Product keys, software licenses, serial numbers – they all seem to disappear completely when you need them most. Perhaps you need to reinstall a program, or worse, an entire operating system, but can’t locate the original case, manual, or that ancient email you deleted more than a year ago. It’s not a far-fetched scenario by any means, and finding the missing info will definitely take up a chunk of your time – most likely requiring you to be placed on hold with customer service for longer than you would like.
Fortunately, there are scores of quality product key finders that will scan your system and compile an extensive report of any keys they find. The best part? The bulk of them don’t cost a dime. Just download and click.
Here are our picks for the best product key finders so you can jot down, print, or take a screenshot of all your precious keys in one place. Oh, and try not to lose them this time around.
Belarc Advisor (Windows)
Belarc Advisor is overkill when it comes to finding product keys, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The comprehensive freeware utility is an industrious system information tool that will quickly pull together a summary of your system’s hardware and software, providing you with a detailed report that includes your various information about your machine’s RAM, processor, and circuit board, among other things. It also includes a list of software licenses for Microsoft Office, Windows, antivirus programs, and heaps of other applications and software installed on your system. Despite being more than just a key finder, the program leaves a relatively small footprint on your computer and is also one of the few key finders on are list that’s compatible with Windows 8 and still actively in development.
The Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder (Windows)
The Magical Jelly Bean’s Keyfinder is another great piece of shareware. Unfortunately, you may have to opt for the premium version ($25) if you want a more extensive list of product keys and serial numbers for programs like Adobe Photoshop and the rest of the Adobe CS suite. Still, the free version of the software can retrieve your Windows product key from your computer’s registry and copy it to the clipboard, save it as text, or print a hard copy. The software also supports more than 300 diverse programs and features an editable configuration file so you can manually add support for other keys that aren’t as easily recognizable. The program includes several advanced tools for the more tech-savvy user, such as the ability to retrieve product keys from unbootable Windows systems, but the basic key finder will suffice for most users with little to no hassle.
Mac Product Key Finder (Mac)
The Mac Product Key Finder functions in the same way as the Magical Jelly Bean’s KeyFinder for Windows, albeit on Mac OS X. The freeware will scan your Mac for any software and allow you to save any associated product keys as a text, CSV, or PDF file, among others. The biggest drawback to the software is it is severely out of date. It hasn’t had a substantial refresh in more than two years. But, it is one of the only key finders available exclusively for Apple products. Plus, it can also locate product keys for your iPad, iPhone, or any other Apple device you’ve previously connected with iTunes. The premium version of the program ($25) will allow you to scan Time Machine backups and expand the limited number of available keys the freeware version supports from just less than 70 to nearly 200. If the Windows-only options are out of reach, Mac Product Key Finder is the next best thing.
License Crawler (Windows)
NirSoft’s License Crawler isn’t the most compatible of our roundup, but it is one of the most portable. The stripped-down software will scan your computer’s registry for Windows product keys as well as Nero, Microsoft Office, and a few other notable selections. Although the product is quicker than Googling serial numbers yourself, the finder’s key registry is fairly limited and also occasionally produces inaccurate product keys it claims to be correct. It’s also pretty futile if the the software in question doesn’t store its product key in the Windows registry. However, the application is ideal for a USB drive, is compatible with almost all versions of Windows, and produces a complex report that can be saved as a text document for later viewing.
ProduKey Finder (Windows)
As the most limited on our list, ProduKey Finder is probably best only if the other options don’t work for you for whatever reason. The basic, minimalistic tool can retrieve the ProductID and CD-key for Microsoft Office, Windows, Exchange, and a slew of other third-party applications and programs housed on your computer. The software is completely ad-free and also features some useful command-line functions, such as the ability to look up product keys for all computers on your network remotely or those within a specified IP address range, but it could use a revamp for Windows 8 compatibility.
What did you think of our picks for the best product key finders? What do you use to locate your keys quickly and efficiently? Let us know in the comments below.