Dealing with a dead hard drive is a P.I.T.A., but Microsoft has made it one step more frustrating.
You won’t find a sticker with your product key if you bought a machine pre-installed. The product key is encrypted in the BIOS, and they don’t give you a way to see it!!
If you use an OEM version of Windows 8/8.1 install disk, when you run the setup it’s SUPPOSED to grab it from the BIOS, but I’ve yet to see this work!!
Here’s the steps to get that product key.
1. Download and burn the Hiren Boot CD http://www.hiren.info/
2. Download and have available Read Write Everything (32-bit portable) http://rweverything.com/
3. Boot CD, run rweverything, click the ACPI icon, and then find the MSDM table. The product key will be shown
Now install Windows 8/8.1 and use the key and Ta Da!
(Wait, you say it won’t accept the key?)
Yes, you may find your legitimate key won’t work. That’s because Microsoft has monkeys as programmers.
For some unknown reason Windows 8.1 installation media rejects Windows 8.0 product keys and vice versa which in my opinion and that of many end users is a huge flaw for Windows 8.0 and WIndows 8.1.
Try these keys and change to your original key after installation