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1 Copper

Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

My Dell hard drive failed - this is the third Dell hard drive which had crashed in six years. I installed a new hard drive ordered from Dell. When it boots up, it goes to 'Install Windows 8' which is the original OS. It will not accept the product key printed on the card which came with my computer.

I called Microsoft. They tell me my Product Key is blocked, and they can't help me until I contact Dell to get it unblocked - which implies Dell is the one who blocked the key. I contacted Dell, and they said they didn't block it and have no explanation as to why the Product Key won't be accepted - and they won't help unless I pay $99.

Using another computer, I tried to create a recovery disk using Dell OS Recovery Tool, but when I enter my Service Tag number it states, "No OS images defined for the product."

Someone please help!! I feel like I am caught with no escape!!

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9 Replies
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6 Indium

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

@catfanxyz  Dell is correct that they don't control Microsoft's product key activation.  I'm not sure what whoever you talked to at Microsoft meant by saying Dell had to "unblock" your key.  There's nothing Dell can do about that, and in fact if you're seeing this problem during Windows Setup as opposed to when trying to activate online, then nobody is blocking anything because your system isn't even trying to perform an online activation during installation, which means it wouldn't have any way of knowing if a key had been "blocked".

If you haven't already, try skipping the product key during initial installation and just try to activate it later, since it's possible that online activation will work even if the installer won't accept the key for some reason.  You should have an "I don't have a product key" option in Windows Setup that allows you to skip that, although that might not have existed for Windows 8; I can't remember anymore.  Another thing you may want to try is starting with Windows 8.1, which you can download directly from Microsoft here.  That definitely supports installing without providing a product key (though you'll still need one to activate it later), and since updating to Windows 8.1 is the first thing a Windows 8 installation would want to do anyway, you may as well start there.

If on the other hand you're getting stuck at online activation rather than installation (or you find you have trouble there too), then if you've replaced your hard drive 3 times, that may be why the key won't activate anymore.  When a key is initially activated, a "fingerprint" of the system's hardware is stored with Microsoft so that it will be recognized if Windows ever has to be reinstalled on that system.  You can change certain components a certain number of times and you will still be able to reactivate that key on that system despite the slightly different hardware, but if you make too many changes, sometimes that stops working.  Microsoft doesn't provide the precise details on what changes will or won't affect activation since that would help software pirates.

The last possibility you may want to consider is simply upgrading to Windows 10.  That would involve buying a license, but Windows 8.x is pretty old at this point and was never particularly well received, so if you plan to use this PC for a few more years, the cost of a Windows 10 license might be worth it.

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1 Copper

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement


Thanks for your reply. I appreciate your help immensely.

"...if you've replaced your hard drive 3 times, that may be why the key won't activate anymore."  If I understand correctly, the original product key is stored on the motherboard exactly for the purpose of re installation. So I don't understand how replacing only the hard drive would affect acceptance of the product key. And I don't understand how/why it disappeared from my motherboard if it did.

"If you haven't already, try skipping the product key during initial installation...." I can find NO why to skip past the product key at initial installation.When it won't accept my product key, it just sits at that screen and tells me to try again.

"Another thing you may want to try is starting with Windows 8.1, which you can download directly from Microsoft here." According to the invoice, my computer came with Windows 8.1, but I don't know how to bypass the  screen asking for the product key. If I do get past initial installation, how do I do anything without an OS installed? I also upgraded to Windows 10 when they released the free upgrade.

Again, I so appreciate your help. Please rely again!

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6 Indium

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

@catfanxyz  If you don't see a an "I don't have a product key" link underneath the product key field, then you're trying to install a Windows version that was created before that capability was introduced .  As I said, original Windows 8 might not support that, although the installer for Windows 8.1 definitely does.  Skipping product key entry does not skip the entire OS installation.  It just installs the OS without a product key, and then you have to activate it later either by entering a product key at that point, logging into a Microsoft account that has an assigned license, etc.

But if you're trying to install regular Windows 8.0 even though your system came with 8.1, then that's your issue.  For reasons that make no real sense, Microsoft issued separate keys for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, so if your system came with an 8.1 key, it would not be recognized by an 8.0 installer.  So again, try getting 8.1.  If you do in fact have a key embedded on the motherboard, the 8.1 installer likely won't prompt for a key at all because it will just detect that.

But since you ALSO said you upgraded to Windows 10 during the free upgrade period, then you can skip ALL of this.  Systems that were upgraded during the free upgrade period received a "digital license" for Windows 10, which meant that going forward, Windows 10 could be installed from scratch onto those systems and they would still reactivate, without you needing any product key at all, because Microsoft would remember your hardware's "fingerprint".  Again, having replaced the hard drive 3 times might create a problem here, but it might not.  So if you're certain you upgraded during that period, then just perform a clean install of the correct Windows 10 edition (Home or Pro), choose the "I don't have a product key" option that will be available on a Windows 10 installer, and you should find that your system will activate just fine after installation.

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1 Copper

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

Oh and.... when I try to make a recovery disk using Dell OS Recovery Tool, why would it say, "No OS images defined for the product."

This is a computer bought from Dell, and the recovery tool is a Dell tool. So when I enter my Service Tag number, shouldn't Dell know what OS came on my computer when I purchased it?

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5 Tungsten

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

Use USB created with Microsoft's Media Creation tool.

Install Windows 10 with it.

Skip part asking for product key.

 

That's what I just did on Monday.

 

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Community Manager
Community Manager

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

You could try nyc10036 solution.

To clarify, this Inspiron 3537 shipped on April 10, 2014 with Windows 8.1 64bit. The warranty expired on April 12, 2018. So the product key was for Windows 8.1 64bit. This also means that the Download Dell Recovery & Restore to a USB drive application will only offer a Windows 8.1 64bit recovery image.

* I went here = Download Dell Recovery & Restore to a USB drive
* I entered your Inspiron 3537 service tag number
* I clicked, "Check Availability"
* This appeared = Dell Recovery & Restore for Service Tag xxxxxxx 585.68 MB with a Download button


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5 Tungsten

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

If the Windows 8.1 product key is embedded on the motherboard, Windows 10 will also activate. I have done this multiple times.

 

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1 Copper

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

When my computer boots up, it goes directly to a blue "Install Windows 8" window. I go through the steps which takes to a window where I'm supposed to enter my product key, and as stated it will not accept my product key. Keep in mind this is a new blank hard drive with no OS installed on it.

How do I get Windows 10 installed? I can't find any way to get past the "Install Windows 8" that comes up when it boots.

 

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1 Copper

Re: Trying to install OS after hard drive replacement

I did that.

When you click download, a page titled, "How to create and use the Dell Recovery & Restore USB drive" comes up. I followed all the instructions on the page. Unzipped the downloaded file; Installed Direct Key Creator; tried with with Secure Boot enabled; tried with Secure Boot disabled; went through the whole thing. Nothing worked. Kept saying said the key I was providing (via the Recovery & Restore USB it created) was not for my system.

Then I noticed about half way down the page of instructions, it says, "Key in the Cloud [the file it downloaded] will not download any operating system image, and will not work for restoration with a blank hard drive."

 

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