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Product Activation Fails on Syspreped and Cloned OEM Windows XP Build

Posted on 2006-06-27
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Last Modified: 2013-12-03
We recently decided to replace 3 of our PC's and to give the old ones away to staff, so to erase any possible confidential company data from the hard drives and to give the users a nice clean build I re-installed Windows XP Pro using the Dell Re-installation CD (the correct disk for the PC) on one of them, spent > 3 hours getting it all setup and working including WinXP SP2 and all available updates and service packs (including Genuine Advantage) etc etc, ran Sysprep and cloned the hard disk to the other 2 using Ghost.

PROBLEM; All 3 of these PC's now have a permanent warning in the bottom right of the desktop saying that Windows must be activated - but it won't activate because it says 'Incorrect Product Key'.

These PC's have genuine OEM licenses stuck to them and I have tried putting the correct product key for each PC into the Windows Activation 'Incorrect Product Key' page, but no joy, they still won't activate.

Does anyone have any experience with this problem / able to tell me what the options are for resolving it (I really don't want to have to rebuild each one individually).

Thanks
Neil
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Question by:ITHELP-BOCS
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by:Merete
ID: 16997504
Hi Neil, the original operating system was this an imaged/ghost install?
This is after an OEM xp therefor cannot be upgraded only a clean install.
Did the hardware on these 3 new machines mismatch somewhere?
OEM has to exact match.
I would suggest you ring MS about this.

Read please about preserving activation code.
http://netsecurity.about.com/b/a/108600.htm
===============================================
In general, OEM software may not be transferred from one system to another system.  However, the computer system can certainly be updated with new components without the requirement of a new software license.  The only exception to this is the motherboard  1.  If the motherboard is replaced  
2, the computer system is deemed "new" and a new license would be required. Other PC components may be upgraded, including a hard drive. Though if the hard drive
 3 is replaced/upgraded, the operating system must first be removed from the old hard drive. To restate: the operating system is "married" to the computer system on which it is originally installed.
http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/oemeula.htm
Merete
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by:callrs
ID: 16997527
You can contact Microsoft by phone.

This solution from: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/WinXP/Q_21884903.html  "Windows genuine validation fails"

To activate Windows by phone:
1. Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Activate Windows. Or, click the Windows Activation icon in the notification area.
2. Click Yes, I want to telephone a customer service representative to active Windows now.
3. Click Read the Windows Product Activation Privacy Statement, click Back, and then click Next.  
4. Follow the steps in the Activate Windows by phone dialog box, and then click Next. Note: The number appears now and differs based on the location that you select.
5. When activation is completed and you receive the following message, click OK.
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by:simpswr
ID: 16997678
I have had this happen a few times when reinstalling on Dells  . . the activation page will giv e a number to call Microsoft . . it is a quick and painless 5 min call.
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carl_legere earned 500 total points
ID: 16998008
your issue is that in this instance you shouldn't have run sysprep.  It removed the oem preinstalled key.  It is acceptable to ghost similar dells, after the clone your computer should run fine and not ask for activation.

It is correct that changing the key to the one one the label (if you decide to do that) you will find you always have to call them.
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by:ITHELP-BOCS
ID: 16999471
Thanks callrs / simpswr, I have already phoned Microsoft and explained the situation but they weren't able to help because they said that OEM software must live and die with the computer to which it belongs - end of.

carl_legere / Merete - I think you're right and that the problem has come about because of running Sysprep because it was directly after (apart from the Ghost process) that the problem first occured, even on the original system.  Now I know about preserving the Activation Code I will do this in future, or even for systems which will not exist on the same network not bother running Sysprep at all.

What do you reckon to the the following working; put another hard disk into one of the the Dells, quickly build XP from the original Dell re-installation CD using the OEM key found on the side, copy WPA.dbl and WPA.bak to floppy and place these files on the cloned systems in Safe Mode.

Thanks for all of your help.
Neil
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by:Merete
ID: 16999543
I still think your problem is in the NEW Del, Neil not in the preserving the activation key..
replace<<  3 of our PC's , this changed the >> mainboard <<and breaks the agreement.

What I would do is ring MS tell them your legal key and what you did ...
 you have not  broken the liscensing agreement on how many computer liscenses you have...
Explain that you have only replaced the mainboard as in replaced 3 computers.
It is tricky though.
See that key will probably not activate on those 3 computers ,even after a new format install  on new hard drives as soon as they acces the internet MS will pick up the changed mainboard.

Extract from:
The only exception to this is the motherboard  
1.  If the motherboard is replaced  << it is in the fact it is a new computer
 the computer system is deemed "new" and a new license would be required.

Other PC components may be upgraded, including a hard drive.
Though if the hard drive is replaced/upgraded, the operating system must first be removed from the old hard drive<<< because it is an OEM it must be clean installed.

 To restate: the operating system  regestration key >> is "married" to the computer system on which it is originally installed Mainboard.
http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/oemeula.htm

Sorry to say this to you.
Regards Merete
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by:ITHELP-BOCS
ID: 16999705
Ummm, I phoned MS yesterday and explained the problem but they couldn't help so I'm not going to keep phoning.

Are you saying that the only option other than this is to rebuild each PC individually using the correct re-installation CD and OEM product key?

Neil
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by:Merete
ID: 16999881
no sorry , I think your missing the actual problem Neil,
its not the new/ old HDD it is not the new install or imaged windows>> it is the mainboards <<  you are using OEM, oem stands for original equipment manufacture.
If I went and bought two mainboards exactly the same model and make same processor speed brand same ram video card modem etc etc they wont be the same actually. Do you know why?
Each board has a different "serial number:.
It is this that marries this mainboard to that xpcd key to that operating system  which binds them together.

Are you saying these three new computers came with a new key each??  as they didnt have a hdd I doubt that. But it was just the way you worded it.
 And why couldnt MS help I wonder.

Look as I see it you could nomally perform a clean install of OEM on a new hdd if you had kept  the original old computers with their mainboards  you gave away, then your current key would work would re-activate because you clean installed,, All done deal..

But the otherway round to give you picture of the greed of MS
Even if you had kept the original hdd's  fully operational and then installed them into this new mainboard of similar make and model same processor etc, once again we hit that wall it has a different serial number, so your original key will not match the new mainboard serial number does not macth the database stored at MS headquaters.

If I am wrong somebody please correct me, oh I wish I were.

So what is the solution?
Only thing I know of you would have to pay for a new corperate liscence or upgrade it to include these 3 new computers. Or go get those mainboards back.

When you spoke to MS what exactly did you say them ask them?

See the part i get stuck with is even if you reomage them it still hits that wall of the mainboard serial number.
There is way I cant remember it goes like when you get to the activation part you insert the original xpcd this activates it then take it out and put the other in.

venom96737 would be the one I would ask but I have noway to contact him. Wil lsee if I can find him..
Hang in there Neil and I'll look into it. will get back to you as soon as I can.
Merete

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by:ITHELP-BOCS
ID: 17000035
Thanks Merete
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by:Merete
ID: 17000078
I'll ask Jay Jay and Venom.
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by:carl_legere
carl_legere earned 500 total points
ID: 17001185
It's not too late to fix this.  Load the Dell XP cd on each machine and do a full reinstall of XP, then auto-update fully.  This is time consuming I know but it will fix the problem.  Do so on all the computers you are donating.

I've been through this a few times.  The OEM preinstall key is embedded on the CD, it is always the same key for Dell's.  It does read the bios of the computer to confirm that it is a Dell, it does not however care what dell computer it is being installed on.

Sysprep is really only a tool for DSP OEM's and coroporate IT guys who already have a volume license.  I have confirmed that it is incompatible with OEM locked keys.
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by:Kenneniah
ID: 17004078
For preserving OEM Preactivation when using sysprep.....
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/deploy/oempreac.mspx
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by:callrs
ID: 17004400
[Just an aside here:
http://www.majorgeeks.com/download4138.html      RockXP 3.0  XP retrieve key
http://www.theeldergeek.com/activation_workaround.htm     Activation Workaround
http://www.msfn.org/board/lofiversion/index.php/t74943.html    Problem with Dell OEM Activation
Google for: activate xp, oem re-activate problem, etc. ]
What I won't give you here is the activation crack I got from shareaza. Linux users/developers spend more time on better software than on causing such needless headaches...
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by:Merete
ID: 17006368
Kenneniah and carl_legere for my benefit, does it change anything with the activation when  ITHELP-BOCS re-installs on 3 brand new computers, regarding the OEM and new mainboards. Appreciate your help :)
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by:ITHELP-BOCS
ID: 17014361
Thank you everyone for all of your comments and suggestions.
I now need to work through this mass of information and see if I can get this issue resolved.
This will likely be on Monday and I will post the outcome and assign points as soon as possible afterwards.

Just another point regarding this issue;

Suppose other PC's had been built like this previously, these PC's being in the same Windows domain so needing to have had Sysprep run on them. If these PC's did not experience the same activation problem at the time they were built and were still not experiencing it now (Automatic Updates configured to connect to WSUS so only approved updates being installed i.e. not Genuine Advantage) - what would be the likelyhood of them exhibiting this problem in the future - for example upon installation of WinXP SP3 if it is ever brought out or Genuine Advantage update?

Neil
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by:Kenneniah
ID: 17014532
"Kenneniah and carl_legere for my benefit, does it change anything with the activation when  ITHELP-BOCS re-installs on 3 brand new computers, regarding the OEM and new mainboards. Appreciate your help :)"

From my understanding of reading the post, it's not an issue with installing an old license on new hardare, but I could be reading it wrong. What I read out of it was that it is an issue of not being able to activate after re-installing using the recovery cd and using sysprep. Due to how OEM pre-activation works, the CD-Keys on the labels on the case cannot be used for online activation. Instead you use the keys listed at the website I posted when doing a sysprep install, and you should have to activate at all online.

OEM Preactivation is tied to specific information contained in the BIOS and the hardware configuration. Motherboards can be changed for another of the same type with the correct signature. If I read wrong, and it's being installed on different hardware, than a new license would be required.
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by:Merete
ID: 17014534
Neil the only concern  really is the activation processes I dont think it matters with actual service packs.
Xp is the operating system. Service packs are not a stand alone operating system but rather an add on to
 the verified operating system. All the operating systems are still NT based.
But with Bill Gates one can only wonder.
We never had such issues with previous operating system, it is normal to have to replace computer parts because of the unbelievable virus and tyrojans problems wear and tear age etc.
So I wonder sometimes if Bill Gates capitalised on this to steal a fortune.
When is enough enough?

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by:Merete
ID: 17014570
PS, If you think about it, we could could install any operating system so long as we never access the internet
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17014684
To Mereta,
Kenneniah's post
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/deploy/oempreac.mspx
is a good refrence, it is the volume builder key which essentially postpones the request for the key and allows updates and such to be slipstreamed into the build.  Essentially a robust oem that does NOT use royalty distribution would use this method.  I do not build with this method.  It asks for the key at activation.

Technicians are somewhat obligated to use the Dell CD and maintain the Dell royalty OEM pre-activated state, because in this state you have the least likelyhood of problems.

reinstall process (aggravation) on a normal oem computer without the benefit of the Dell (or HP, etc. ) royalty oem bios locked installation cd, you have to type in the number off the sticker, and expect to call microsoft for activation, if the number had already been used.  They just want to know the reason, and they will give you the code.

reinstall process for royalty OEM with the cd provided with goes much smoother because it will still be pre-activated.  Does microsoft know that dell is not screwing them?  I have no clue.  The name "royalty OEM' sounds to me like it is based on traditional royalty procedure.

reinstall process for royalty OEM without the benefit of the cd from Dell, and instead any old OEM CD or perhaps one from a friend's HP.  It will work, but it will need the code from the side, and expect to call microsoft for activation.  Effective March 2005 you could not expect the code one the side of a Dell to be used for internet activation.  Microsoft is constantly noticing holes in it's otherwise well laid plans.

Daniel Petri's site oft quoted here has instructions of make your own OEM cd from a retail or VLK cd, should you find yourself repairing a computer and you don't have the right type of CD.  Microsoft's strict rules however, state that I am not allowed to repair your computer if you can't bring in your computer, which has a sticker on it AND the correct CD that came with it.  What am I supposed to do to complete the repair without opening myself up to licensing liability blame?  Sell another license of course!
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17014689
always err on the side of profit



for m$
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by:Merete
ID: 17015147
very interesting read  helps fill in some gaps
thank you  carl_legere
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17017426
This has become one of the most often sited reasons for WGA failure:  Computers that have been repaired.  

Lets fact it, XP is a very good OS and has been around a long time already with market saturation (saturation partly thanks to ease of piracy from win3.11 to winxp).  There are probably thousands of computers that came from OEM's with stickers that will fail WGA.  Some repaired by local technicians who couldn't care less if the software 'thinks' it has a legal or illegal copy of windows on it.  Why should you, there is a freaken sticker, came from Dell, offers UNDENYABLE authenticty.  Many repaired by the OEM's outsourced repair shops, Decision One for example, they don't care either.  I suspect as many as half those repaired by local techs and half by big companies will fail.  

XP has been around so long, many computers have been donated/sold/given to workers, kids going to college, etc.  Thousands of them have VLK licenses from thier prior life, and a sticker on the bottom, but they could become WGA failures.

You should be exempt from WGA if you can call them with your tag number, they look it up, verify that it hasn't been abused, give you a code that WGA is to be ignored in the future.
Fortunately microsoft wrote a utility for changing the key from 'whatever' to the code printed on the side.  While doing this it checks that code for authenticity and single use, and also activates it.  If the utility finishes completed, then WGA will pass.
http://catalog.microsoft.com/genuine/purchase/UpdateInstructions.aspx  

Now on the horizon with the threat that XP will be turned off forever in the Fall 2006 if not legit, I see many end users and corporations more seriously looking into desktop linux.
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=84
I know it's just a blog, but it's out there, LOL.
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by:Merete
ID: 17017542
I am a victum of the illegal xpro install myself.
I spent a year sifting online asking and learning chooseing my parts so carefully to build my own dream machine at the time..
But had it assembled  by what I believed was a reasonable well reputed technition, even drove 200 klm to them..as there were new pieces of hardware and technology  I was not quite familiar with I had them build it for me.
 I got the machine home all excited as it was so heavy lol fully built  awsome..

and booted it , goo d feeling only to notice the blue instead of green scrolling xp bar, I rang them immediatley and asked what had happened, they explained as my xp home was still installed and active on my older machine they could not install it,  my heart sank like a rock believe me..and that was no OEM either my xp home, so without my consent they had proceeded and installed a copy of their corperate issue xp pro as well,  I demanded a copy of it and how dare they put an illegal windows on my new perfect home designed computer it really blew my mind.. as I could not repair my system and had no cd  now I just went red in disabelief.
They had to agree so made a copy of xp pro corperate issue for me. Which was also illegal.
 See it drives me to study it all and do it myself :D
I eventually bought a new xp pro cd.
but it still soured my experience and never would I trust a technition again.


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by:Merete
ID: 17017643
oh man after reading that  http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=84
I feek sick lol well we can always go back to windows98 and not use the internet. lol.
Or choose carefully what kind of computers we buy, home built is best no brand names.
That is so unbelievable. I have said it for years I mean years that I bet those patches are downloading more than just security stuff.


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by:carl_legere
ID: 17017658
Sad downunder.  XP licensing repairs are time consuming, technicians don't have time to do it right.  They just install the pirate VLK version.

I won't release a computer back unless I'm sure that it will pass WGA.  I manually run WGA check myself.  Put a new code on and upcharge the whole deal for the new license.

Dualboot Ubuntu / XP home here we come.

Techs building high end workstations for custom clientelle should use XP home (US$200) or XP Pro (US$300) retail edition exclusively.  These clients are most likely to want a new machine every year or two, trashing the old one.  With retail you can bring the old license to the new computer without calling for activation, and if you do have to call, they will be ok.  They know you paid extra for full product.
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17017713
I haven't found any more authoritative posts.  Microsoft people I've ever talked to for licencing were from the India call center, and certianly know nothing about what is happening in the fall.

Correct with home-built you absolutly cannot be called a VICTIM.  You control your own destiny.
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by:callrs
ID: 17017755
>> XP home (US$200) or XP Pro (US$300)
Are you one of those that pays $150 for a $20 hammer for the U.S. government? O.o
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by:Merete
ID: 17017809
I paid 247 australian for my xp pro :) but bought it from America lol.
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by:Merete
ID: 17017952
actually to answer that I encourage my clients buy a new xp, and just do so. :)
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by:callrs
ID: 17017960
Thats   $180 american...way too much still
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by:Merete
ID: 17018083
ok lol may I call on you to buy them for me and I 'll send a cheque in the mail  callrs :p
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17018288
LOL no.

Those are and have always been the retail box product prices.  You might achieve US$192 for home at a discount online retailler, or ~US$252 for pro FPP.  
What I'm saying is that if you were a person who built thier own computers, they would have been better off getting a XP home retail at $200 back in 2001/2002 and everytime they rebuilt thier computer moved the license to it.  This versus ~$82 for Home oem each upgrade.

Imagine how many dells are in landfills right now with OEM tags on them.  The license lived and died with the computer.  The person never owned a license to the OS.  They sort of rented it.
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17018324
the problem ESPECIALLY for non us customer, is that with WGA the risk of buying from a rogue reseller just increased ten fold.   Lets say you searched and found XP PRO OEM from edirectsoftware.com for the low low price of US$114, then you find that it doesn't pass WGA.  Many hundreds of complaints out there about this conduct.

So with this increased risk, so does increase the average price you will pay for the software!  You can't trust the lowest price bidder at www.pricegrabber.com or other engine.
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by:Merete
ID: 17018354
I agree carl_legere  mine come with all the right certified stickers and keys intact and tested.
but one has to add to postage to australia and then insurance. GST here too.
Ok its night night.
thank you for a very interesting night.
Once again EE is an excellent place.
:)
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by:callrs
ID: 17018532
Grrrrrr
A check at the local Cutting Egde Computers gave this price:
175.00 Canadian, or $157.200 USD

And If I'm a student or get a student to buy it for me from the college, its even cheaper. You can even take a part-time course & so be eligible for the student discount.

$180 (=$200 Cad) for XP Pro? You people need to learn to shop. ;) Lets not have governmental laziness and waste in money matters here...
 
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by:callrs
ID: 17018551
P.S. Teachers can get XP Pro for $50 CAD (when last I checked couple years ago)
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17018558
callrs you are not giving version and oem/retail in your pricing argument
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17018587
cutting edge only offers OEM
we are not discussing OEM here in my post.
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17018618
"And If I'm a student or get a student to buy it for me from the college, its even cheaper. You can even take a part-time course & so be eligible for the student discount."

license will work?? YEP
is it legal?? NOPE
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by:callrs
ID: 17018697
>>is it legal?? NOPE
Which part is illegal?
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by:carl_legere
ID: 17018813
you are not conforming to MS EULA if you are not a student, etc.
When you finisht the part-time course, you have to uninstall.
Sounds crazy I know, but if you desire to be legal, you have to listen to and obey all they crazy rules
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by:callrs
ID: 17018939
callrs <-- forever a student, with or without 'official' sanction :-D
callrs <-- sanctions the higher law of sharing & working for inherent -- not merely monetary -- value

Laws change. Some getter better. Some get worse. Many are outright oppressive. But natural law is perfect.  Many good acts have been put down by 'the law' in the name of the law. But I digress...this should in for the lounge lol.
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