Windows Genuine Advantage validation produces Product Key Inaccessible error

Even legitimate users trying to validate their installation of Windows with Windows Genuine Advantage sometimes get a Product Key Inaccessible error message. Here's what to do.

Windows Genuine Advantage is a software tool that validates a given installation of Windows to verify that it is genuine and licensed, and allows the user access to Microsoft-provided content that should only be available to valid users.

Unfortunately, it's been giving a great many legitimate users fits as well, because sometimes it simply doesn't work. One error that commonly comes up when a user tries to validate with WGA is "Product Key Inaccessible: 0x80080212."

There are usually two reasons why this can happen. Either the data in the Windows Genuine Advantage folder has become corrupted, or else the folder itself is not accessible because of a permissions issue.

The folder in question is found in the Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Windows Genuine Advantage folder. Usually this folder contains nothing more than another folder labeled Data, and within that a binary file named data.dat. If any of the folders cannot be read by members of the Local Users group—either because of a permissions issue or because of invalid data—then validation will fail.

To reset permissions on the folder:

  • Open a command line and type CD "%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Application Data\Windows Genuine Advantage" (note the quotes!). This should move you into the WGA folder.
  • From the same command line, type CACLS * /T /E /G "BUILTIN\Users":F (again, note the quotes!). This will reset permissions on all the objects in that directory and below it so that the local Users group has full permissions on the objects.
  • Run WGA.

If WGA still fails, you'll need to delete and recreate the folder. To do this:

  • Reboot the computer in Safe Mode.
  • Open a command line.
  • Type RD /S /Q "%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Application Data\Windows Genuine Advantage" (once again, note the quotes!). This will remove the WGA directory entirely.
  • Reboot the computer normally and try WGA again. This should force the data in this folder to be regenerated from scratch.

Thanks to JSIinc.com for much of the information in this tip.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinSystems.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in June 2006

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