Windows XP product activation tips

Windows XP product activation (WPA) is a controversial new feature of Windows XP. Microsoft implemented it to prevent software piracy. A side effect is that it increases annoyance of legitimate software users. Minimize your annoyance by learning the techniques laid out in this article.

If you have been bothered by the activation message in the lower right corner of your desktop, you know how frustrating it can be to be obliged to perform the activation procedure.

Sweet. How does it work ?

It helps if you know that Windows keeps track of your hardware configuration in a file called wpa.dbl in the system32 directory under your system directory (usually c:\windows). If you upgrade your pc or add a new piece of hardware, Windows might think it's a different pc.

Windows then deletes the wpa.dbl file and if you don't (re-)activate Windows it stops working. Game over.

Not if you make a backup copy of the wpa.dbl file.

Say that you have upgraded your cpu or added enough new hardware to make Windows decide that you're trying to run it on a different pc. Windows then deletes the wpa.dbl file and starts nagging you with the activation message.

Now, if you just put your backup copy of the wpa.dbl file back in place, you should be able to continue working without having to contact Microsoft and explain that you are not a criminal.

This technique can also be used if you want to re-install Windows XP on your machine. Typically, when you re-install Windows XP on your computer, you need to go through the activation procedure once again to keep your copy of Windows XP working.

Not if you use a backup copy of the wpa.dbl file.

Some more Windows XP product activation details

WPA ties each copy of Windows XP to a specific computer. Windows identifies a "unique hardware configuration" that represents the hardware of your computer at the time of activation.

Windows XP product activation is a one-time procedure that you need to perform within a certain number of days after installing Windows. If your copy of Windows isn't activated yet, you'll see a message about activation in the lower right corner of your desktop.

If you don't activate Windows, it stops working. You'll be able to boot your computer, but you won't be able to get past the opening screen until you activate.

Activation is fairly convenient and it is anonymous. The Windows Product Activation Privacy Statement reassures that Windows can detect and tolerate certain changes to your computer configuration, and that only a complete overhaul will need reactivation. The magic number of changes you can make to your computer without reactivating seems to be somewhere between two and four, depending on the importance of the modification.

A new motherboard would count more than a USB flash drive.

Exceptions ?

No need to worry if you are a corporate or academic user and purchase volume licenses for Windows XP. Windows XP product activation isn't included in volume license versions of Windows XP.

Also if you purchased your new computer with a pre-loaded version of Windows XP, you should probably never have to worry about activation. Microsoft allows computer manufacturers to pre-activate Windows in the factory. The Windows installation is locked to specific information of the BIOS in the pc. This method is called System Locked Pre-installation or SLP.

SLP uses information in the BIOS to protect the Windows installation. You don't need to talk to Microsoft to activate your copy of Windows XP. At boot, Windows XP compares the BIOS with the SLP information. You don't need to activate as long as they match.

That means that every piece of hardware can be changed on a pc with SLP. Even the motherboard. As long as the new motherboard contains the right BIOS information, no Windows XP product activation is required.

Return from this Windows XP Product Activation tip to the Windows XP Tips and Tricks home page

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