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How to activate a Microsoft Windows XP system
Published Date : 21 Mar 2002   Last Updated : 29 Jun 2012   Content Ref: TEC10739  


What is WPA?
WPA is a way of locking the software to the hardware within your system. It works as follows:

  1. You enter your Product Key (or CoA number).
  2. Windows® interrogates the components in your system (eg hard disk, memory, CPU) to obtain unique information (e.g. Serial numbers, Model numbers etc).
  3. From these two pieces of information, Windows forms a 44-digit Product ID number.
  4. You transmit this 44-digit Product ID to Microsoft® (either via the Internet or a voice telephone call).
  5. You receive back a a 42-digit Activation ID (either via the Internet or a voice telephone call).

As long as the Product Key matches the Product ID and the Activation ID and your hardware components, your system will remain Activated. These are checked each time you boot and at intervals during use.

Retail and OEM versions of Windows XP include WPA. Volume License versions however, do not include WPA and only require a special Product Key for them to be enabled.

Note: RM systems, as shipped from the factory, do not require activation and will never require activation (unless a different operating system has been installed, the mainboard has been changed or the mainboard BIOS flashed with a non-RM BIOS). Systems that are re-installed using RMRestor or the RM Recovery CD will also never require activation, provided the mainboard has not been changed.

How can I activate my system?

Activation can be performed over the Internet (Tablet PC only) or via telephone.

Internet Activation

  1. Click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Activate Windows.
  2. Follow the activation instructions that appear on your screen.

If you have an Internet connection it only takes a few seconds to activate your installation. This menu item is only present if your system is not activated.

Telephone Activation - if you choose to activate Windows XP using the telephone, you will need to read the 44-digit Product ID to the support representative in the activation center. You will then be given a 42-digit Activation ID, which you have to enter in the activation wizard. The support representative will wait until you finish typing in the Activation ID to ensure that the activation is successful.

Please note: The Product Key on OEM Certificates of Authenticity (CoAs) (eg the RM CoA has the letters RM printed on it), will not allow you to use that Product Key to activate Windows over the Internet. As all OEM systems are pre-activated, you should not need to activate the system as it should already be activated. If however, you have changed the mainboard or mainboard BIOS, you will need to make a telephone call to Microsoft and explain the situation. Note that a mainboard upgrade is not allowed, you can only replace the mainboard with a similar one.

If I make a note of the 42-digit Activation code, can I use this if I need to reinstall Windows XP?

No, the activation code given by Microsoft over the phone is only good for about 30 minutes. If not used, you will have to call Microsoft again for another code.

Why is my system asking me to Activate Windows XP?

Most systems shipped by RM have been installed using a feature called System Locked Pre-Installation (SLP). These systems have not been activated using the Product Key on the CoA label. However, they do not require activation as long as the installation is not destroyed or damaged and the mainboard BIOS is not changed.

If you re-install from the Windows XP Recovery CD however, the SLP may be destroyed or you may be required to enter the system Product Key which will not be the same one used by RM (first release of Windows XP only).

If you have already activated your PC, you may be asked to re-activate it if have changed too many components within your system.

What happens if I do not activate Windows XP?

Windows XP will allow you 30 days before it will refuse to allow you to log in and get access to the Desktop.
If you have set up your Internet connection previously, you can still activate Windows via the Internet. Otherwise you will have to call Microsoft on the telephone as described above.

What is the difference between Product Activation and Product Registration?

The Microsoft Windows Product Registration is purely voluntary and includes personal information that you voluntarily transmit to Microsoft in order to receive information on updated downloads, service packs, and new products. The WPA is required in order to activate Windows for WPA Microsoft only record your 44-digit Product ID.

How does Windows XP Product Activation (WPA) work?

Since the Product ID sent to Microsoft also contains your Product Key and some coded information about your hardware, Microsoft can check to determine if that Product Key has been used on any other computer previously. This ensures that your systems are correctly licensed and only one copy of Windows is used for each CoA label.

What happens if I change the hardware in my system?

On RM factory-prepared systems there will be no problem as they are not activated because RM use SLP for most systems (as long as you do not change the hard disk/operating system).

For other non-OEM systems that did not come with Windows pre-installed, WPA allows you to change at least 4 hardware components (or more depending upon what components are present). If you exceed this number then you will be asked by Windows to re-activate your system and Internet assisted activation will fail. You must telephone Microsoft and inform them of the hardware that you have changed. For instance, your mainboard may have developed a fault and was replaced, and as it contained sound, graphics and network components and you also added more memory at the same time, this may cause Windows to require re-activation. Microsoft will check to determine that some system components are still the same and give you a new Activation ID.

Note: RM systems come with a license for Windows XP pre-installed. This license is not transferable to any other system, nor are you allowed to upgrade your system mainboard. These terms are stated in the license agreement that is displayed when a new RM Windows XP system is first used.

What happens if I have re-installed from the Windows XP RM Recovery CD?

Except for early Windows XP systems, most systems will not need to be activated as they will be pre-activated once re-installed from the RM Recovery CD.

If using an early (first release) RM Recovery CD, your system may require Activation. Use the Product Key on the back of the system and the Internet, or the telephone to activate Windows as explained above.

Note: If the Internet activation fails, ensure that the Product Key you have used is the same as that on the CoA label on the system. The 'default' Product Key displayed by the software may not be the correct one - always use the number on the CoA label on your system. If this still fails you will have to telephone Microsoft - Microsoft have discontinued Internet activation for OEM CoA labels.

If you have a large number of systems to re-install and do not wish to ring Microsoft for each one or type in a different Product Key for each system, you can re-install Windows XP using an automated install method. Using this method does not require Windows to be Activated. For more details see article on the RM Windows XP Recovery CD in the Other Useful Articles section below.

Other Useful Articles

Information about the Microsoft Windows XP Hard Disk configuration shipped by RM (TEC9612)
How to use the Microsoft® Windows® XP RM Recovery CD for re-installation or repair (TEC11561)
How to install Microsoft Windows XP from the Windows XP RM Recovery CD (TEC10752)
How to find the Operating System Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and Product Key for my system? (TEC10756)

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Document Keywords: emergency repair disk, erd, windows 2000 professional

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