Microsoft Office Product Key Recovery
By Justin H. Pot
If you're thinking of reinstalling Windows on your computer, you should know the location of all your product keys. If you don't have them around, there are some steps you can take to find them, which is good. If you don't have your product key handy, you essentially don't own the software, so its best to recover this key before wiping everything off your computer.
The product key that comes with your copy of Microsoft Office is meant to deter software piracy. You cannot install your copy of Microsoft Office without your key, and attempts to re-use keys are double-checked during the activation process. As such, it's important to have the key handy any time you intend to reinstall Windows, because after reinstalling the operating system, you're going to need to reinstall Office and all of your other programs.
Find the CD Case
The easiest way to recover your product key is to find the CD case that came with your copy of Microsoft Office. This is usually in the plastic bag of CDs that came with your computer. If you bought Office separately from your computer, it's in the box that Office came in. The product key should be written on the back of the cardboard CD case.
Magic Jellybean Keyfinder
If you've misplaced your CD box, recovering the key isn't impossible---provided you have access to the computer with your copy of Microsoft Office installed. Simply download Magic Jellybean Keyfinder, an open-source program capable of retrieving product keys for Microsoft Office (as well as all versions of Windows and many other applications). Run the program and it will show you the key.
Write it Down
If you've recovered your Microsoft Office product key using Magic Jellybean Keyfinder, write it down. You never know when you're going to need this key again, so it's a good idea to have the key around. If you have a filing cabinet, keep a list of your various product keys on file. Otherwise, keep your key somewhere you'll know to look next time you need to reinstall---in the box where you keep your install CDs is a good bet.
In the rare case that none of these steps work, you've just lost Microsoft Office. You could purchase a new copy of Microsoft Office; or, if you'd rather not spend money, download Open Office. This is a completely free office suite designed to compete with and be compatible with Microsoft Office. While it's certainly not for everyone, Open Office might suit your needs. Check it out at OpenOffice.org.
Justin H. Pot is a freelance journalist, writer and blogger based in Boulder, Colo. He's written for local newspapers in the United States and his native Canada, and also blogs for the environmental website Ecohearth.com.