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

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.

About the author

Narender Singh

Narender is a B-school graduate who loves technology. He generally, avoids news and spends his time writing guides and tutorials which add value to the web. Shoot any of your questions to him at narender@techmesto.com

273 Comments

Click here to post a comment

Email me when somebody replies to my comment.

  • If you created ei.cfg, and are having problems it may be because the article has a typo. Try [Edition ID] instead of [EditionID]. Worked fine after that.

  • Hi everybody. There’s a lot of messages here, too many for me to go through, but I hope this bit of info can help….

    It’s really really important that whenevr you make files such as this EI.CFG file, you understand just what’s going on…..

    For ‘many’ users (i see this often at work), the computer the EI.CFG file is created on, isn’t setup to show FILE EXTENSIONS (i don’t mean that as shouting, I just need it emphasised). To make it make sense, the user must understand what a file extension is before they start creating and renaming these txt files….

    A file extension, is a very simple idea that dates back a couple of decades now. It makes it easy for a computer to know what to do with a file when you double-click on it, so a JPG file opens as a picture, a TXT file opens as a text document, a BMP is another type of picture, you get the idea?, the thing is, this is easy BUT microsoft decided in their infinate widom (i use the term loosly!) that users don’t need to ‘see’ file extensions, so on many versions and setups of Windows, those essential 3 letters are hidden….the files icon will still show it’s a JPG or a TXT file, but Windows will hide the JPG and TXT extension….and here’s where it gets silly…..

    Once you start making up your own ‘special’ files like the EI.CFG thing, Windows gets confused sometimes, and here’s an example of what can happen….

    Create TXT file as mentioned on here, paste the text into it as instructed.
    Save the file as EI.CFG
    Windows thinks HEY, THIS IS A TEXT FILE !!!….
    and it automatically hides the .TXT file extension.
    So you see your file as EI.CFG
    But Windows sees it as EI.CFG.TXT and it hides the TXT bit from you.
    So you think it’s all wonderful and happy….and the installer thinks URRGHH, I can’t see a file named…
    EI.CFG, I can only see a file named EI.CFG.TXT, and it gets ignored πŸ™ and then it still asks for a licence number.

    Windows XP was great for getting past all of this nonsense and control, but all newer versions of Windows got more protective and silly.

    I can’t explain how to make Windows really show you all of the file extensions as it SHOULD do (if microsft would stop treating users like children!), but it’s all a bit too much to type out here now, sorry.

    I hope that all makes sense to somebody? πŸ™‚

    • Makes total sense. I make a an ei.cfg because none exists anywhere on the usb drive.

      The file I created is a cfg file and definitely, positively isn’t a txt file or a cfg.tx (which would be txt) file.

    • the easiest way to create an ei.cfg file is by searching for any *.cfg files on your computer and make a copy of any file into the USB drive you’re booting from and rename it to ei.cfg then right click on it to open with any text program editor such as wordpad or notepad …etc clear all its content then copy the following

      [Edition ID]
      Professional
      [Channel]
      Retail
      [VL]
      0
      then save …hope that would help

  • Doesn’t work for me either, it comes up with “The product key entered does not mach any of the Windows images available for installation. Enter a different product key.”

    Downloaded the ISO from Microsoft’s official website…

    • Are you sure that the file is ei.cfg and not ei.cfg.txt or something else? A proper ei.cfg would not open in any editor when you double-click on it.

    • What error does it show when you try to add a new file? I hope you’re not doing it after writing it to a DVD or when the ISO is mounted as read-only.

    • What error does it show when you try to add a new file? I hope you’re not doing it after writing it to a DVD or when the ISO is mounted as read-only.