[Fix] Windows 8 Genuine Product Key doesn’t Work for Windows 8.1 Clean Installation


Almost all of us know that Windows 8.1 is an update for Windows 8 operating system and Windows 8 users can upgrade to Windows 8.1 absolutely free through Windows Store. Other Windows version users need to buy a license of Windows 8.1.

[Guide] How to Upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8, Windows 7, XP and Vista?

Since Windows 8.1 is called an update for Windows 8, its obvious that Windows 8 product key should work for Windows 8.1 too but that's not true!

When Windows 8.1 was under development, it was said that Windows 8.1 will accept Windows 8 product keys and Windows 8 users will be able to install Windows 8.1 using the same Windows 8 product key.

Now Windows 8.1 RTM has been released and people can download Windows 8.1 ISO files for clean installation as described here but when they try to install Windows 8.1 and it asks to enter a valid product key, the entered Windows 8 product key doesn't work. Even if its a genuine Windows 8 product key, you get incorrect or invalid product key error message.

The reason is unknown but it seems Microsoft did it intentionally. Microsoft didn't want to release offline ISO files of Windows 8.1 to Windows 8 users, that's why they programmed it to not accept Windows 8 product keys at the time of installation. Microsoft wants you to update Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 through Windows Store which doesn't ask any product key as its just upgrading the OS and not performing a clean installation.

Although there are workarounds available for this particular problem. The best workaround is that install Windows 8.1 using a generic product key. Some of you may ask what is a generic product key? Generic product keys can be considered as a dummy key which can be used to install an operating system but it can't be used to activate the OS. These generic keys are legally distributed by Microsoft and you can find such keys on Microsoft website as well as inside Windows setup folder.

You can get a generic product key for Windows 8.1 from following official Microsoft page:

KMS Client Setup Keys for Windows Operating System

Now you can enter this generic key in Windows 8.1 installation wizard and it'll accept the product key without any problem.

Once Windows is installed in your computer, you can activate your Windows using your own genuine Windows 8 product key by going to System Properties and clicking on change product key option. Although this product key didn't work at the installation time but it'll work at activation time. Windows will activate successfully with the help of your Windows 8 genuine product key. Thus you can install Windows 8.1 using your Windows 8 product key...

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Posted in: Troubleshooting, Windows 8 / 8.1

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  • Does this work for both OEM and retail Windows 8 keys??
    I'm asking coz I got Windows 8 pre-installed on Dell laptop, so my key would be OEM...

  • Thank you Vishal... it works and no issue for clean install for me...

  • Again...Question(s).... :) .... I own Windows 8 not Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise. The generic keys listed on KMS site don't have that version's keys. Can I do a fresh install using generic Pro key and revert to basic version while activating using my original Win 8 OEM key??

    And lastly, as info, does having 32 or 64 bit versions of Win 8 impact the upgrade and activation in any way??

  • VG

    ^^ I think you cant activate a Pro edition of Windows using a normal edition key. Also if you have 32-bit edition of Windows 8, you should download 32-bit edition of Windows 8.1. Same theory applies to 64-bit edition.

    @Carl Vergara
    Glad to know it helped you. :)

  • I switched all my Windows OS to Ubuntu 12.04 OS. I downloaded it FREE. Is Linux based (as Apple OS) with built in security software!

  • Apple OS is not linux based. It's BSD based. It's similar to Linux, as both derived from UNIX.

  • Nice tip VG! I do lots of free lance IT. Also, I install Windows very often. This enables me to install Windows with a dummy key and the warning to activate would prompt the Windows User to buy a fully workable key..

  • Works great, thank you so much!

  • @VG

    So there is no option for official download link for Windows 8.1 standalone installer like Windows 7 SP1 ? It's annoying

  • VG

    ^^ No because its not a service pack. Microsoft calls it as an update. ;)

    But you can check out following article:


  • Thanks, so does this workaround let a torrented iso (legal) be usable so I could upgrade with it? Not that it matters for me because i did the windows store update instead (which worked) though I initially planned to do the former.

  • Hi VG, months ago I did update my Vista Business to Windows 8 Pro which I bought from local reseller shop.

    I am running Windows 8 Pro without issue, some still using driver from Win 7 64-bit. But, when updating to Win 8.1, the VGA were unrecognized. My laptop using Intel GMA 4500 (or G45). Is there any solution yet?

    I can connect to Internet, but Windows Update seems can't connect to Internet.

  • VG

    ^^ You'll need to wait until the company releases a compatible drive for Windows 8.1.

    Not tried.

  • I just tried the 8.1 key from the last link posted and it no longer works. Maybe MS disabled those so people are forced to go to the Windows Store?

  • Hi

    can you give me some advice / hints to the following topic:

    „How can I convert a – password protected .rar file – into a unprotected zip file?“

    My professor gave me a password protected file but the old man cannot remember the password :(
    (The old fart)

    I need your help please :)

    Yours faithfully


  • I tried in standalone installer,,,keys like GCRJD-8NW9H-F2CDX-CCM8D-9D6T9
    GENERIC Keys but it says that the key cannot be used to install the retail version of WIndows 8.1...What to do for this problem.

  • hi,i've got a windows 8 preinstalled on dell laptop ,i used an application to know my OEM key,now i got the OEM key ,if i install Windows 8.1 this key can work ??

  • VG

    ^^ It should but I'll advise you to direct upgrade Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 through Windows Store as you have an OEM key.

  • i've done it ,i upgraded from windows 8 to windows 8.1 ,but the pc become too slow :(

  • VG --

    I have been scouring the internet for an article on creating a Windows 8.1 ISO, then how to install. I have found some bits and pieces, but never the whole story. Once I combed through your series of articles, I now have a much better picture of what to do. Thanks man!!!!!

  • I had no problem installing 8.1 (over preview). It did not ask for a key. It asked to be authenticated about four days after, and refuses to accept my 8.0 key (though the MS servers don't have a problem with it). It seems I have to reset it to 8.0, then upgrade to 8.1 again. It's a lot of work for a marginally passable upgrade.

  • The ONLY For Clean Install, we MUST install Windows 8 first then upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Store. :(

  • I mean the ONLY way for Clean Install, we MUST install Windows 8 first then upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Store. :(

  • VG

    ^^ Did you try following?


  • ^^ Yes VG... Clean Install Windows 8.1 using Windows 8 Key, it won't activate if there's no Windows 8 present... So I already format my hard disk and it's install Windows 8.1 successfully. Then I try to activate it using my Windows 8 legal key it won't word because it say can't activate this version of Windows. Therefore I Clean install using Windows 8 1st. Then can be upgrade thru Store. I tried to upgrade using the Windows 8.1 ISO but it prompt me to key in the License. My License is Windows 8 so it wont work. Therefore it can be only upgraded from Store.

  • If you upgrade from Store, it will not prompt you any license key and it will be upgraded accordingly...

  • VG

    ^^ Upgrading from Store will always work as its official method but installing Windows 8.1 using generic key and then activating using Windows 8 key also works. I have checked it many times.

  • How to retrieve images from apps like new or bing or where does it store images from news picture gallery?

  • thanks. this worked.

  • I have a different problem, and I'm not sure of the dates on your posting so I don't know if anyone else is having this same, recent problem (started yesterday!): I upgraded from Windows 8 to 8.1 Preview last year (Oct 2013, I believe) when it was for free and I've been using it all along, until yesterday, when my Thinkpad X1 Carbon gave me a "blue screen 'lite'", stating that my trial had expired but that I could go to the Store and download a new version of Windows 8.1. But, every time I go to the Store and try to download, it just states that it's downloading but never does anything... It does allow me to use my computer but tells me that my computer will continue to restart every 2 hours until I upgrade. ? HELP!?

  • VG

    ^^ Its happening because The free Preview of Windows 8.1 has expired:


    Now you can download Windows 8.1 final RTM build from following topics:


  • Thanks for the timely reply!

    I've tried downloading Windows 8.1 final RTM 12 times today and each time that I click "download" it says that it's "Installing Windows 8.1 Pro" but fails to do so, leaving me without a computer, internet connection on that newer laptop, etc. Thankfully I still have a machine that runs Win 7. I just spent 2 hours on the phone with Microsoft, only to be told that my only option was to purchase a copy of 8.1! Word to the wise: NEVER TRUST MICROSOFT BETA PRODUCTS! They welcomed me as a beta tester and left me out to fend for myself after I helped them work through the bugs in 8.1 Preview. My 2 cents on that subject anyway...

    So I found my old Windows 8 Pro Key and am downloading a copy now from another site. So much for 8.1. I'm not going back to that piece of crap of a system until a newer FINAL version comes out. Lessons learned.

    I appreciate your help, however!

  • I have Windows 8.1 retail iso file.
    Does this work for OEM users also?

  • Hey Vishal,
    I have windows 8 with media center (craked)
    n i want to upgrade/install windows 8.1
    i have a windows 8.1 iso , but when I open to install it it says Something happened , Setup has failed to validate the product key

    Please Reply To My Comment.
    Thank You.

  • i have downloaded windos 8, and iam going to installing time it is asking key, i dot have an key so pls help me

  • I had a problem and had to revert back to as-new condition with Win8 Sony OEM. I then followed the procedure here as I had an ISO copy of 8.1 to (what I thought) save time. I have the original product key from the re-install of Win 8.I try to put the key in 8.1 and it will not take the key. Do I need to uninstall 8.1, spend hours of Win 8 update time so I can do the store update? Thanks!

  • VG

    ^^ Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 editions must be same to be able to use same product key. If you face problems, upgrading via Store would be best idea.

  • I once upgraded windows 8 to 8.1 through store... but later refreshed it to windows 8. but when downloading from store I found the place where it is downloaded and saved a copy of that folder. Now after I heard the release of 8.1 update 1 i'm trying to upgrade to windows 8.1 again. I'm running windows 8 Single Language and my 8.1 setup is also SL edition. Can I use the pro keys from the KMS Client key list (generic key list) to upgrade from windows 8 to 8.1

  • how to obtain generic keys from windows setup folder can you explain

  • i have dell inspiron 3537, it came with win 8. i formatted my c drive and installed win 8.1 pro with generic keys. but now if i try to activate it with win8 keys it gives me this error:0xC004C003

  • I recently did an update/upgrade from win 8 to 8.1 through the store. My computer was preloaded with win 8 and has the OEM on the motherboard. It will not activate online and it will not accept the OEM win 8 key. Is there any way to fix this other than calling the nearest Microsoft number to get another key? I really don't want to have to do that as I can't understand the local accents on the phone, it would be ever so painful to have to do it that way.


  • @ COBBIE; Go to the following link and you'll get an original key for your windows 8.1 Pro build 9600 its official and free; technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj612867.aspx


  • Its interesting to see the many problems people are having with activation. I must say i had the same when i was foolish enough not to see if my hard drive would be "large" enough for win 8. So, i went and bought a new clean hard drive and had to do a clean install. Admittedly, then i also had a problem with the activation. I phoned microsoft and told them that i suspect "they" or it thinks its being loaded twice and that it may be the reason. After the lengthy call and with nothing to hide, we sorted it out. its activated and i successfully upgraded to 8.1 after a lon long download. My question im asking myself is whether its worth trying to upgrade to 64 bit by starting all over since i have a valid disk. The package i bought includes both 32 and 64 bit but only one key no. 4gigs ram, intel pentium duel core 5300 and whatever else you need to know to tell me whether my system will accept 64bit. I have absolutely no idea whether certain abilities of the bios are required and if so what are they? the only benefit from what i have found so far if one goes for 64 is that it utilizes the ram better. I wonder whether its really worth it. just over 3 of my 4gigs ram is used currently but i wouldnt say the computer is unacceptably slow. What other benefits are there in 64bit?

  • hi vishal, i need your help. i got this windows 8 copy during the promotion when they gave it out for some 800 bucks for upgrade from windows 7, now ive got a new laptop, and i installed this as a fresh copy. during installation it accepted my key and installed the copy but when i entered the key, it said that this key s nt valid for a fresh installation, and only valid fr upgrade. please help me out.?? shud i contact microsoft(if yes then how) or is there sumthing i m nt doing right??? email me as soon as u can bddy...thanks in advance..!!

  • VG

    ^^ When you try to activate Windows, you get an option to activate via phone. Call that number and you can generate an activation code.

  • hi..
    I tried intall installing many windows 8 product keys but it says the product key i've supplyed failed so which on is the correct on please supply me.

  • PLEASE CAN SOME GIVE THE PRODUCT KEY FOR WINDOWS 8.1 PRO BUILD 9600 Enterprise evaluation edition

  • I Just Add the Serial Key And It Write " Thanks For Activating Windows " And After It Asks To Activate It It's Like That He's Not Activated yet ..

  • Hi Vishal,
    Thank you for what you do, your article on how to transfer files from ssd to hdd for windows 8 were awesome. However, Same steps do not work for windows 8.1. My primary question is all the work arounds are for people who bought windows 8 as retail version. I bought windows 8.0 disk when someone custom built computer for me. Now when I try to use the workaround methods, it says "this key cannot be used for retail version" which is apparently what they have on update site. Do you know any solution to this? Once again thank you for your time and effort.

  • hi sir I have windows 8
    product key but it not work my edition what I do ?

  • please help my win 8:1 pro was fully activated prior to installing that wmc under add new features i found a key that activated wmc in add new feature since my original that came with the disk refuses to work when i reboot wmc caused my windows 8:1 pro to deactivate i did know this was going to happen somebody please help the correct way to to get my 8:1 pro back thanks

  • I did a clean installation of Windows 8.1, but does not accept the serial key of windows 8

  • Dear VG,
    Will windows 8.1 pro ISO installation erase all previous installed program from windows 8.1 pro ? MS officer will install win 8.1 pro ISO, but I forget ask him those question?

  • VG

    ^^ Why do you want to reinstall Windows 8.1 Pro? Are you facing any problem?

  • Hi VG. Just wanted to add that you don't need to revert back to a OEM partition reset to windows 8 and reinstall windows 8.1 from the Windows Store.. There are those who find places to get windows ISO disk for single language one way, but now you can get your USB setup disk made for you by Microsoft FREE without supplying a key for the download.

    For Starters you will need these things for Single language users.

    Windows 8.1 Single Language Generic Key

    and Have your OEM single language windows 8 key on hand too.

    How to Use=
    Run your windows 8.1 Single Language OS setup iso/disk/dvd, and when it asks for a KEY, use the Generic key. After you complete the setup of drivers and user profile and reach desktop, now is the time to use your Windows 8.0 Single Language Key to activate windows 8.1.

    Before, and still now, Microsoft had the Windows 8/8.1 setup upgrade page for retail users, where you have to download your windows 8/8.1 using a key and creating an ISO or burning it do a dvd, and I think making a USB drive of your choice.

    Now for windows 8/8.1 users, you can download and Create installation media for Windows 8.1, as the Microsoft page says here: (FREE and NO KEY is requested) been there, done that.


    Click the [CREATE MEDIA] button(Purple), and download and run the Tool. It will install it in your user-Temp folder. what is odd is it browses you to a folder for a Windows.iso file creation, but I have never seen a Windows.iso file when I was done making my USB setup disk. However, I did find a Hidden ESD folder, on C drive which matches the exact layout of my USB drive. This windows media creator tool is very picky, as checks your USB drive for 4GB size and my KINGSTON 4GB listing 3.98xxxxx Gbytes was not enough for the size of less than 3 gigs on my USB, so I had to use my USB 8.1GB drive(PNY). What is stupid about this program is that I thought it would make an ISO for me to burn as it says that, but it doesn't check to see if you don't have a Blank DVD in a drive, nor does it check to see if you even have a DRIVE on your computer, which I don't, so my download was wasted for nothing, except, I ended up finding a winpayload.esd.decrypt file in the TEMP folder with 4 indexes in it using DISM.

    Since the files are laid out like an ISO disk on the USB drive, anyone with that experience should know now they can just copy the files to the smaller USB drive that the stupid program would not accept in the 1st place, like I am going to do. LOL

    At the start of the program it asks for a Language choice, a OS choice, Various kinds including PRO versions, and a 32 or 64 bit option. Very simple, then it steps to the folder place to create an ISO, which I don't see why, cause when it is done, there is not ISO in the folder you choose. ..

    The TEMP folder, contains the extract programs to do all this an XML file that gives you ever language and every download link for ESD FILES which I tested to see if they started a download and they do. Also there is a KEY in the XML file, which means the programs use it to decrypt the ESD file on it's final process, which is my guess. Anyway, I do know as much as I am all over the web, I have not seen anyone post this stuff. I found it by chance on the MS website while jumping around there stupid site looking for something else. LOL

  • Pls when I use the generic key it's displaying "that key can't be used to activate this edition of windows.please try a different key

  • Thanks man, I hope this works!

    I'm using the Windows 8.1 generic key to go along a USB installation flashdrive I'm creating using the official Windows tool, for Windows 8.1. I only have an original key/installation of Windows 8, so kind of bizarre Microsoft never released the same USB installation flashdrive tool for W8...

    So I'm thinking I can use this next time my PC goes tits up, and install W8.1 with the USB, entering the Generic key. Then once I'm 'inside' I can activate the installation using my original Windows 8 Pro key, am I right?

  • VG

    ^^ Yes. It should work.

  • i need product key for windows 8,can somebody help...

  • I followed the instructions above. I have an HP Pavilion dv7 running MS Windows 8.1 Pro. I was using the computer and had no issue with the product key. Then after having numerous problems with the computer and slow running speed I decided to wipe and install windows again. I created an ISO USB boot tool and followed the instructions on the screen. Like the original poster, I received an error when trying to use my product key (which is on the bottom of the computer on a sticker). So I followed the method above and used a product key from: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj612867.aspx

    Windows 8.1 setup successfully however it says "Activate Windows Go to PC settings to activate Windows"
    I went to the settings page and entered my product key and received a message:
    "Windows can't activate right now. Try activating Windows later. If that doesn't work, contact your system administrator."
    and in red below that:
    Windows can't activate. Try again later.

    Any suggestions? I appreciate any help or advice you can provide.

  • KMS keys are not working any more :( It didn't work for me :( It still says this key can not be used for retail version. I have an OEM key, i want to make a windows 8 bootable for it to make a clean install. Please help

  • Upgrading from windows 8 to 8.1 i have gotten the blue screen of death saying something about kernel trap error and now i get a quick blue screen, it attempts to reboot a couple of more times before going to system repair, which then says undoing the changes and fails there. so then i am left with a big paperweight. checked compatibility and only one thing came up so i removed it ( it was only a game ) all updates are currently installed including 2 optional updates just installed which i will reboot here shortly and try again. I'm stumped now any help would be appreciated.

  • so with all current updates installed including hidden and optional install still fails removed everything I can possible remove hardware wise and still issues.

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