Locating your product keys when installing Windows or software such as Microsoft Office can be an absolute pain. You've probably thrown away the packaging for a piece of software, only to realise that you’ve discarded a vital code with it. Should you find yourself in this situation, however, never fear: here's how to find your product key within Windows.

(You can also get the product key for Windows itself.)

Find lost product keys with software

Trying to locate a product key by hunting through the Windows Registry isn't possible as the code is encrypted. Luckily, there are a plethora of third-party programs that will do all the legwork for you.

Our favourite of these is ProduKey, a small application that will delve into the Registry to fish out and decrypt your product key. The file size is tiny, meaning it won’t take long at all to download and run.

How to find out your Microsoft Office Product Key

Once downloaded, run it and it will immediately display the product keys of any Microsoft Office software up to 2013, as well as the keys of operating systems such as Windows Vista, 7 and 8. Then you can either copy the keys for future use, or export them to a HTML file for digital storage.

If Office was pre-installed when you bought your PC or laptop, you might find that no software will recover the key. But, if you're willing to pay for software, Recover Keys is able to scan more deeply than any free app (including Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder).

Although you're probably only interested in finding your Office product key, Recover Keys supports over 9000 apps, can scan remote Windows and Mac computers, recover license keys from external storage, scan multiple Windows installations, and can even run from a USB drive.

How to find your Office product key