Friday, June 16, 2006

XP activation hassles

As I wrote in my previous post I just bought a new notebook computer that came with a preinstalled Windows XP Home Edition. After I had reinstalled it, XP Home's activation would fail with a message about an invalid product key.

Already suspecting something nasty going on, I searched the net for a while and found, that in April 2005 Microsoft published a Technet article titled Preserving OEM Pre-Activation when Re-installing Windows XP. From what it says Microsoft disabled the internet activation for all OEM products to prevent system builders from pre-activating their machines and selling the product keys separately.

I was trying to activate at 0100h in the morning, and of course nobody was available at Microsoft. I thought that was ok, because you have 30 days to activate, but when I went to windowsupdate.com it told me that I had to activate first, because otherwise it could not run the Genuine Advantage check! Now that's to my liking! As a paying customer you have to wait till you can install the 45(!) patches that were available at that time.

Has anyone ever wondered what happens if Microsoft decides that XP has reached its end of life? If I once bought a Windows 3.1 license I can still install it today - given that I have a machine that's not too fast for it :) - but will I be able to do so with XP in 10 years?

Anyway, I indeed had to wait till the next day to go through the telephone activation procedure. Because I already knew that the automated phone activation would not work I just entered lots of 1's when asked to provide the activation code. After that I was put through to a living being, who first asked me to provide the first and the last block of my activation code. Then she wanted me to enter the product key from the sticker attached to the notebook (again). I do not know why, but I decided to play dumb and just do it. Finally, after I had told her the whole activation code and answered her question on how many machines I had installed XP to (honestly, who would tell them anything but "1", even if he/she did install it multiple times?), she gave me the final activation sequence.

First thing after that was to save the wpa.* files from the system32 folder to a CD. This should allow me to install the machine time and again if I want to without having to go through the activation again (of course only, if the hardware stays the same). To restore a saved activation state, just boot into Safe Mode and put the files from the CD back into the system32 folder.

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