Though the process for purchasing a registration key to access a product may vary between retailers and developers, it typically involves selecting the product through an e-commerce website, making a payment and receiving the key through an email or site page. You can then enter the key into the product activation page on the software or its website.
Many software developers use product keys as a way to guarantee a customer's rightful ability to access a program rather than simply paying to download the program or obtain a physical disc. This also helps to reduce piracy, as keys create a separate gateway to access that is not dependent upon the actual program. Some companies sell the key and the software program at the same time for convenience, emailing the customer the key after making the purchase. When the customer launches the product for the first time, she experiences a screen that prompts her to enter the key in order to activate the program.
Other companies only provide options to purchase the registration key, allowing the customers to download the software after its activation. This method is common with video games purchased through the digital software distribution platform Steam. The platform requires customers to create an account with the service, which allows them to purchase product keys from its store or from external sites. After the customer obtains the key, she activates it on her Steam account and is then able to download the game.