Activating your license of Windows XP (Required, or it will stop working )

by Johannes Helmig [Published on 27 May 2003 / Last Updated on 27 May 2003]

Windows XP requires "Activation" :
You must contact Microsoft with a few weeks after
installation, or Windows XP will refuse to continue to work.

You will have in your Start-Menu the entry to "Activate Windows",
and there will also be an icon in your taskbar, reminding you
often to activate.

Activation is NOT Registration:
Activation : based on the serial number of the hardware components
(harddisk, motherboard, network card), a code is generated. Based
on this code, a "Confirmation ID" is created for your system.
The purpose of Activation is to prevent a copy of Windows XP to
be installed on multiple systems (and Microsoft only getting paid for
one license)

Registration : You inform Microsoft about your name, address,
e-mail address, .......

Let's assume that you have no (or not yet) Internet connection and try to activate by calling :

I do not know what caused Microsoft to use such a method, but working myself in a
support organization, I know that most people will have problems telling you accurately
a 50 ( FIVE - ZERO ! ) character number, and there be even more problems for them to note
down such a long Confirmation ID. Be prepared for some long phone-calls..........

Much better and easier:

Configure your Internet connection and activate via the Internet :

You want to register ? Your choice ( I selected NOT to register).

and after a few seconds:

That was easy !

What information has been send to Microsoft as part of this activation process ?

- serial number of the system volumne
- MAC adress of the network card
- display adapter ID
- CPU serial number
- harddisk ID
- IDE controller ID

This information is stored in the file WPA.DBL. It seems not to be possible to transfer
this file from an activated Windows XP installation to a fresh Windows XP installation
on the same system (like: a new disk is installed and Windows XP is re-installed) :
I tried it : as soon I restarted Window XP and it checked the WPA.DBL file copied from
a previous installation, Windows XP expected "fraud" and insisted immedialely on
If somebody else was able to transfer the WPA.DBL to a new installation and could
avoid the need for re-activation, please inform me on how it was done.

You can exchange a few of these components (like upgrading to a new graphic card or a
new network card), but once too many of components ( I think it is 3) are changed, then the
activation become invalid and you will be asked to activate again.

See Also

The Author — Johannes Helmig

Dr.Johannes Helmig is working as Director, Technical Knowledge Management in the Belgium office of Gerber Technology where he is involved in Customer Service and internal training, with special interest in Networking.


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