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Are missing product keys preventing reinstall/upgrade?

Are missing product keys preventing reinstall/upgrade?

Q. A club I belong to was given a used but still-good Win7 notebook to replace an aging system. The donated system came with Office 2010. All software updates were installed. Prior to donating the system to us, the previous owner deleted the original user accounts and files.

After a cleanup and prep, I copied over the user files from the old PC. I then renamed the new PC to reflect its new home; I also deleted the remaining legacy accounts, including the original admin account and its files.

But now, backups fail with a variety of errors — 0x80070002, 0x80070003, and others — regardless of whether I use Win7’s own backup tool or third-party tools such as EaseUS Todo Backup.

I believe I could resolve the problem by doing a clean reinstall, but then I won’t have access to the original product key for Office 2010. And, of course, there’s no system image with which to recover files.

Upgrading to Win 10 might bring the problem into the new OS. I’ve run into a brick wall. What do you recommend? 

​A. I agree that it would be a gamble to try to upgrade a setup known to have problems.

Because the system has deep-seated errors, I also agree that a clean install of the OS is the way to go. It should give you a fresh start and let you set up — or later upgrade — the system as you wish.

If a missing Office product key is what’s holding you back, the solution is easy: Use a tool such as Nirsoft’s free Produkey to recover the existing key(s). For other key-recovery tools, run an online search using “recover office 2010 key.”

(Note: To download and run tools such as Produkey, you might have to disable your anti-malware software or create an exemption. These tools are often flagged as potentially unwanted programs. But in this case, because you’re deliberately downloading it and want it for the express purpose of finding your own product keys, it’s not ‘unwanted’ and should be allowed to run.)

Another alternative is simply to abandon the installed Office. Uninstall it completely (solving your reinstall/upgrade problem) and replace it with an Office 365 subscription or one of the excellent, free, full-blown office-suite alternatives such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice. Search online using “office suite free” for other options.

Or, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles of a full-blown office suite — that is, if you need only the basics for creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and so on — you can use the free online versions of MS Office, Google Docs, etc.

With a fresh OS install, plus a reinstalled or replaced office suite, you should be able to get your club’s new PC working the way you want.

(Originally published on Windows Secrets on Thursday, January 14, 2016.)


Editor's note: We feature an abridged Q&A from Fred Langa's LANGALIST, a column available exclusively to paid subscribers of the Windows Secrets newsletter,. What you see here is just a small sampling of what Langa's writing for the newsletter — go here for more information on how to subscribe.

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