How to Find Your Windows 98, 95, or ME Product Key Code

Find lost product keys in Microsoft's older versions of Windows

Screenshot of the Windows 98 Splash Screen

 Jason Smith /

Considering how old Windows 98, Windows 95, and Windows ME are, it's no surprise that you've lost the product key you used to install the operating system.

Unlike with product keys in newer versions of Windows, these older ones stored their valid product keys nice and neat, in a specific registry key, making finding yours pretty simple.

All you have to do to find that lost product key is navigate to that spot in the Windows Registry and then record it somewhere safe. Once you have it, you can reinstall Windows successfully using that code.

Please read my Windows Product Keys FAQ for more information about product keys in Windows, how many times you can use them, and more.

While no changes are made to the registry in any of these steps, it's always a good idea to back up the registry keys you'll be working with, or even the entire registry, just to be safe.

Follow the easy steps below to locate your Windows 98, 95, or ME product key code from the Windows Registry, a process that shouldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes:

How to Find Your Windows 98, 95, or ME Product Key

  1. Open Registry Editor
    , a tool included in all versions of Windows that you can use to view and edit areas in the Windows Registry.

    As mentioned above, you will not be making changes in Registry Editor, you'll just be viewing information. Please follow the steps below exactly as shown to avoid causing a problem in this very sensitive area in Windows.

    If working in the Windows Registry makes you nervous, you have the option of using a special program to show you this key. See our List of Free Product Key Finder Programs for more. We recommend the process below, however.

  2. Locate the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE registry hive on the left, under My Computer.

    • The HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive contains most of the configuration data for your computer and, in Windows 98/95/ME, also your product key. We just need to dig a bit deeper to get to it.
  3. Click on the [+] icon to the left of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE to expand the "folder."

  4. From the resulting list that drops down below HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, find and click the [+] to the left of Software.

  5. From that list, under Software, find and click the [+] to the left of Microsoft.

  6. The group of registry keys that appears next will be much longer than with the last few. From that much longer list, find Windows.

  7. Once you find Windows, click the [+] to the left of it.

    You may see Windows Messaging Subsystem, Windows NT, Windows Script Host, and possible some other Windows ... keys, but what you're after here is strictly the Windows one. The other ones do not contain a copy of your product key.

  8. Click on the CurrentVersion key - the word itself, not the [+] to the left of it like you've been doing up to this point.

  9. From the results on the right, locate the registry value ProductKey. Values are listed alphabetically so if you don't see it right away, scroll down until you get to the P's.

  10. The numbers and letters within this value represent the Windows 98/95/ME product key.

    The product key should be formatted like xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx - five sets of five letters and numbers.

  11. Write down your product key exactly as you see it here. You'll have to enter this product key just as shown when you reinstall Windows. If you're off by even one character, it won't work.

  12. Close Registry Editor without making any changes.

Tips & More Information

If your computer system was purchased with Microsoft Windows pre-installed, and it's never been reinstalled upgraded since then, the product key found by the steps on this page will only find the generic product key that your computer manufacturer used to install the Windows.

This product key will not work when attempting to reinstall Windows. In this case, you must use the unique product key that is on the sticker attached to your computer case.