and I haven't had time to deal with it really with christmas coming up.

I downloaded WAT remover and that seems to have solved some of the problem - it doesn't give me annoying popups about it all the time and I'm able to get all the windows updates but microsoft security essentials has disabled itself (but wont go away) and keeps popping up to tell me about it!

Is there anything I can do other than sending microsoft what I have, hoping they believe me and send me a replacement kit? Preferably without having spend hours on the phone.
posted by missmagenta to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Just checking: are you sure there wasnt a product key sticker on anythingg else that came with the computer, like a warranty card or manual?
posted by Good Brain at 9:50 AM on December 22, 2012

Personally, I would pay for a new windows license and be done with it (and keep the key this time in a safe place!)
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:50 AM on December 22, 2012

I assume you were reinstalling from a Dell-provided disc or discs, as using a retail copy of Windows would require you to go through the activation process again.

My brother's Lenovo laptop running Windows Vista had an issue where the standard Windows overlay on the desktop background stated that he was not running a genuine copy, but the System Properties dialog shows no issue. It turns out that the problem was that Windows caches activation information in several locations and one of those stores had become corrupted, hence the split-personality activation situation.

The usual solution is to do the following:

1) Open a Windows Explorer window.
2) Type: %windir%\system32 into the browser address bar.
3) Find the file CMD.exe
4) Right-Click on CMD.exe and select 'Run as Administrator'
5) Type [in the terminal window that opens]: net stop slsvc (it may ask you if you are sure, select yes)
6) Type: cd %windir%\ServiceProfiles\NetworkService\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\SoftwareLicensing
7) Type: rename tokens.dat
8) Type: cd %windir%\system32
9) Type: net start slsvc
10) Type: cscript slmgr.vbs -rilc (It may take a long time for this to complete, please be patient)
11) Restart your computer twice.

However, I am only posting the above for your future reference. Because you used a licensing system tampering tool (WAT Remover), you will need to reinstall Windows again from your Dell restore disc(s). If, at that time, you continue to experience Windows activation issues, I suggest that you start here.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:52 AM on December 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Seconding Inspector.Gadget's solution - And if that fails, you might Google for "IR5", which won't exactly fix the problem but will let you keep your machine in permanent pre-activation (but fully functional) mode. Questionably legal normally (not a crack - It doesn't even install anything), it just uses Microsoft's own tools to do things they didn't intend), but since you actually have a valid license, I wouldn't even think twice about it.

Yet another example of DRM only hurting legitimate owners, while the pirates can do whatever the hell they want without a problem.
posted by pla at 11:06 AM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not ideal but it will do for now, stops those annoying popups and my antivirus is working again. This Dell has been nothing but trouble, I'm going to me moving everything over to my Desktop after christmas.
I did a bit more digging and it looks like the issue is related to the motherboard replacement I had. Looking at the dates, I first had the problem 30 days after the motherboard was replaced. Then I reinstalled and was good for another 30 days before it happened again. The bios is missing some sort of table it needs for the bulk license validation. So much for Dell saying it wasn't their problem.
posted by missmagenta at 1:37 PM on December 22, 2012

That sounds exactly right. The board they installed was probably from a unit that didn't originally come with windows 7 on it. Or they didn't put your service tag onto the new motherboard, so windows thought it was a different computer. Normally, a motherboard replacement shouldn't mess with the activation status.

When you use the Dell provided DVD to reinstall, you either have to put in your product key, or skip that step and go through a process similar to what Inspector.Gadget details to put in a Dell volume key and activate windows. It is done this way so that the manufacturers don't have to have someone typing in the product key on every machine that's manufactured.

You may be able to find your original product key in the documentation that came with the computer.
posted by gjc at 4:29 PM on December 22, 2012

I took a drive out of the family's XP machine and windows un genuine-ed itself. I rang the 1800 microsoft number and told them what happened and they gave me a new key over the phone.
posted by the noob at 4:35 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

There should be a copy of your key in the registry and there are programs that will find it for you. Here's a free one.

Then you can tell microsoft that you have a valid key and make them fix it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:35 PM on December 22, 2012

I have a copy of the OEM key but that's not the same as the CoA key on the sticker. Without the license information on the mobo, the OEM isn't valid. I'm not offered the option to validate by phone and the windows support pages just go around in circles. I'm not in the US so a lot of the information online isn't applicable (eg. 1800 numbers)
posted by missmagenta at 12:44 AM on December 23, 2012

I had to fix a Dell laptop that this happened to recently. It turned out the problem was triggered by one of the Dell OEM programs: I reinstalled everything and it all worked great until this particular program got installed when the validation problem re-emerged.

Try System Restore to a time previous to when the validation trouble occurred. It worked in my case and the computer is still working months later.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 4:23 PM on December 23, 2012

Just noting that it's about $100 to buy a new copy of Windows 7.
posted by cnc at 11:33 AM on December 24, 2012

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