Most commercially sold pieces of software are have some sort of protection to inhibit illegal duplication and installation. Software creators need to protect not only their product but also their stream of revenue, and the most common approach to doing so involves the manufacturer assigning a unique product key or serial number to every single copy of the software. The user needs to enter the product key in order to activate the copy of the software, and one product key can only be used to activate one copy of the software at any given time. Microsoft has been using the same approach ever since the days when Windows XP was the premiere Operating System for computers across the globe, and Microsoft’s Office suite of applications has received the same treatment.
Every copy of every version of Microsoft Office has a dedicated product key (apart from copies that come with Office 365 subscriptions, of course, which are bound to a user’s email account instead). This product key is an alphanumeric string of 25 characters usually divided into 5 groups of 5 characters each. A user needs to enter the product key that came with their copy of Microsoft Office to activate Microsoft Office, and a copy of Microsoft Office can’t be fully used or used for a significant amount of time without being activated first.
You are going to need your Microsoft Office product key not only the first time you install the program on a computer but also every single time you reinstall the program, which can be a problem seeing as how humans are prone to losing small yet unequivocally important pieces of information over time. Very few Microsoft Office users actually memorize their product key (who would, right?), and most of those who go as far as to note it down misplace it anyway.
Thankfully, though, your Microsoft Office product key is never gone for good – the following are the most effective methods that you can use to find the product key for your copy of Microsoft Office:
Method 1: Look for the product key in the documentation that came with the copy of Office or the software’s CD/DVD case
Your go-to solution, in the event that you end up losing the product key for your copy of Microsoft Office, should be to look for the product key in the documentation that came with your copy of Office or on the CD/DVD case that the installation disc for the software came in.
When you purchase a copy of Microsoft Office, either directly from Microsoft or from a third-party retailer, you get a receipt for the purchase and/or an email that not only confirms your order but also contains the product key for your copy of Office. In addition, if you purchase a physical copy of Microsoft Office, you get an installation disc, and the product key for that copy of Office is almost always printed somewhere on the inside of the case the disc came in. In addition, even if your copy of Microsoft Office came as a freebie with a computer you purchased, you will have received an installation disc for the software and you’ll be able to find the product key somewhere on the disc’s case – all you need to do is look.
Looking through your emails and/or purchase receipts you got for your copy of Microsoft Office and taking a look at the CD/DVD case for the installation disc you received is an extremely effective way of finding its product key. This is especially the case for Microsoft Office 2013 and 2016 – with both of these newer versions of Office, Microsoft made some changes due to which only the last 5 characters of your product key are stored on your computer, making it impossible to extract the complete product key from your computer. Knowing the last 5 characters of your Office product key might help you figure out which product key you used to activate that specific copy of Office if you own multiple copies, but it is basically useless if you’re reinstalling Office and need the entire product key. If you do, however, want to know the last 5 characters of your Office 2013 product key, you can use this guide.
Method 2: Extract your product key from your computer
For all versions of Microsoft Office older than Office 2013, when you activated a copy of Office, the product key you used was registered by your computer and stored in the registry in an encrypted form. There are programs out there that can be used to locate the product key in your computer’s registry, decrypt it and turn it into the alphanumeric string of 25 characters we all know and love. To extract the product key for your copy of Microsoft Office from your computer, you need to:
- Go here and download an installer for the Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder.
- Wait for the installer to be downloaded, and run it once it has been successfully downloaded.
- Follow the onscreen instructions and prompts to install the Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder.
- Once it has been installed, launch Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder. If you’re having trouble locating it, simply open the Start Menu, search for keyfinder and click on the search result titled Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder.
- When you launch the program, it will automatically start analyzing your computer for program installations and trying to locate the product keys for all supported programs (this includes almost all versions of Microsoft Office to have ever been developed and distributed).
- Once the program is done scanning your computer, it will display its findings. All installed programs it managed to find product keys for will be individually listed in the left pane of the window. Locate and click on the listing for your version and iteration of Microsoft Office in the left pane of the window, and all of the details the program managed to find regarding your copy of Office will be displayed in the right pane of the window.
- In the right pane of the window, the product key for your copy of Microsoft Office will be listed next to the CD Key: option. Be sure to make a note of the product key (exactly as it is displayed in the window) so that you have it on hand whenever you need it in the future.