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How can I change the product key on Server 2003 Enterprise and Standard?

Here's the situation:
I have a Dell Poweredge 2950 with Server 2003 Enterprise installed, with 2 virtual servers running Server 2003 Standard. One of the VSes also runs SQL 2005 Enterprise. The server is the first of 30+ servers that will be deployed to a customer, and as such we have set up a spare PE2900 in a way that we can image the spare and restore to each new one as they're deployed. The image restore, etc works fine but obviously has the original product key - our system developer kit's license. I need to change the product key on all 3 server installations.

Here's what I've tried:
Sysprep. The obvious choice. I've run this in every way it can be run and it just won't wipe out the product key and allow me to re-enter it. It resets some settings and system-specific things but not the product key.

I've found a couple of guides that show how to change a registry key and then re-run product activation to change it but it refuses to accept the new key, saying it's invalid. I'm quite sure I'm using the correct type (Open license) of key.

I've called MS and was told by 3 departments (CS, Product Activation, and Volume Licensing Activation) that MS won't support changing product keys - I'm pretty sure that's not true.

I'm about to just run a repair install with the client's own CDs to get it done but I'm not 100% positive that will work either.

Any ideas would be helpful.
Watch Question

Maybe you should just some kind of "activator" program??? (it may be illegal in your country =)))))
This is an ed2k link - you should download a client first (@ www.emule-project.com)
Technically you should be using a volume license key that is valid for 30 installations.  That way you don't have to change the key.
Did you install the original machine with a volume license key, or what did you originally use (did it require activation)?


Zeracles, that's an option but not one I like. I want to make sure it's 100% legal and I'm 99% sure that option would be illegal here.

Arrkerr1024, it would be great of they could use a VL, but that would require them to purchase 30 licenses up-front and they just don't have the budget for it. Besides, these servers will be sold to customers and using the same key for all of them isn't a very pretty option.
You might be able to do this:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/918342 (See Use the Activation Wizard)

I have used it with Volume licenses but, never with Standard / Enterprise. Its worth a shot though.


The link Brent Caskey gave does in fact work for switching a VLK to another VLK. Apparently the problem I was having is that I installed the server using what turned out to be a reatil key. Whatever keys we got from MS with our 'gold partner package' are apparently retail and you can't switch a retail key to a VLK.

The best way to change the product key is use a third party software. One such nice utility is Magic Jelly Bean Keyfinder. Following are the advantages:

1. Does not need to be installed on the server.
2. Works for changing the key if MS Office also apart from WIndows 2000, XP, 2003, or Vista.
3. It is a Freeware and comes FREEEEEE :-)


I have used the same in many situations where we preinstall severs before shipping them to remote sites.

Happy Imaging ...