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Want to change product key in Server 2003 - can't "de-activate" Windows

Posted on 2006-11-14
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Last Modified: 2011-10-03
A new customer has an existing installation of Windows Server 2003 and I want to update the product key but it's proving not so easy.
I have followed the steps here:  http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/Windows_Server_2003/Q_20915230.html
and here: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;328874  (although this says Windows XP only).

Using the oobe.exe and changing the WPAEvents registry key is not 'de-actvating' the server. It keeps saying "Windows is already activated" so I have no way in. How do I go about changing the product key?
If I have to reinstall, I'm assuming it doesn't touch Exchange, AD and the likes?
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Question by:smickell
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Expert Comment

by:John Gates
ID: 17938775
If you are getting the already activated response take these files:


Directory of C:\<systemRoot\system32

10/24/2001  08:28 PM            12,584 wpa.bak
01/14/2002  09:05 AM            12,642 wpa.dbl

And move them to a backup folder.  Then run the oobe.exe and enjoy 8)  You will have to reactivate of course.  If all that goes well then you can remove the backup files.

-D-
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Author Comment

by:smickell
ID: 17939695
I tried that, dimante, there was only wpa.dbl in there, no wpa.bak. Anyway I moved it into a separate folder, but upon running oobe.exe it still said that the server was activated. Another copy of wpa.dbl was created too.
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Expert Comment

by:John Gates
ID: 17939844
Is this a volume license key you are trying to change?
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Author Comment

by:smickell
ID: 17942941
I honestly don't know. The server was installed by another person who we don't have contact details for, so I don't know of any way of finding out what type of licence the server is on. Is a volume licence different again to work with?
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by:John Gates
ID: 17942961
Yeah.  My guess is that the licensing is not volume, because product activation is not needed in that case.  What I am saying is a call to microsoft would insure that the server has a valid license.  Why not do that and see what happens.
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Author Comment

by:smickell
ID: 17942999
I am doubtful that the licensing of the server at present is valid, which is why we have bought a new licence. But I want to be able to apply this with minimum fuss. Is a re-install my only choice, and does it have any adverse effects on AD, Exchange or the likes?
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Expert Comment

by:Netman66
ID: 17943324
On the Properties of My Computer, tell me what the second number is in the product number under Registered To.

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Author Comment

by:smickell
ID: 17945858
The second digit is 9.
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Expert Comment

by:Netman66
ID: 17946167
Sorry, I wasn't very clear.

The product number is something like:  XXXXX-XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXX

I need the second set of 3 digits.

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Author Comment

by:smickell
ID: 17946175
Sorry. The second set is 640.
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Netman66 earned 250 total points
ID: 17946228
That's Volume licensed.

You can't use a Retail or OEM key on that media.

You need to do the following:

1)  Get the matching media for the CD Key you have.
2)  Insert this media in the existing server and run an Upgrade.  This will give you a chance to change the key and the installation to match.
3)  This won't change anything except your patch level, so you will need to patch it afterwards.
4)  If this is Retail, then you'll also need to Activate it.

This is the only way to change the key on server and since you're also going from Volume to Retail it's the only option you have.

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