Install Windows 8.1 without a Product Key (Skip Key Input)

windows 8 logo iconSo you’ve got a Windows 8.1 ISO, but it is not letting you start the installation before inputting the product key? This is because Windows setup finds out which version to install from the Product Key and hence product key is needed before proceeding with the installation. But what if you want to install and trial Windows 8.1 before purchasing? You can easily force the setup to skip the Product Key check and proceed with the installation.

Skip Product Key Input in Windows 8.1 Setup

To achieve our objective, we need to edit the ei.cfg (edition configuration) file present inside the /sources folder of the ISO image. All we need to do is to provide the version details inside this file so that Windows Setup is not needed to ask for a product key to install the appropriate version relevant to that product key.

  1. If you are going to install Windows 8.1 using a USB drive, transfer the installation files to the USB and then proceed to step 2. On the other hand if you need to create a DVD, open the ISO using a utility such as MagicISO so that the structure is not affected.
  2. Browse to the /sources folder.
  3. Look for the ei.cfg file and open it in a text editor such as Notepad or Notepad++ (preferred). If the file doesn’t already exist, create a new text document and rename it as ei.cfg
  4. Now amend the file depending on the version which is included in your particular copy and the version which you want to install. For Professional edition which will be the best bet for most of the users, paste the following context into the ei.cfg file. Make sure that anything that already exists in the file should be cleared first.
    [EditionID]
    Professional
    [Channel]
    Retail
    [VL]
    0
  5. Save the file and run the Windows 8.1 setup again. The setup will not ask for the Product Key anymore.
This is not a hack or anything illegal. The configuration above is supported by Windows installer and is well documented by Microsoft and can also be used on some other versions of Windows as well.

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219 Responses to Install Windows 8.1 without a Product Key (Skip Key Input)

  1. Gurtha October 10, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Does this method work for windows 10 as well?

    • Narender Singh October 11, 2015 at 11:47 am #

      It should work, but I think Windows 10 lets you skip key input even without the need of this.

  2. ANURAG October 17, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    I M NOT ABLE TO ACTIVATE MY WINDOWS 8.1 PRO WMC .PLEASE HELP ME

    • Narender Singh October 17, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

      You need to have a valid product key to activate Windows.

  3. Sphiwe October 19, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    Where can i get those key for windows 8.1 i wanna activate my leptop please help me

    • Narender Singh October 19, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

      You need to purchase the key. There are certainly some illegal ways, but won’t talk about them over here.

  4. Saurabh November 2, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    I have purchased sony vaio laptop 1 year ago now I am updating the updates of windows 8 after installing updates it asks for product key while purchasing the laptop the windows is preinstalled please help

  5. tanay911 November 3, 2015 at 2:08 am #

    guys anyone who needs a product key go find a software called kms pico trust me it will automatically activates it.

  6. john November 21, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    i did the step and the the place that the product key should be inputted does not appear but the problem is there is a massage says that “Something Happened setup has failed to validate the product key.” what should i do?

    • Narender Singh November 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

      Are you running the setup from a USB or DVD? Or are you launching it from within Windows? Do you have any idea what variant of Windows does your ISO contain?

  7. NewToPC's December 12, 2015 at 2:15 am #

    Hey! At first it just asked for the key when i tried this, i found out it has to be a .cfg file, so i made it one. Now it just says the key is not correct for the product orso. I tried pretty much every editionid there is out there for windows 8.1, none of them worked. I figured out that maybe i have selected the wrong edition while installing it to my usb stick. Do you think that could be the problem here? Though i already formated the usb stick and starting to install it all over again. Great guide anyways!

  8. Parteek January 8, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    I HAVE TRIED THIS BUT A POP-UP WINDOW COMES SAYING THAT THE PRODUCT KEY YOU ENTERED DOES NOT MATCH ANY OF THEWINDOWS IMAGES AVAILABLE FOR ISTALLATION. ENTER A DIFFERENT PRODUCT KEY….please help me solve this..i dont have any windows installed on my laptop.previous got corrupted.please help..

    • Narender Singh January 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

      Did the laptop come with Windows pre-installed? Where did you download Windows from? And what edition it is?

      • parteek January 8, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

        No.. .laptop was dos.. My friend downloaded windows from somewhere. It was 8.1.. Actually My problem with product key Skipping is solved with this tutorial of yours but now a new problem comes in front of me. ..it is of partition type.. My disk was partitioned according to mbr..so windows is not installing.. I have very important data in my disk drives.. But i cant copy it because windows is not loading.. So please help me solve this problem so that i can save my data and iNstall wIndows..

        • Narender Singh January 8, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

          You can use Command Prompt to copy over data from one drive to the other. Doing some basic search on the directory listing and copy commands will be enough for you.
          You can also try using the Load Drivers (or something similar) option on the Disk Partitions page of the Windows Setup. That will open a basic explorer which can be used to browse around and do the required tasks. No progress bar is shown there (and the Window will freeze till the task finishes) and hence you just need to patiently wait till the copy process finishes.
          You can also try one of Ubuntu Live images which can be booted from USB or a DVD and can be used to access and manage file system.

          Now all depends on the way you’d wanna do the backup. For me, Command Prompt is the easiest when I know where the data is saved.

  9. Radhey February 2, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    I’m trying to skip the product key step but it always say setup failed to validate the key , I’ve downloaded windows 8.1 ISO single language English from Microsoft official website but unable to skip this step.

  10. Sigit April 10, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

    Thanks all…. its work for me, for home edition change “Profesional” to “Core”….

  11. Suresh April 23, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    I have all editions of windows 8.1 in ISO. So how to create ie.cfg file for that? By the way I want to install pro edition.

    • Niels April 25, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

      Simple, you can’t. This is for one version only. Better get some VLKs ready.

      • EP November 1, 2016 at 4:59 am #

        you are wrong Niels. I made this kind of EI.CFG file and I can select either the Core/Home or Pro edition of Win8.1 during setup with a Win8.1 ISO image I downloaded directly from MS that had both Home & Pro editions on there:

        [Channel]
        OEM
        Retail
        [VL]
        0

        Just do not include the [EditionID] section and any “edition ID” on there in the EI.CFG file and store that file in the \Sources\ folder and either burn the modified Win8.1 image to DVD or create a bootable USB installation media using the RUFUS usb tool.

    • Nikhil September 2, 2016 at 10:35 am #

      Here if you get the selection first select the os in which you hve done configurations for product key escape If not let me i will be giving you a direct link for pre activated windows 8.1 pro ohk?
      😀

  12. Untonym May 1, 2016 at 8:05 am #

    THIS REALLY HELPS

  13. satheessh May 19, 2016 at 10:33 pm #

    when i”m trying it shows

    can’t write cd image file

  14. PHYLLIS M TWENTYMAN May 21, 2016 at 5:25 am #

    i tried it and it says the key i entered doesnt match

    • Narender Singh May 21, 2016 at 11:00 am #

      Your version of Windows is probably not the Pro one. Please edit the file to match the Windows version of your ISO.

  15. whiteny June 6, 2016 at 7:06 am #

    this is nice

  16. Jose Sanchez June 28, 2016 at 10:27 pm #

    For those getting the key entered does not match. A simple way to fix that and make it more universal is to leave the space after Edition ID blank.
    I.E
    [EditionID]

    [Channel]
    Retail/OEM
    [VL]
    0

    • gaurav July 4, 2016 at 12:41 am #

      it says windows cannot find the microsoft software licence terms. what to do now?

      • Hihihi October 3, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

        You don’t fill it blank but write there a seriaL key and then save the fiLe to usb now boot and install that windows again and when it will ask you for a seriaL key enter the serial key which you enterted in the blank space. Get a simple serial key from net for windows 8.1 pro or other edition

    • jk November 9, 2016 at 6:58 am #

      [Edition ID]

      [Channel]
      Retail
      [VL]
      0

      …………………… or ……………….

      [Edition ID]

      [Channel]
      OEM
      Retail
      [VL]
      0

  17. Mike July 2, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    Whenever I try to run the setup it says Setup Has Failed To Determine Supported Install Choices. I downloaded WIn 8.1 pro and used the code.

  18. Paul July 14, 2016 at 1:50 am #

    cause it only worked once. Then patched.

    • Narender Singh July 15, 2016 at 12:13 am #

      Patched? This is an officially supported method, not a hack or something. It should always work.

  19. ahmed July 20, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

    maybe

    [EditionID]
    Home
    [Channel]
    Retail
    [VL]
    0

  20. Genghis July 22, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    Works fine, thanks. People having problems are probably changing the file name but not the extension

  21. Avesh August 25, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    I did the same thing to install my windows 8.1 version of windows by leaving edition Id space blank but its again and again telling setup has failed to validate the product key so please do the need full

  22. vaichius August 26, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    worked, thanks.

    i downloaded win 8.1 pro into my usb flash from microsoft febsite, created this file, and when i retried the installation it skipped the key part.

  23. Nikhil September 2, 2016 at 10:31 am #

    Does this procedure works sane with mac os X??

  24. Anonymous September 27, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    For people having multiple Windows 8.1 editions in one ISO, do it like this:

    [EditionID]
    Enterprise / Professional / Core
    [Channel]
    Retail
    [VL]
    0

    *Notes: 1) Put *space* before and after the forward slashes.
    Example: Enterprise*space*/*space*Professional*space*/*space*Core.

    2) Make sure to rename the file as ei.cfg not .txt in notepad and select the file type to “All” not “Text Documents”.

    3) Paste the file to the *sources* folder of your Windows 8.1 boot disk or USB drive

  25. Secure - India September 28, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    I tried, it says Setup has failed to validate the product key

    • Narender Singh September 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

      Did you actually save the file as a cfg instead of txt?

  26. akash sonkar October 5, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    I have window 8.1 setup pls give me any product key to activate Windows

    • EP November 1, 2016 at 5:12 am #

      no akash. you have to buy a win8.1 activation key from MS if they still have any left.

  27. sagar October 17, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

    hats off you saved my time and money have been searching various blogs for product keys but any of the keys didnt work.
    God bless you !!!

    • Narender Singh October 18, 2016 at 12:35 am #

      You actually still need to activate Windows to access the full features. It just skips the requirement during setup 🙂

  28. Guillian Denz November 5, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    please help me. a pop up shows and says:
    The computer started using the windows installation media. remove the installation media and restart your computer so that windows starts normally. then, insert the installation media and restart the upgrade. (do not select “custom (advanced)” to perform an upgrade. “Custom (Advanced)” installs a new copy of windows and deletes your programs and settings.)
    what to do? help me please :'(

    • Narender Singh November 5, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

      It’s hard to guess from the message, but I’ll try to. So are you trying to upgrade from an earlier version of Windows but have booted via the installation media? If so, that won’t work. If you boot via the installation media, you can only perform a clean install. To upgrade, you need to boot into Windows normally and insert the installation media (or mount the ISO) and then run setup. On the next screens, you choose upgrade and you’re good to go 🙂

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