Preserving OEM keys/activation when reimaging Windows 8 with K2000

Since we're already paying for OEM licenses when we buy our various Dell systems, we've opted to use those windows licenses as opposed to VL. With Windows 7, this was never an issue as the K2000 scripted install unattend.xml simply pulled the OEM key from the device, and utilized that during the install/activation. This methodology has worked well for the last year+ we've been using the K2. 

Flash forward to Windows 8. No amount of tinkering with the unattended script seems to allow this "auto-populate OEM key" behavior to work. Funny enough, When I was initially waiting around for our OEM media to arrive from Dell I grabbed the windows 8.1 ISO from our MSDN account to play with. The Scripted install grabbed the included OEM key from the device, installed it and ran flawlessly, except it (being an MSDN disc) refused to activate with the OEM key.

Just leaving the various fields blank within the unattended file doesn't work, as the image fails almost immediately with a "Cannot read < ProductKey >" error. I don't have a key I can specify in the file, as each machine has it's own key, and those are no longer "stickered" on the product (even if I wanted to go the manual entry route, which I don't)

Is there a way to bring this very useful Win7 unattended process into Windows 8 K2 scripts? Any suggestions are appreciated, as the bosses are really not to pleased with the idea of burning a big pile of already paid for licenses.


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  • I am running in to the same issue with win 10 pro. Is anyone having the same issue? - ecaceres 6 years ago

Answers (1)

Answer Summary:
Posted by: SMal.tmcc 8 years ago
Red Belt

The BIOS stores the OEM key. If you make a clean install on an unparticioned HDD with an MSDN installer, it can detect the key. However, the windows edition of the key must match the edition of the installer (Pro, with or without Media Center Pack, Enterprise, etc.). If the two don't match, the installer will prompt to enter the key and activate Windows.

  • I'm not currently using the MSDN install though, in theory the scripted install kicking off from the K2000 is just referencing the Windows 8 pro OEM ISO file I uploaded to the box. Is the media that radically different? - Asevera 8 years ago
    • MS made sure each version keys were unique to prevent piracy. - SMal.tmcc 8 years ago
  • try putting the appropriate version key in your answer file and then see if it picks up the bios key. you may have to do a slmgr -ato to get it to read the bios key after imaging
    Windows 8.1 FJWTM-42NKR-9DPD2-8FR9Y-3GMCH
    Windows 8.1 Professional B478Q-FNMXX-FKYT6-D6FC8-HMGTD
    Windows 8.1 N HJ924-JPN9Y-3FC9H-GCYMG-C9WJY
    Windows 8.1 Professional N 2TXRD-CCNWC-CT2X8-KGDXP-PGXGF
    Windows 8.1 Single Language (Emerging Markets) Y9NXP-XT8MV-PT9TG-97CT3-9D6TC
    Windows 8 46V6N-VCBYR-KT9KT-6Y4YF-QGJYH
    Windows 8 Professional V7C3N-3W6CM-PDKR2-KW8DQ-RJMRD
    Windows 8 N 7QNT4-HJDDR-T672J-FBFP4-2J8X9
    Windows 8 Professional N 4NX4X-C98R3-KBR22-MGBWC-D667X
    Windows 8 Single Language (Emerging Markets) NH7GX-2BPDT-FDPBD-WD893-RJMQ4 - SMal.tmcc 8 years ago
    • So the version key above (win8pro) in the answer file gets me through the installation without error, but I'm still left unable to activate windows. slmgr-ato activation fails as it's still trying to use the RJMRD key. Double checking with ProduKey shows the correct OS version (compared to a "clean" laptop out of the box) but an incorrect ProductID and incorrect key.

      It seems, from what I'm able to find, that Windows 8 and Server 2012 will ignore the OA3.0 key in the bios if presented with an answer file. It's possible this is not the case with Windows 8.1, which is why that script ran (even though the key/media mismatch at the end failed activation) - Asevera 8 years ago
      • Discovered that adding:
        is actually the key to this (no pun intended). Leaving it blank errors out the process, this does not, and seems to pass the OEM key. - Asevera 8 years ago
      • <ProductKey>

        Was this literally what you placed in your answer file or is [KEY] refering to using one of the above mentioned generic OEM keys?

        I am also unsure what to do if a machine came with 8.0 and I want to install 8.1 as far as what generic key to use.

        Without an answer file I can install 8.1 and then activate by manually placing the OEM key no issues, but rather than tracking all our OEM keys getting this automated with an answer file is definitly the way to go. - ViciousXUSMC 8 years ago
      • The "<ProducKey>.." below is what we use here for out OEM scripted installs as well. We have used it is on Windows 7 & 8.1 Pro. - Cldstrife 7 years ago
      • I was not able to get this to work until I found this.

        I was not able to make this work until I found and used the key below. I guess that there are different generic keys depending the activation type.

        Default Product Keys to be used with OEM Activation 3.0 Windows 8.1 Pro


        Default Product Keys to be used without OEM Activation 3.0

        B478Q-FNMXX-FKYT6-D6FC8-HMGTD - ws2000 6 years ago
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