Windows 8 upgraders: be careful with the free Windows 8 Media Center Pack code

Windows 8 Pro doesn’t come with Windows Media Center installed; instead it’s an add-on option. The good news is that until the end of January you can get it for free by going to this page and entering your email address. You’ll be sent a license key for “Windows 8 Media Center Pack.”

I went through the process on my laptop and it took a few hours before the key arrived, but everything worked.

When I upgraded my desktop I filled out the form again, but I got impatient and decided to see if the key I got for my laptop would work a second time. Since it’s a free key and I gave them no info other than an email address I figured it was worth a shot.

Windows happily accepted the key, installed the Media Center Pack, rebooted that machine and then announced that my copy of Windows was not activated because the key I’d entered was in use on another machine.

I checked it out and my Windows license key now appeared to be the Media Center Pack key. So I found my receipt and got my original Windows 8 Pro upgrade key and entered it. I was told that key wasn’t valid for this edition of Microsoft Windows. It appears Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Pro with Media Center are considered separate products as far as license keys are concerned.

I couldn’t figure out a way to ‘back out’ of the Windows 8 Media Center Pack installation to return my machine to a Windows 8 Pro install. I was stuck with an un-activated copy of Windows.

After asking on some forums someone suggested trying to activate via phone. I did that and for some reason it worked and now I’m out of that jam…I hope. I’m waiting to see one or other of my machines revert to un-activated at any moment.

Now this was my fault for trying to use the same key twice, but I’m drawing attention to it because it seems (from what I’m reading on support forums) that if you request more than one Media Center Pack key from the same email address, you’ll get the same key sent to you several times. So if like me you install the upgrade on two machines and ask for a Media Center key twice and happen to use the same email address to do it (which is likely) you’ll get the same key and you might not notice until after you’d sent yourself down the rat-hole that I sent myself down.

If you need a 2nd Media Center key for a second upgrade, best bet is to request it using a different email address.

2 thoughts on “Windows 8 upgraders: be careful with the free Windows 8 Media Center Pack code

  1. Hi Pete,

    I installed W8 Pro on Thursday./Friday. The W8 Pro disk says it should be installed as an upgrade over XP/Vista/W7, but my hard disk had failed and I went through the fresh install process rather than the upgrade.

    This worked well except W8 refused to activate, and phone support from MS wasn’t any help either.

    However I eventually found the following solution.

    1. Run the registry editor (regedit)
    2. Find the following key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Setup\OOBE
    3. Change the value for ‘MediaBootInstall’ from 1 to 0
    4. Open an elevated command prompt (run as admin)
    5. Run the following command: slmgr -rearm
    6. Reboot

    That fixed it for me. I was activated and everything worked nicely.

    The other solution that I found, but did not try because there wasn’t a need is to redo the W8 upgrade. Apparently because it finds a valid install the upgrade then allows you to activate normally.

    If you find yourself in a similar postion later, either of these may be helpful.

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