Software & Apps Apps Is a Keygen a Good Way to Generate a Product Key? By Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated March 07, 2020 Apps Best Apps Tweet Share Email 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. Justin Lewis / Stone / Getty Images 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.