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Windows XP Home pre-install Product Key doesn't match XPH COA Product Key Sticker on Case

Posted on 2007-03-28
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Last Modified: 2012-05-05
Hi all,  I've reloaded several Windows XP Home and MCE edition computers for clients over the last several months and I've noticed that the 25-byte (5x5) Product Key on the COA sticker on the computer case never matches the Product Key that I retrieve using a Product Key extraction utility (Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder).

I know the keyfinder works properly because I CAN extract the proper keys on my personal machines that I've built -- and it's correct.  Just not on the client computers.

All these clients computers are the typical bought-in-a-retail store HP/Compaq or Gateway that has Win XPH preloaded.  Do the OEMs preload these boxes with an mass-licensed OEM product key, but the include a unique sticker on the box that is to be used in the evnet of a customer reload?  I mean, to date, NONE of the computer's pre-installed Win XPH installs have product keys that match the label.  And these are legit computers purchased a BB, CC, etc.

When I reload these boxes (usually necessitated due to rampant spyware, etc.) I just use the PK on the COA, activate, do the WGA BS, and away we go.  Then the keyfinder DOES return the same number.

But never on a stock factory load.  Any ideas?
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Question by:rkricketts
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JamesCssl earned 250 total points
ID: 18813602
Computer manufacurers have a single image that has a product key that is unique to that manufacturer.  They do this because they couldn't possibly type the product key in by hand into every computer they sell.
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by:willcomp
willcomp earned 250 total points
ID: 18813787
You assumed correctly and JamesCssl is correct except that manufacturers use multiple images (same one for similar configurations).  FYI -- do not use the factory key to install XP.  Install probably won't accept it and, if it is accepted, won't activate.  You'll eventually end up using key on COA sticker anyway.
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Author Comment

by:rkricketts
ID: 18815345
I agree with the factory image reason and did think of that.  But I figured that, certainly by now, MS would have provided tools to allow even mass-loaded machines to have unique product keys -- ala the way SIDs are made unique post image load with SID walking software.

Perhaps not.  May the answer really is that simple?
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Expert Comment

by:vnicolae
ID: 18823798
There are tools as you say and for some manufacturers this actually matches (Dell for example). However, Microsoft doesn't really mind this and considers you as being in the grey zone... not really legal but not illegal either since you have the sticker on the box.

Just enjoy your Windows box. :)
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