What is a CD key and where can I find it?
The CD Key is a serial number with a combination of 13, 18, or 25 letters and numbers - it can be found on a sticker inside your game's case or printed on the game's quick reference card.
The CD Key acts as your proof of purchase for the game - Steam Support may ask for it if you need to establish your ownership of an account. It is recommended that you keep your CD Key in a safe place to ensure the security of your account.
CD Key Reset Process
Steam says my CD-Key is already in use when I try to register it. How do I reset my CD key?
A CD Key may only be registered to one Steam account. CD Keys are associated with your Steam Account, not your computer.
Please see the Resetting a Lost Password article for instructions to retrieve your lost Steam account if it is possible that you have registered your CD Key in the past.
CD Key Reset Process Guidelines
If you recently purchased a retail game which requires activation on Steam and are encountering a "Duplicate CD Key" error message, you must contact Valve to have the CD Key moved to your account.
Note: We cannot reset CD Keys which have been disabled for violations of the Steam Subscriber Agreement and/or End User License Agreement or banned by VAC for cheating infractions.
If your CD Key is alpha-numeric and matches the ##### - ##### - ##### - ##### - ##### pattern, you must have a copy of your purchase receipt from within the last 90 days to have the CD Key moved to your account. We do not accept receipts from online auction websites or used software vendors. If you do not provide a purchase receipt, Valve will not be able to transfer the CD Key.
Sierra Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Blue Shift CD Keys
Older CD Keys (Sierra Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Blue Shift CD Keys) are printed in the following format:
#### - ##### - ####
If your CD Key does not match the pattern (4 numbers - 5 numbers - 4 numbers), please skip down to the All Other CD Keys section.
If your CD Key matches the #### - ##### - #### pattern and you are certain that you have not registered it through Steam in the past, please send all of the following items to us via postal mail:
Please print out the CD Key Reset Form and complete it. Specify the use of any numbers in the names or email accounts (for instance, "B0B" has the number zero in it - you would need to point this out).
Package and send the requested materials to:
CD Key Reset
Your CD Key will be sent back to you via US Mail once it has been reset. Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for the materials to be mailed back.
Note: You do not need to wait to receive your CD Key from us to make use of the subscription on your Steam account – you will be sent an e-mail regarding the status of your CD Key reset request when your request is received and processed.
CD Key Reset Form
All Other CD Keys
Current CD Keys are comprised of 18 numbers and letters (Prey) or 25 numbers and letters (Valve games) arranged into five groups of five characters separated by hyphens:
Prey example: AAB1BB2C345CDD6E E7
Valve game example: 1AB2C-D3FGH-456I7-JK8LM-NOP9Q
If your CD Key fits one of these patterns, please follow the link below to create a support case to provide the following materials:
CD Key Scan Examples
Here is a typical example of a CD-key reset picture. Please write your account name or support incident number on the reference card. (If you do not have your account name, you must first create your support ticket, copy the incident number then submit an update to the ticket with your digital photo of the CD-key.)
If you do not have access to a scanner or digital camera, you may complete the CD Key mailing process described for Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Blue Shift CD Keys which is outlined above (you do not need to include $10.00 USD for the CD Key Reset Service Charge, however, you must include a copy of your receipt from within 90 days of the postmark date for the materials).
Contact Steam Support
Please see the Contacting VALVe Billing and Support topic for instructions to contact Steam Support to provide the requested information once it is ready.