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EddieLee
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Message 1 of 10
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Problem booting installation disk for Windows 8.1 Pro

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HP ZBook 15u G2
Microsoft Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

I had problems after upgrading my Windows 8.1 system to Windows 10, so I decided to go back to Windows 8.1. I restored a backup I had made of Windows 8.1 but unfortunately when I tried to reboot into Windows 8.1 I received an error about a missing device and nothing I tried to do would get Windows 8.1 to boot. So I took out the Windows 8.1 Pro DVD supplied with my notebook in order to boot it to see whether I could recover my Windows 8.1 installation or, at worst, reinstall Windows 8.1 again on my HP notebook. But when I booted the disk I received during the Windows 8.1 Setup the message:

 

"The unattend answer file contains an invalid product key. Either remove the invalid key or provide a valid product key in the unattend answer file to proceed with Windows installation."

 

What can I do now to get Windows 8.1 running again on my HP notebook. Do I contact HP in some way and can they provide me with a Windows 8,1 disk or a Windows 8.1 ISO image which works with my notebook ? I do not know if my notebook is under warranty but providing me with a Windows 8.1 Pro installation disk which I can no longer use to install or recover my system is not very desirable. The notebook originally came with Windows 7 installed, so any original recovery files on the notebook is for Windows 7 and not Windows 8.1.

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Paul_Tikkanen
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Message 2 of 10
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Hi:

 

You should be able to create your own W8.1 Pro installation media by downloading the ISO file at the link below.

 

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows8ISO

 

I have zipped up and attached below, the Microsoft utility you will need to transfer the ISO file to a DVD or USB flash drive so that it is bootable.

 

When booting from a DVD, ensure that legacy mode is enabled, and secure boot is disabled in the BIOS.

 

They should be since your PC originally came with W7 installed via downgrade rights.

 

One other thing...I noticed that the HP quickspecs for your notebook do not mention any builds coming with W8.1.

 

Only W10 and W7 are listed, which may be why you are getting that message. There is most likely a W10 product key in the BIOS, not W8.1.

 

I think HP sent you the wrong disk.

 

http://www8.hp.com/h20195/v2/GetPDF.aspx/c04832538.pdf

 

I believe your only options will be to reinstall W7, or clean install W10 and you can make plain W10 installation media using the media creation tool at the link below.

 

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10

 

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EddieLee
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Message 3 of 10
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What am I supposed to use as a Windows Product Key ? The HP Windows 8.1 Pro Installation disk was supposed to install unattended, so there was no product key needed or communicated to me.

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Paul_Tikkanen
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Message 4 of 10
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The key is in the BIOS.

 

For now, enter this generic W8.1 Pro key during the installation process.

 

XHQ8N-C3MCJ-RQXB6-WCHYG-C9WKB

 

Then after you install W8.1 use the free utility that I zipped up and attached below which will show you both the product key and the version of Windows that the key installed in the BIOS is good for.

 

I will bet you dollars to donuts it is a W10 Pro key.

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EddieLee
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Message 5 of 10
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OK, thanks ! But once Windows 8,1 is installed will not the normal System information show me the key ? Also why do you think the key is a W10 Pro key. My notebook did not come with Windows 10 Pro. Did I have an upgrade to Windows 10 built in to the hardware somehow. ?

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EddieLee
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Message 6 of 10
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My notebook is a G2, not a G3.

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Paul_Tikkanen
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You're very welcome.

 

The system information window is going to show you the version of W8.1 that is installed (W8.1 Pro), and again, I am betting you dollars to donuts that it is going to say that 'Windows is not Activated.'

 

That is all you are going to see, which is why you need to run that utility I attached.

 

 

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Paul_Tikkanen
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Message 8 of 10
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You're right.

 

My mistake...the notebook did come with W8.1.

 

http://cdn.cnetcontent.com/66/ca/66ca625d-376b-4d5f-96ef-4db1d159aa91.pdf

 

I have no idea why you are getting invalid product key messages.

 

You'll have to install using that generic key and we will see what the showkey plus report indicates.

 

Post the report when you are finished installing W8.1.  Just the report, not the key itself.

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EddieLee
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Message 9 of 10
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It turns out I was able to boot my restored Windows 8.1 Pro system. The problem was that for some reason the BCD boot information was fouled up. I do not know how this happened since the BCD information should have been saved when I backed up my main Windows 8.1 partition, so it should have been restored intact when I restored my main Windows 8.1 partition. Maybe after I upgraded from Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 10 Pro the hard drive information which Windows depends on was changed somehow to accomodate the upgrade, so after I gave up on Windows 10 and just restored Windows 8.1 again the BCD information became invalid. Luckily my multi-boot manager, BIBM, has a BCD edit function in its boot up interface and I could see that all the BCD information was no longer pointing to my boot partition. Once I was able to correct the BCD information Windows 8,1 booted up as before. So it turns out that I did not need a Windows 8.1 Pro bootup disk because I did not need to install Windows 8.1 again.

 

I am still sort of curious why the HP disk for Windows 8.1 Pro could not be used, but it was actually lucky it could not as it led to my solving my problem. I did not see in the BIOS where a Windows 7 or Windows 8 key resides. Do you know in what BIOS settings that key information is shown ?

 

Thank you very much for your prompt help with my problem ! Needless to say I am glad I am back up with Windows 8.1 Pro in the state I left it before I upgraded to Windows 10. My problems trying to get Windows 10 to work on the notebook are another story, but for the time being I am going to work in Windows 8.1 and then, when everything is up to date I will try upgrading to Windows 10 again, after backing up my Windows 8.1 system thoroughly.

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Paul_Tikkanen
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Message 10 of 10
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You're very welcome.

 

Glad you got W8.1 back up and running.

 

You cannot see the W8.1 product key in the BIOS unless you run that free utility that I zipped up and attached.

 

There is no W7 key.  That would be on a COA label and yours won't have that because the OS was downgraded at the factory.

 

In order to reinstall W7 (if the recovery image doesn't work) would require you calling HP and ordering W7 recovery media that only works on HP business notebook or desktop PC's

 

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