Windows XP Activation

Windows XP Activation

Windows XP activation holds a lot of mystery for some people, on this page we try to help people understand what happens. Another page you should check is the Compaq Computers page at On this page we are collecting info and links relating to the windows xp activation, or WPA, how it works, why it doesn't, what can and will happen when you add new hardware, etc.

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Transfer Your Registration When Reinstalling Windows XP

It is possible to transfer your Windows XP registration if you need to reinstall your operating system for any reason, this will mean that you will not have to go through the activation process at all. As long as you don't make any hardware changes, take these steps to make it happen:
  1. Double-click My Computer
  2. Double-click on the "C" drive
  3. Go to the C:\Windows\System32 folder (you may have to click on the link that says "Show The contents of this folder")
  4. Find the files "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" and copy them to a safe location. You can copy them on a floppy drive or burn it onto a CD or DVD.
  5. After you have reinstalled Windows XP on your reformatted hard drive, click "No" when asked if you want to go ahead and go through the activation process
  6. Reboot your computer into SafeMode (you can either press F8 as Windows is booting up to see the Windows Advanced Options menu and select SAFEBOOT_OPTION=Minimal or follow the instructions in Starting Windows XP in SafeMode
  7. Double-click My Computer
  8. Double-click on the "C" drive
  9. Go to the C:\Windows\System32 folder (you may have to click on the link that says "Show The contents of this folder")
  10. Find the file "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" (if it exists) and rename them to "" and ""
  11. Copy your original "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" files from your floppy disk, CD or DVD into the C:\Windows\System32 folder
  12. Restart your system (if you followed the directions in Starting Windows XP in SafeMode you may need to go back into MSCONFIG to turn off booting into SafeMode) From Transferring Windows XP Activation Information

    Activation changes in Windows XP SP1

    Aug 26 2002-What changes have been made to product activation in SP1? How will these changes impact customers? Microsoft will introduce additional technological measures in Service Pack 1 for Windows XP aimed at ensuring legally licensed customers receive the full benefits of owning their valid license. These changes include denying access to the Windows XP SP1 updates for PCs with known pirated installations, product key validation during activation, and the repair of cracks to activation. Additional features have been added to provide a better customer experience including an additional three-day grace period to re-activate after significant hardware changes and the ability for volume license customers to encrypt their volume license product key in unattended installations.
    Licensed customers are not impacted by any of these changes.
    Click here for more from Microsoft.

    Microsoft Product Activation

    Aug 26 2002-Service Pack 1 Changes to Product Activation
    Software piracy continues to be a worldwide problem and Microsoft is committed to a long-term strategy of protecting intellectual property through innovative technologies. The introduction of technical measures to thwart piracy has kicked-off a cat-and-mouse game between software publishers and those who pirate software. Specifically, software pirates have been busy engineering circumventions to digital rights technologies including Microsoft's own product activation.
    Click here for more from Microsoft.

    Microsoft Product Activation is an anti-piracy technology designed to verify that software products have been legitimately licensed. This aims to reduce a form of piracy known as casual copying. Activation also helps protect against hard drive cloning. Activation is quick, simple, and unobtrusive, and it protects your privacy.
    Product Activation works by verifying that a software program's product key has not been used on more personal computers than intended by the software's license. You must use the product key in order to install the software and then it is transformed into an installation ID number. You use an activation wizard to provide the installation ID number to Microsoft either through a secure transfer over the Internet, or by telephone. A confirmation ID is sent back to your machine to activate your product.
    The installation ID number includes an encrypted form of the product ID and a hardware hash, or checksum. No personally identifying data is included or required. The confirmation ID is simply an unlocking code for the Windows XP installation on that particular PC.
    If you overhaul your computer by replacing a substantial number of hardware components, it may appear to be a different PC. You may have to reactivate Windows XP. If this should occur, you can call the telephone number displayed on the activation screen to reactivate the software.
    Click here for more.

    How Activation Works

    Those who acquire software licenses through one of Microsoft's volume licensing programs will not be required to activate those licenses. Microsoft understands the unique deployment requirements of businesses that need to acquire licenses in volume and provides product that does not require activation to those customers. Qualifying as a volume licensing customer is easier than many may think. Customers can qualify for Microsoft's Open Licensing program by purchasing as few as five licenses. More information on Microsoft Open Licensing and Microsoft's other volume licensing programs can be found at the business licensing Web site.
    Software acquired as packaged product will require activation. Software acquired on new PCs sold by OEMs will also require activation; however, the software may be activated by the OEM at the factory before delivery to the end user.Click here for more.

    Windows XP Activation demo

    Check out the windows xp activation demo, Learn more about how Windows Product Activation protects you from software piracy.
    Warning: This is a link to a video from Microsoft.

    Click here for the video.

    Inside Windows Product Activation

    The current public discussion of Windows Product Activation (WPA) is characterized by uncertainty and speculation. In this paper we supply the technical details of WPA - as implemented in Windows XP - that Microsoft should have published long ago.
    While we strongly believe that every software vendor has the right to enforce the licensing terms governing the use of a piece of licensed software by technical means, we also do believe that each individual has the right to detailed knowledge about the full implications of the employed means and possible limitations imposed by it on software usage.
    Our answers to these questions are based on Windows XP Release Candidate 1 (build 2505). Later builds as well as the final version of Windows XP might differ from build 2505, e.g. in the employed cryptographic keys or the layout of some of the data structures.
    However, beyond such minor modifications we expect Microsoft to cling to the general architecture of their activation mechanism. Thus, we are convinced that the answers provided by this paper will still be useful when the final version of Windows XP ships.
    This paper supplies in-depth technical information about the inner workings of WPA. Still, the discussion is a little vague at some points in order not to facilitate the task of an attacker attempting to circumvent the license enforcement supplied by the activation mechanism.
    Click here for more.

    WPA for Windows XP

    Microsoft's Windows Product Activation (WPA) for Windows XP has become one of the most hotly debated topics online, in IT departments and in the computer media. It has also generated an incredible amount of misinformation and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), and has sparked an increased interest in Linux as an alternative to "Paying the Piper".
    In this article, we'll explain what WPA is about, how it works, and what effect it will have on your computing environment if you upgrade to Windows XP. In addition, we performed product activation scenario testing on the latest Windows XP Release Candidates (RC1 and RC2), and we'll share the surprising results. While Office XP also uses product activation, our focus for this story is Windows XP.
    Click here for more.

    WinXP product activation cracked: totally, horribly, fatally

    Since Microsoft introduced Windows Product Activation (WPA) the crackers have gone through a series of WinXP beta builds, finding new ways to at least circumvent the protection system. But now, taking an entirely different approach, Germany's Tecchannel has demonstrated that WPA as shipped in RC1 is full of gaping holes, and can be fooled almost completely.
    Tecchannel's report available in English here, or in German here) demonstrates that WPA can be compromised via numerous hardware-related routes; it all centres on the file wpa.dbl, which WinXP keeps in the system32 directory.
    This file stores information on the nature of the hardware at the time of activation, and when Windows XP notices more than three items of hardware have changed, it deletes it. Then you need to activate again. You'll also, Tecchannel notes, need to activate immediately if you installed more than 30 days (or 14 with RC1) ago, as that's when the clock starts ticking. This, incidentally, is also the case if you do a 'repair' to fix a bust system - not exactly friendly.
    Click here for more.

    Windows Product Activation compromised

    The Windows Product Activation (WPA) that is implemented in the current RC1 of Windows XP shows some serious bugs which will open the way for hackers to avoid the whole system.
    Apparently the programmers of the Windows Product Activation did not work carefully enough. In the course of our experiments with several hardware components, product keys and especially the central file wpa.dbl some interesting weak points showed up. Together with peculiarities in generating the id of the hardware this will open the way for hackers to avoid the Activation completely.
    Click here for more.

    January's XP Surprise: The Giant Paperweight Jan. 21, 2002

    Fred Langa warns new Windows XP users of the consequences of failing to "activate" the operating system with Microsoft. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
    Bill Gates says that some 17 million copies of XP have shipped since the operating system was launched late in October. It's a safe bet that a high percentage of these sales and shipments were bunched at the very end of last year, and the very beginning of this one. Between end-of-year budget purchases, holiday promotions, and Christmas gifts of small-business PCs preloaded with Windows XP, millions of people are right now experiencing their first few weeks' with the new operating system.
    That means many users are heading for a surprise, as the internal counter inside every copy of Windows XP gets ready to enforce the mandatory "product activation" after one month of use.
    Click here for more.

    Windows XP Product Activation

    How Microsoft's new licensing program works.
    Microsoft's Product Activation feature, included in the new Windows XP operating system, is the company's latest attempt to fight software piracy. Microsoft says it wants to eliminate what it calls the "casual copying" of Windows.
    To ensure that no more than one computer uses a single XP license, Microsoft has taken some extra steps. When you install XP, you will be asked to activate the operating system. If you do not, you still will be able to use Windows XP, but only for a limited number of days. When that time expires without the operating system having been activated, you will no longer be able to function from within the OS until it has been activated.
    Click here for more.

    Office XP Product Activation Overview

    Microsoft is committed to the protection of intellectual property rights and the reduction of software piracy. Everyone in the economic chain—not just the software manufacturers—is hurt by piracy, from the resellers to the support providers, and, ultimately, the end user. Authentic Microsoft software provides users assurance of high-quality, virus-free software; pirated software does not.
    All Office XP retail products contain software-based product activation technology, which means you need to activate your Office XP products in order to use them. Customers who license Microsoft Office products through volume licensing agreement programs such as Open and Select will not be required to activate their products, as this will be done by the systems administrator during deployment. For more information on enterprise deployment, refer to the Office Resource Kit.
    Click here for more.