If you’ve lost your Office install disks

What to do if you’ve lost your Microsoft Office install disks?

Let’s say you’ve lost your Microsoft Office installation CD / DVD or even floppy disks from years ago – what can you do?

There are two things you need to recover – the installation files and the product key. Usually, the two are stored together (the Product Key is often on a sticker placed on the CD case).

Most people think that the install disk is the important part but it’s not – the Product Key is the most essential thing to find. The install disk is replaceable; the Product Key is unique and irreplaceable.


Product Key

Ideally, you’ve made a copy of the Product Key somewhere else but probably not.

We keep saying it – the MS Office Product Key is very valuable. Lose it and you have to buy another copy. It’s worth keeping a copy with your other important records.

If your computer is still running, you can retrieve the original Product Key from the settings. Even if you think Office has disappeared from the computer, it’s worth a try.


How to recover your Office Product Key

Lost your Product Key? Here’s how to find it.

The Microsoft Office Product Key is essential to install the software on any computer.

Usually it’s on the retail packaging or was notified to you as part of the online ordering process. However you got it, the Product Key is valuable. If you lose it, you’ll have to pay for another copy of Microsoft Office.

The Product Key, as needed in the installation process, is not displayed by MS Office software. You might think it appears in the Help | About dialog box – but no. The About box displays a ‘Product ID’ which is a different code that can’t be used during an installation.


Extracting the Product Key

Even though the Product Key isn’t displayed, it is hiding on your computer.

There are many programs available to get your MS Office Product Key (in fact many other software keys). Some charge you, which isn’t necessary. Some others are of dubious provenance and might have worms or other nasties as well.

For a long time we’ve used System Info by Gabriel Topala which tells you more details about your computer than most sensible people could ever need to know.

Go to http://www.gtopala.com/ SIW – System Information for Windows, the install keys for Windows, Office and some other programs are displayed. Start SIW (no install required) and click on Software | Licenses.

Expose Office Product Key - with System Info SIW.jpg image from If you’ve lost your Office install disks at Office-Watch.com

A list of products, including Windows and Office is displayed with the original Product Keys displayed in full.


Tip: run System Info and save a report before re-installing Windows – it can be a real time saver!


Getting the right install files

Once you have your own Product Key, then all you need is the install CD.

Only the Product Key is unique, if you can borrow or copy the matching install files you’ll be able to re-install Office.

The trick is ‘matching’. You need to get the exact same product install files. An Office Standard CD won’t work with an Office Professional Product Key.

It’s possible, though this isn’t consistent, that the retail install CD is slightly different from the same product sold via an OEM (ie sold with a new computer). Over the years we’ve had complaints that a borrowed Office install CD won’t work and the reason is usually that it’s a retail CD with OEM sourced Product Key (or vice-versa). If you’re not sure about the retail/OEM status, don’t worry, try it anyway.


Where can you get them?

Again, making a backup is a good idea, but hindsight is 20/20.

Ask around your friends, neighbors, workmates – maybe someone has the same version of Office as you. Explain that you only need the install CD, not their unique Product Key.

There are illegal sites on the net which let you download software – sadly these downloads can be virus infected and therefore are not recommended.


Is it legal?

Strictly speaking it’s not permitted to copy the Microsoft Office installation CD/DVD.

The Office 2007 license terms allow the purchaser to make one backup copy of the media.

But let’s face it., the ‘Microsoft Police’ aren’t likely to turn up on your doorstep.