SmartKey Product Key Recovery/Finder is a smart program that you can find serial numbers for Microsoft Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, Visual Studio, SQL Server and etc. A key generator, often shortened to 'keygen,' is a program that creates unique, working product keys for software programs and operating systems.
Serial keys for software programs, more accurately called product keys or installation keys, are needed before you can install almost any popular software program.
Serial keys or key codes are often required during the first part of a program's installation or sometimes after using a program for a certain period of time.
So what do you do when you can't find that special installation code but you need to install the program again?
Where Can I Find Serial Keys and Installation Codes for My Software?
Without a doubt, a key finder program - a special kind of software tool - is the best way to go if you're lost a serial key for one of your software programs, so long as it's still installed or recently was.
Product key finder programs are software tools that automatically search your computer for the serial keys stored in the Windows Registry or elsewhere on your computer.
For example, when you installed your operating system and other software, the product keys used during their installations were stored, probably encrypted, inside a specific registry key.
See our article on free product key finder software programs for a ranked and reviewed collection of these very handy tools, all of which are free to download, install, and use.
Now, you could manually look in the registry for the serials and install keys yourself, but they can be very hard to find. Not only that, the stored keys are usually encrypted, making what you dig up there completely useless anyway.
Most product key finder programs were originally designed to find the serial numbers and key codes for operating systems like Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, etc., but many of them find serials and keys for many other programs, too, like office suites, video games, and more.
What If the Program I'm Missing the Serial Key for Isn't Installed Anymore?
Even if you think, or know, the program you've lost the key for isn't installed on your computer anymore, you should still try one of the higher rated product key finder tools in our list.
Sometimes,a program will leave the registry keys that contain that program's serial key in the registry even after it's uninstalled, which is why this is worth a try. This isn't usually the case when the program was removed with a dedicated software uninstaller, but it's still worth a try.
If that doesn't work, you're left with digging around for the box the software came in, the email that accompanied the download, etc.
What If I Still Can't Find the Installation Code I'm After?
Unfortunately, at this point, your only legal option is to buy a new copy of the program.
In your search for help with lost serial keys, you've probably come across software cracking tools, keygen programs or maybe even lists of free key codes, there for the taking.
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It's very important to realize that none of those resources are legal ways of obtaining installation keys or any other unique code designed to protect programs from being pirated.
The only legal way of installing software is by using a valid installation code obtained through a legal purchase of the software program.
A key generator, often shortened to 'keygen,' is a program that creates unique, working product keys for software programs and operating systems.
Most software programs require a product key or some other kind of installation code before you can use the program, so having a tool that actually creates them would no doubt save you lots of money, especially if you've already paid for the program but lost the installation code.
Keygens go by many names, including 'product key generators,' 'CD key creators,' 'license key generators,' etc. No matter the name, all key generators create free, unique product keys for various software programs, video games, etc.
Unfortunately, like with most free things, there's a catch.
Is a Key Generator (Keygen) a Good Way to Get a CD Key?
The short answer: absolutely not. A keygen is not a good way to get create that installation key you need for your software or operating system.
A key generator may create a product key that your software will accept, but it will not find your product key.
Product keys created by key generators are not legal installation keys. The only legal way to obtain a product key is by purchasing the software yourself or by contacting the software maker directly to obtain a key.
No matter which key generator you might use, or where you download it from, using a product key other than the unique one that comes with an individual, legally purchased copy of a software title is illegal. Using a product key not issued by the software developer is certainly a violation of the agreement you make when you use the software.
Requiring a valid, unique product key is a software company's way of ensuring that each copy of their program is used only once and that each customer is paying for each copy used.
How Does a Key Generator Work?
The key generators you find online work similarly to the back-end tools that software makers use to generate legitimate product keys via a proprietary algorithm.
What a keygen creator has done to make a program that duplicates this proprietary software is either a) steal this software from the company, or b) reverse engineer the algorithm using a collection of valid product keys that he or she has obtained, probably illegally.
Sometimes, depending on the complexity of the program, the keygen comes packaged with one or more DLL or EXE files with the intention that they're written over the legitimate, original files so that the keygen will work properly.
Regardless of how, the end result is the same — key generators are not a legal, or ethical (in my opinion), a way of obtaining a key code to use for installing a piece of software.
What's a Quick Way to Find a Lost Product Key?
If you have a legal copy of a program that you've already entered a valid CD key into, but you've just lost the key, try a free product key finder program to locate the product key from your currently installed copy of the program.
This is a perfectly legal method of obtaining a product key because it's the same one you purchased when you first installed the program.