Tip

Replace non-genuine Windows XP license keys

In the wake of Microsoft's increased crackdown on Windows licensing abuses, a great many people who thought they had legitimate license keys for Windows XP found out that they didn't.

Many of them had been sold – illegally -- volume licensing keys (VLKs) which had been leaked from other organizations. Others had used a single non-volume license key across multiple computers. Microsoft has outlined the common reasons why

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a given copy of Windows could be flagged as non-genuine.

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Bottom line: Many people are shocked to discover that a license key they bought from what they believed to be a genuine retailer was, in fact, not genuine. If a key has been flagged as non-genuine, the only thing that can be done is replace it with a legitimate license key. There are several ways to do this, depending on the scope of the job, i.e., how many license keys need to be replaced.

Last-minute XP migration advice

Keep these five things in mind as Windows XP end of life approaches.

For individual systems. If you're replacing license keys on only a few systems, the job can generally be done by hand without too much work. There are a few ways to go about doing this. Microsoft has one sanctioned way to change a product key via a utility they're published called the the Windows Product Key Update Tool. This tool, in addition to changing the product key, scans a number of key system files and reports the information back to Microsoft (in an anonymous way) for the sake of analysis, and also lets you know if the system might fail to accept a new key as well.

For multiple systems. If you want to update many systems at once, Daniel Petri has written a set of scripts to update the Windows XP license key automatically through the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). This can be done as a login script, or also run manually. Note: It's not a hack; like the previous method, it requires a valid license key, and uses an entirely Microsoft-sanctioned method to do its job.

If you're trying to activate a number of systems that have already expired, you can do this by booting the system into non-networked Safe Mode and running the script manually from a removable drive. Safe Mode will still work, but you cannot use network access even in Safe Mode after Product Activation has expired.

Note: All of this assumes Windows is out of activation and that there is not simply a problem with WPA itself. If you're trying to debug such an issue, there are feedback forums and software tools provided by Microsoft for getting to the bottom of those problems.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in February 2007

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