thanks WR2! i was pretty sure that i could use the key for a clean install without problems but wanted to be 100% sure.
for further info here is an answer that i found on the Microsoft MVP forums. someone said that it would not work and here is the reply.
I have to debunk this. You can use either Retail or OEM disks to re-install Windows 7, as long as the SKU of the version you're installing will match the SKU of the license sticker on the bottom of the laptop, in the topic starter's case Windows 7 Home Premium x64. Back in Windows XP this was actually an issue where OEM/Retail/VL keys were all bound to specific media, as of Windows Vista, it didn't matter anymore. (I use Retail/TechNet media for creating my OEM reference images that are deployed on machines again and eventually activated by OEM or Retail CoA product keys)
For the topic starter, please keep in mind though; your laptop which is pre-installed with Windows 7 is activated through a certificate that checks for a matching slic table in your bios to see if the certificate is valid. This activation method is only used by named oem's like Dell, Acer, HP, and the list goes on. The product key that is "used" in your current pre-installed OS, will not match the key that is printed on the bottom.
I could discuss this activation method in far more detail but it's not really that important. So yes, you can use the product key on the sticker of your laptop to activate a new installation of Windows 7 and it will activate without problems.