A Dell Precision M4800 workstation took a spill at work and the hard drive was damaged. It is still under warranty so I was able to replace it with one from Dell. Then the troubles began.
The machine came from the factory with Windows 7 Pro 64-bit downgraded from Windows 8 installed. This being the case, there is no physical product activation sticker present on the computer. I've reinstalled Windows 8 on other machines and the OS was able to detect the key stored in the UEFI just fine. I guess the downgrade to Windows 7 is not the same story.
My question is, can I somehow get the already installed Window 7 OS to detect the key on the UEFI without having to go through the whole installation process again? Or, am I stuck having to adjust the BIOS to legacy boot first and then reinstall?
You need Dell Branded Windows 7 Professional Reinstallation media as it'll utilise Dell OEM System Locked Preinstallation see here for details on how the OEM SLP activation works:
The difference essentially is that Windows 7 inputs a generic SLP key from the Dell Windows 7 Reinstallation DVD and this activates if and only if a valid Dell BIOS is detected. The key on the COA doesn't matter in most cases and is not present in your case. For Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 the SLP method has been improved instead a unique key is in the UEFI BIOS and gets automatically input during installation.
You are within warranty and are in the US so you can try:
However its likely you'll just get sent Windows 8 Professional or Windows 8.1 Professional media. You may be better contacting Technical Support directly and asking for it via the chat.
Alternatively you can use retail Windows 7 Reinstallation media if you have it and install without a product key to begin a 30 day trial. You can then use the ABR program and Dell cert files to restore the Dell OEM SLP Activation. This is an unofficial solution but has been carried out by thousands of Dell users particularly when there was a downloadable retail .iso. Note Microsoft broke the Digital River downloads so there is no full Windows 7 .iso download anymore.
Note see here for instructions on converting a Reinstallation DVD into a FAT32 Bootable USB for a UEFI install, this also instructs on applying the OEM SLP activation to an install using retail media however if you convert a Dell Branded DVD to a Bootable USB and do not delete the ei.cfg file the Dell OEM SLP will automatically be applied:
Could you tell me more about the ABR method? I reinstalled using a retail copy of 7 and would like to find a way to activate that rather than start over with a clean re-install.
Also here 2:20 onwards: