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Toolkit Item: ShowKeyPlus


Given that Windows Activation is almost (I repeat: almost) foolproof in Windows 10, there isn’t much reason to find, know or use OS keys anymore. But sometimes — especially when activation problems present, perhaps with a suggestion that a key is invalid or suspect — a Windows OS keyfinding tool is essential. No self-respecting Windows 10 administrator or power user should turn to anything except ShowKeyPlus for that purpose. This tool comes from long-time TenForums member, Superfly, whose profile labels include: Developer, Guru, and VIP member. Soon after I joined TenForums in November, 2014, I found out about this tool. I’ve been using it happily ever since. It will run quite nicely from a USB key, so I keep it on my traveling admin toolbox for those times when I need to dig into Windows OS key information.

Running ShowKeyPlus

Once you download the package, you’ll find that its ZIP file unpacks into …X64.zip and …X86.zip files. The former aims at 64-bit OSes, and the latter at 32-bit OSes. Because all of my Win10 PCs are 64-bit now, I use only the …x64.zip file’s contents. This unpacks into an .exe file and a hash value to check file integrity, like so:

ShowKeyPlus.files

Simply double-click the .exe file, and ShowKeyPlus does its thing on the target system.

As the figure caption says, you need only to double-click the .exe to launch ShowKeyPlus. It will then show you what it can find out on the target system. If you have a 32-bit system, you’ll need to use the .exe file from the …x86 folder instead. But otherwise, both versions are identical and behave the same way.

Working with ShowKeyPlus

ShowKeyPlus excels at the little foibles and many differences among various types of Windows OS keys. Thus, for example, here’s the output from my Windows 10 production system, on which I have a MSDN-supplied copy of Windows 10 Enterprise running. It uses something called a MAK (Multiple Activation Key) that I obtained through the Subcriber Downloads that are part of that original subscription (now available through my.visualstudio.com and my Windows Insider MVP status). Because a MAK can be reused many times, the key value doesn’t show in ShowKeyPlus to prevent misuse (Superfly assumes those who need the key can access it through the Product Keys page at my.visualstudio.com, as I indeed can do). Here’s what I see from that system when I run ShowKeyPlus:

ShowKeyPlus.prodPC

Note the fields this program presents — namely:
1. Product Name: the version of Windows that’s running (Windows 10 Enterprise, in this case)
2. Version: The build number for the OS (18362.267) and its bittedness (64-bit)
3. Product ID: a string that identifies the specifics for the Windows image in use (not reusable)
4. Installed Key: Shows a key value on most systems, except for those — like this one — that use a MAK (simply shows “not available”)
5. OEM Key: If a key is burned into firmware, it will so indicate (and may show that value, depending on key type)

Here are more screencaps from various machines, as I’ll describe below.

Lenovo T520 (2013 vintage PC)

ShowKeyPlus.T520
I purchased this machine with Windows 7 installed, and upgraded through 8.0, 8.1 and all the way to the current 1903 Windows 10 version as the version info below shows. It shows a unique installed key value that is not a Generic Windows 10 key, so I’ve blanked it out in the screencap. The only other information worthy of note is that it does report “Windows 7 OEM marker present in firmware” which is the basis for the current installed key value.

Lenovo X380 Yoga

This PC is less than 6 months old, and came with Windows 10 pre-installed.

Here, the installed and OEM key values are the same (because the OS was pre-installed by Lenovo prior to shipping the unit to me). Thus, I blanked both of those (identical) values out here. Note that this output correctly identifies the OS as an OEM version in the heretofore missing OEM Edition field, just beneath the OEM key value.

Concluding Remarks

Superfly, the tool’s developer, is active at TenForums, and runs a thread devoted to ShowKeyPlus. He answers questions about keys and the tool there daily.

ShowKeyPlus is a handy-dandy tool. I use it myself quite regularly, and it does its limited but important job quite well. That’s why I’m including it in the Admin Toolkit here at Win10.Guru. Enjoy.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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