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

  1. Me mishra November 22, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Please tell me y my 8.1 version keep on prompting “windows licence expiring, update it from the settings”

    It says ACTIVATE it online. why ?/? dont want it.

    I want to get rid of it, pls help me to stop it.

    • Narender Singh November 22, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

      You need to either activate it by entering a key or use some KMS.

      • atekkez December 28, 2014 at 12:50 am #

        you’ve acess internet without activing your windows , you can fix this ,removing the key …

    • thomas March 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm #


    • Darshan March 24, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

      I have changed the ei.cfg file to below:

      Its win 8.1 pro with wmc

      i still get the error Setup has failed to validate the product key.

      plz help.

  2. Branden Deckard November 30, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    Mine says (at setup) that “Something Happened. Windows could not validate the product key”

  3. Alex December 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    And how should i do it if i have all versions and even x86 and x64 ?! Thanks

    • Narender Singh December 10, 2014 at 12:42 am #

      For an AIO edition, the installation depends mostly on the product code. So, you’d be needed to enter it there and setup will install Windows relevant to that product code, unless the setup has been modified to list the various versions included on the disk.

      • john smith April 11, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

        For an AIO edition, the installation depends mostly on the product code. So, you’d be needed to enter it there and setup will install Windows relevant to that product code, unless the setup has been modified to list the various versions included on the disk.

        unless the setup has been modified to list the various versions included on the disk.

        how to I do this?

  4. Tim December 15, 2014 at 6:31 am #

    Thanks bunches! Worked perfect

  5. subham December 15, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    What is the code for windows 8.1 pro with media center

  6. Elie January 5, 2015 at 2:05 am #

    MagicISO doesn’t work for me because it’s trial :) tell me another way to put ei.cfg into my iso file
    thx when responding positively :) :)

    • Narender Singh January 5, 2015 at 2:07 am #

      Try using 7-zip to open the ISO and edit the file. Open inline without extracting the image and then repacking. Do check with MagicISO again to confirm that the image is still bootable.

    • Omar Ezzat January 9, 2015 at 1:29 am #

      by winrar

  7. Elie January 9, 2015 at 12:30 am #

    I have written all information at ei.cfg file. But when I retry it, they tell me that “This key doesn’t work with this edition of Windows. Try a different key.”

    • Narender Singh January 9, 2015 at 11:09 am #

      That’s strange. Where did you get the ISO from? Sounds like it is made to only install a specific version which you need to find out.
      Also, are you doing a fresh install or updating from within Windows?

      • Elie January 9, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

        I downloaded the iso from windows media maker (I have downloaded from microsoft website and I shoose to download windows 8.1 pro. Can you give me another option?

        • Narender Singh January 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

          Then this should’ve worked. I’m not sure why that’s happening with you. Are you really going for a clean install?

          • Elie January 9, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

            I am updating, is that the problem? Should I install a fresh copy?

  8. Elie January 9, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    I will try to clean install windows
    I was updating to windows 8.1 pro from windows 8.1 single language without booting from dvd

    • Narender Singh January 9, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

      Yep there. To add features, you need to purchase/add a different version/upgrade license key to Windows 8.1 directly using the option “Add features to Windows” and then entering a new license key.
      To upgrade via ISO, you need to do a clean install only. Do backup your important data before deleting and installing a new copy of Windows.

  9. Elie January 9, 2015 at 10:53 pm #

    Sorry for questions if you’re tired from me but how to convert an iso to bootable usb windows? I have risk that my iso wanna be bootable after putting this file by magiciso tell me plz which of your articles could help me for that! Thanks for supporting me!

    • Narender Singh January 9, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

      That’s not an issue. Relevant questions are always welcomed :)
      To create a Bootable USB, I have written a quick guide which can be found here.

      • Elie January 10, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

        Thanks very VERY much!

  10. Johnathan Craig January 15, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    Hi Narender

    quick question my hard drive broke i replaced it with a new one its a toshiba. will this fresh install work for me too?

    • Narender Singh January 15, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

      Yes it will :)

  11. Johnathan Craig January 15, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

    Narender your the man it worked perfectly now to activate windows which should be easy.

    thanx bro

    • Narender Singh January 15, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

      You can use a KMS, but I wouldn’t wanna share ways to activate windows illegally here :p

  12. Rahul January 16, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    I tried above post as it is posted.. but after doing that it does not showing for entering the product key option but there occurred a problem

    “Something happened….Setup has failed to validate the product key”.

    fix this problem!

  13. Chinmay Gurjar January 16, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    I did all the modifications to ei.cfg , then too it asks for product key

  14. ADI January 19, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    Thanks. I was installing from a w8.1 pro x64 iso, followed up instructions, and I got to install without the key:-)

  15. YoloSwaggins January 20, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    I used the media creator from microsoft (you only get the choice between pro or regular windows 8.1) and the ei.cfg file is non exsisting :( Should i just create it?

  16. Johnathan Craig January 28, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    Guys clearly you arent following Narenders instructions properly. I’ve finished six laptops with this info of him.

    so my advice to you guys is have some patience dont rush through it. It works.

    • Narender Singh January 28, 2015 at 11:27 pm #

      The fault isn’t really theirs. Hehe in the article, I went with the PRO version of Windows. If for some reason the ISO only contains a specific version which isn’t pro, it just won’t work.
      However, yep. Many just failed to edit the file properly and hence the issues.
      Thank you for stopping for a while and leaving the feedback :) Always feels good when I hear that my content helped.

  17. Johnathan Craig January 28, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    yo Guys clearly you arent following Narenders instructions properly. I’ve finished six laptops with this info of him.

    so my advice to you guys is have some patience dont rush through it. It works.

  18. manko January 31, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    Hey man, I’m trying to install Windows 8.1 Enterprise, should I still use:

    or would I have to put Enterprise instead of Professional?

    • Narender Singh February 1, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

      You gotta use Enterprise in place of Professional there. You may also change the channel to OEM, depending on your ISO.

  19. yuuup January 31, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

    For those of you having issues, make sure after you create the ei.cfg file you click the drop down box and select “All Files” not .txt file. It worked for me. Thanks OP

  20. Remus February 9, 2015 at 6:11 am #

    hi guys,i got a laptop with preinstalled windows 8.1 edition embedded and I would like to know if I have the key which version is recommended for a clean install? this version embedded is a OEM or RETAIL ,VL ,FFP? Thanks

    • Narender Singh February 9, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      Pre-installed version need to be OEM, but that product key will only work for the embedded edition. It will not work for others.

      • Remus February 21, 2015 at 6:28 am #

        Hi Narender Singh, so the laptop didn’t came with any OEM DVD,i just find myself the key ,the reason why I asked is do I need to buy other OEM VERSION and simple I use that key or I use the key which is coming with new one? OEM from Microsoft is embedded or not? so is just embedded because is having multiple key and is istalled In many laptop.sorry but i’m bit confuse.thanks in advance!

  21. jay sean February 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Thankssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss very much I installed it successfully

  22. McM February 16, 2015 at 12:06 am #

    Narender thanks for heads up!

    Do following to find out the Editions available in your ISO file:
    1. mount the ISO file (let’s say in D:\ drive)
    2. Run “dism /get-imageinfo /imagefile:d:\Sources\install.wim” to see available editions
    3. Run “dism /get-imageinfo /imagefile:d:\Sources\install.wim /index:1″ to get detailed info about the image at first index

    • Narender Singh February 16, 2015 at 12:28 am #

      Thanks for this, McM. Any idea what would be the command if I have install.esd instead of install.wim? I’m seeing more of esd these days :)

      • McM February 16, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

        Hi Narender, I have no experience with the new format, but according to this site DISM is still valid:

        “dism.exe /Get-WimInfo /WimFile:C:\RecoveryImage\Install.esd”

        • Narender Singh February 18, 2015 at 2:01 am #

          Thanks for this. Works as expected :)

  23. rexx February 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    If you leave the ID blank windows will ask you which edition you want to install

  24. Nyck March 1, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    I can’t find ei.cfg file.
    The only files in .cfg format I have are – mscormmc, setupplatform, setup.
    Also, can I edit the .cfg on the CD that I burned the ISO to?

    • Narender Singh March 1, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

      If it doesn’t exist, just as mentioned in the post, you need to create it. Unless it is a rewritable CD, Files written to it cannot be altered.

      • Shivani April 3, 2015 at 11:34 am #

        i have tried modifying the ei.cfg file but it does not work for me
        the setup gives me the same error “Setup has failed to validate the product key”
        is there any other way to deal with this?
        i’m trying to install it via local hard drive
        please help asap

        • Narender Singh April 3, 2015 at 11:52 am #

          Try pasting this ei.cfg file in the sources folder. If it still doesn’t work, it should be something else such as the currently installed version of Windows interfering. Try doing a clean install via USB.

  25. Yannick April 16, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    Is this also for reinstalling?

  26. sangram April 21, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    is it permanent or after some days it will ask any key?
    i mean it will work like others,right?

    • Narender Singh April 21, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      It is just for skipping the input during installation. You will still be needed to activate windows post installations. Maybe use a KMS?

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