How to Change the Product Key in Windows 8

A generic volume license key (GVLK) is embedded in the volume license versions of Windows 8 media. This works great if your environment uses a Key Management Service (KMS) Host to activate your PC. But what if you don’t use KMS? If you have an MSDN, Technet, or Windows InTune subscription you may very well rely on a Multiple Activation Key (MAK) to activate your Windows 8 PC. When using a MAK, PCs normally connect to a Microsoft Activation Server to activate.

Unfortunately, if you try and activate a PC using a GVLK through Microsoft’s Activation Servers you’ll find yourself presented with an “I don’t think so” -type message:

Windows 8 System Information Not Activated
Not this time!


The dilemma is how to get the embedded GLVK out and the valid MAK in so that the Microsoft Activation Servers will be friendly and activate your PC. Don’t fret! Microsoft provides two fairly easy mechanisms to perform this task: one from the command line and the other from the GUI. Today we’re going to tackle both methods.

Using the Command Line to Change the Product Key in Windows 8

With your valid MAK at the ready, login to the Windows 8 PC using an account that has administrative privileges. Be sure the PC is connected to the Internet, otherwise the activation portion of this exercise is doomed to fail. However, even if you don’t have Internet access you can still change the product key now and activate it later. But for now, it’s time to get this show on the road.

First, move the cursor to the lower left hot corner and perform a right-click. Click Command Prompt (Admin) from the popup menu.

Fig 2 - Windows 8 Run Elevated Command Prompt


Click Yes if you’re prompted by the UAC to Elevate.

Fig 3 - Windows 8 Run Elevated UAC Prompt


At the command prompt type: slmgr.vbs -ipk {MAK Product Key gets entered here} then press Enter.

(An example of this command line is slmgr.vbs -ipk AAAAA-BBBBB-CCCCC-DDDDD-EEEEE)

Fig 4 - Windows 8 Entering Product Key on the Command Line


Click OK when prompted that the product key was installed successfully.

Fig 5 - Windows 8 Product Key Installed Successfully


If you enter an incorrect product key, a dialog box will pop up stating that the product key is invalid.

Fig 6 - Windows 8 Product Key Invalid


If you happen to stumble upon this invalid product key message don’t fret. Double check that you have a valid MAK and then try the command line again.

Once you have a valid MAK in the system, it’s time to activate. Type slmgr.vbs -ato and then press Enter. Click OK to acknowledge that Windows 8 has been activated.

Fig 7 - Windows 8 Command Line Product Activated Successfully

Using the GUI to Change the Product Key in Windows 8

One method down! Now here’s how to do the same process from the GUI.

First, move the cursor to the lower left hot corner, right click, and then click Run (alternately, press the Windows and R keys at the same time).

In the Run dialog box that appears, type slui.exe 3 then click OK. The Change Product Key GUI will open.

Fig 8 - Windows 8 Change Product Key GUI


Enter the new MAK product key in the text box. If the product key is valid, you’ll see a message below the text box that reads, “Your product key works! Continue when you’re ready.”

Press the Activate button.

Fig 9 - Windows 8 Change Product Key GUI Product Key Works


The screen will change and display “Activating Windows”.

Fig 10 - Windows 8 Change Product Key GUI Activating


After a few seconds (occasionally a bit longer), you should see a screen letting you know that everything went swimmingly. Click Close.

That’s it — you’re finished! You now can quickly and easily change a Windows 8 PC from using a GLVK to a MAK. Keep a sharp eye out for future Petri articles to learn additional Windows activation techniques, such as scripting the command line process and using the Volume Activation Management Tool (VAMT).