How to Find Product Keys for Older MS Office Versions

Find Lost Product Keys for Microsoft Office 2003, XP, 2000 and 97

Screenshot of a document in Microsoft Word 2002
Microsoft Office XP (Word 2002).

Losing a product key is common, but let's be honest, it's probably guaranteed to be lost after all this time, considering how long ago these versions of Microsoft Office were popular.

Office 97 came out in 1996 for goodness' sake! Even the newest edition I talk about in this tutorial, Microsoft Office 2003, came out in - you guessed it - 2003. That was a long time ago.

So, no judgement here. Old things get lost. Fortunately, so long as this old version of Office is still installed, or at least was recently, you may be in luck.

All of these versions of Office stored their product keys in the Windows Registry, in a specific registry key. The stored product key is encrypted, but a key finder program can handle that issue, providing you with the actual key you can use to reinstall Office.

Note: This process works for any of the various Microsoft Office 2003, XP, 2000, or 97 suite editions, as well as if you only have one or some of the suite's programs installed, like Word, PowerPoint, etc.

How to Find Your Office 2003, XP, 2000, or 97 Product Key

  1. Download Keyfinder Thing. This is a free program that will automatically find, and decrypt, the product key to your older version of Office.
    1. Note: Most free key finder programs will find the product key to any of these older versions of Office, but I've found Keyfinder Thing to be the most consistent. Plus, it's very easy to use, easier than some of the others in the list I just linked to.
  2. Open the ZIP file you just downloaded and then run the file called KeyFinderThing.exe (it's the only one in the archive) to start the installation.
  3. Walk through the installation, clicking Next when necessary and accepting the license agreement when asked. Also be sure to choose Custom installation (advanced) if you're given the option, deselecting all of the extra, unnecessary stuff that comes alongside Keyfinder Thing.
  4. Choose to start Keyfinder Thing once the installation is done and then accept any confirmation prompts that might pop up asking if you're sure you want to launch the program.
  5. Wait while Keyfinder Thing scans the registry, locates the product key for your version of Microsoft Office, and then shows those keys to you.
  1. Your Microsoft Office product key will be clearly listed and will be 25 characters long.
    1. Record the product key somewhere where you won't lose it again. You can use the File > Export Keys > Text File menu option to save the key to a TXT file for the easiest backup, but there's also an option to save the MS Office key to an HTML file. Another option is to copy the product key to a safe password manager program so that you'll remember where it's at.

Tips & More Information

If Keyfinder Thing didn't work, by all means try another free key finder program. These programs change and update on a regular basis, and considering how old some of these Office versions are, support may be dropped.

Other than that, though, you're left with buying a brand new copy of Microsoft Office. You'll no doubt have to choose a newer version of Office because your older version probably isn't available anymore.

Also, as tempting as they may be when reading about them elsewhere, please don't use a free Office installation key you might find on some websites, or download one of those malware stricken key generator tools. Both options are illegal.

Newer Versions of Microsoft Office

While the procedure above should work fine for Microsoft Office 2010 or 2007, there's another program that does a better job.

Microsoft Office 2016 and 2013 are different animals completely. Microsoft quit storing the entire Office product key in the registry starting with Office 2013, making finding a lost product key for Office 2016 or 2013 a bit more challenging.