Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

There are several stickers containing important information on product boxes. Some are generic and safe to display. Others are most definitely not.

Is there any harm in showing the full Certificate of Authenticity in an auction photo, including the license key? Can the key be stolen and used on another copy of software? I see people showing everything in photos, and others blocking out the key, so I would like to know before I sell my software, thank you.

It depends entirely on what you're showing.

Some things are certainly perfectly valid to show.

Other things, like the license key? Well, you might as well be giving your software away.

The rule of thumb is that anything on the outside of the box should be fine to display. If you can walk up to the box in a retail store and see the certificate of authority, then that's a fine thing to include in your auction photo.

Here's an example from a Windows XP Pro box:

Windows XP Pro Certificate of Authenticity

Anything on the inside of the box is a different matter. In particular, the product or license key:

Windows XP Pro product key

You'll note that I've pixilated the actual product key, and the barcode that I assume contains the same information in machine-readable form.

The reason is simply this: the product key is what you are purchasing. It's the product key that is unique to every installation of Windows, and is what legitimizes your purchase. Ultimately, any CD with the right product on it will do; it's purchasing the product key that makes it yours.

If you post a picture of that product key, then you've just given it away to anyone who cares to use it.

Article C3367 - May 1, 2008 « »

Share this article with your friends:

Share this article on Facebook Tweet this article Email a link to this article
Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.