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Transferring Windows XP Activation Information

How to Reinstall Windows XP Without Having to Reactivate With Microsoft

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To tell you the truth, I have never understood what the big deal is with product activation. The fact is that software piracy is rampant, and Microsoft is the target for a large percentage of the piracy due to their dominance in the market. They have a right to try to stop or at least control that privacy, and the product activation seems to be a fair way of ensuring that only legitimate software owners get to benefit from using it.

That said, I know many users abhor the process. It may be because they have had problems activating and have had to call the toll-free number and wait to talk to a Microsoft support agent who then read them some 278-character long activation code. (OK, that's slight exaggeration.) Or maybe they just feel that it is some sort of invasion of privacy or that Microsoft is acting as "Big Brother" and monitoring their actions.

No matter the reason, there are plenty of users who would rather never go through the product activation process again. Unfortunately for those users, they may very well run into a situation where they do. Product activation monitors the system configuration. If it detects a major hardware change or even too many minor hardware changes within a set number of days (I believe it's 180 days before it resets) then it crosses the threshold and requires reactivation.

Users who reformat their hard drive and perform a clean installation of the operating system will find that they need to reactivate the product. But, as long as the new installation is on the same system and there won't be any hardware changes, it is possible to transfer the existing product activation and skip having to go through the product activation process again. Follow the steps below to save the activation status information in Windows XP and restore it once your system is rebuilt. (We also have instructions on how to change the Windows activation key in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.)

  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 you can 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 "wpadbl.new" and "wpabak.new."
  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).
Voila! Your Windows XP operating system is now reinstalled on your reformatted hard drive, and you are all activated without having to actually go through the product activation process.

Remember, though, this won't work for transferring activation information from one computer to another or if you alter the hardware, because then the information contained in your "wpa.dbl" file will not match the configuration of the computer. This trick is only for reinstalling Windows XP on the exact same computer after formatting the hard drive.

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