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How can I use old (but valid) Windows keys with a different disc?

Posted on 2009-04-11
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Hey all, I have a quick question.  Normally when a client brings me a machine that needs to be formatted, they don't have their original Windows CD.  What I typically do is use my XP CD (assuming it's XP they have) and then use the change license wizard from Microsoft to update it to their key BEFORE activating.  However, that doesn't always work.  My newest XP cd is Windows XP SP3 OEM which I have a valid key with (my key) and when I installed it, I tried to use the customer's XP key straight from their OEM Dell Windows XP sticker on the side of the box and it said it couldn't be updated.  Could it be because this is an old key from before service pack 1, and I'm using a newer version?  I always assumed XP Home was XP Home and XP Pro was XP pro. Is there a better way to handle these situations?  I do the same thing for Vista.  Customers always lose their discs . . . . thanks!  At the same time, I want to make sure installing with my disc and key a bunch of times isn't against any rules as long as I always change it to the customers key immediatly before activating!Thanks!
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Question by:Jsmply
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by:houssam_ballout
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was it working perfect with other than Dell??
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dobbshelp earned 100 total points
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There are different keys for things such as Retail, OEM, VLK, etc. Your key is probably a retail key which came with a CD from the store. Dell is going to use an OEM license so they can do bulk installs from image. Large corporations usually have VLK's so they can install on many workstations and track one key. Your media is going to be keyed to this. Your retail CD will only accept a retail CD Key, this is why Dell's won't work.

As for installing from your CD, I'm pretty sure you can do that as long as the keys are valid and there is proof of purchase for your clients keys.

It's hard when the client doesn't keep track of their CD's it makes things difficult at times.
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
☠ MASQ ☠ earned 100 total points
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Dell (and HP) Installation CD/DVDs are an exception because they are covered by a special case rule by Microsoft described as "Royalty OEM" - effectively the installation disks are pre-registered and don't go through the normal activation process (however they check the hardware they are beinig installed to is that of the OEM).  As a result a retail CD Key won't work as the algorithm the retail disk installs for its Activation Wizard doesn't recognize the "Royalty" CD Key.  If you can it's good to have a version of each of the Dell OEM disks around for repair/reinstall purposes - it saves a lot of last minute activation headaches!
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by:brandonvmoore
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I'm a little unclear on something.  You sound like you are installing the operating system from scratch, but then you say that when you used the OEM Dell key it said it couldn't be "updated".

Are you getting stuck during the setup process because it won't let you continue without entering a correct code, or are you actually getting everything installed successfuly and just not being able to activate it?

If you're not able to get through the setup then use your own key and then change it before you activate it.  If you're just not able to activate it then you can always call Microsoft over the phone and they will activate it for you provided you have a valid key.  I would assume you already know this though so if I didn't answer your question, which I suspect I haven't, please try to clearly communicate exactly what your problem is.
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
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Incidentally re: " I always assumed XP Home was XP Home and XP Pro was XP pro."

You might find it helpful to check the following post:
http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_24310501.html#a24110405

Which shows the range of XP CD's and consequently installations that are in the field, most of which will not accept a CD Key issued for one of the other versions!  Technically when you install your retail version of XP on your customers machine, if that's not the version they hold a licence for then it's not a legal install - although I doubt anyone would bother to pursue it!
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by:brandonvmoore
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Oh wait, I think I see what you're saying.  Do you mean that the change license wizard isn't changing the key for you?
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by:brandonvmoore
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This might help if your problem is related to my last comment:
http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5034890.html
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by:Jsmply
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Yes. Let me clarify. Clients usually lose their original discs but they still have a valid windows key on the sticker on the case. I have oem discs for win xp home and pro and vista. I usually install it with my disc and use my key, then before activating I change the key to the key on the sticker. It usually won't install on someone elses key with my cd, but I can change after. That is legit right?  Its the same version just not the same cd. However, in this case the xp change key wizard would not accept the clients key even though I know its a legit key on the sticker on their oem dell case. Usually my method works fine which I assume is legal?
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by:dobbshelp
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Yes you should be fine as long as the registering CD key is valid. Your disc just isn't going to except the Dell, HP, etc OEM keys and VLKs.
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by:Jsmply
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That's what I thought. Its just odd here because it won't take this particular Dell key. Once its installed any win xp pro key should work with any win xp pro installation, right?
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by:dobbshelp
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as long as they are the same type ... retail to retail, oem to oem, etc ... That Dell key isn't going to work on your retail (if it's retail) cd, it's different. But if the types are the same, then yes the keys will work.
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by:johnb6767
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If they have the I386 directory on thier machine, you can create a bootable CD of THIER version, and install without errors. Takes a few extra minutes to burn the CD, but worth it.....

Create a bootable XP CD from your I386
http://www.howtohaven.com/system/createwindowssetupdisk.shtml

I have tested on multiple occassions successfully. Plus it ensures it will take thier License......

To expand on the comment earlier about tthe different types of licenses, this link above helps to to determine what physical CD can be used to reinstall.....

Product IDs - Lunarsoft Wiki
http://wiki.lunarsoft.net/wiki/Product_IDs
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by:johnb6767
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I have had several discussions with MS's licensing, and though I have a scenario where I have a legitimate sticer on the side, they do not see that as a Full License. They expect you to have the Box, the Inserts, just about  EVERYTHING. I asjked them about the install from another pohysical medium, and they do nto consider it a legal method as it wasnt the original.

However, with that said..... I still see no problem in doing it, because I consider the license to be the license KEY, and not the boxes etc..... Of course I am not a lawyer, but MS Licensing is just that strict.....

I would call them for yourself to see what they tell you about this, as you are going to get alot of different opinions here, and any other forum.....
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by:Jsmply
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Right. The comments about retail to retail or oem to oem only apply to the install part right?  Meaning let's say a client brings me a dead dell pc with an xp license on the side but no disc and no way to burn the i386 folder. Can't I install xp using my retail cd (as long as pro or home matches the client license) using my retail key for the install, and then once I'm in windows use the windows xp ley change wizard to change the key to the clients oem sticker license?  Effectively using my retail cd to activate with their oem license?
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
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The change key wizard won't work because you are trying to use a Dell Royalty OEM Key (76477-OEM) to activate a Generic OEM installation (55277-OEM)  The numbers in brackets refer to the first two parts of the Product ID you'll find in System Properties General based on XP Home).

The CD Keys on Dell COAs aren't usually used to activate Windows in the way a Generic OEM COA Key is.

As I said the legality bit is pure technicality but for example I could use one of my MAPS install CDs for XP to repair someone's Dell & their  Product ID would change from 76477-OEM to 76475-347 - again it wouldn't reactivate using their Dell COA Key.  As long as the combination of SKU and Channel code on the completed repair match one that the owner's CD Key is valid for it's legal.  The Royalty OEMs just don't always fit that model :(
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by:Jsmply
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JohnB: what if there is no box, inserts, etc. Dell for example just ships you a reinstall windows xp cd and the license is on the side. There is no box, inserts, etc. So if the client loses the CD, microsoft says they have to buy a new copy of windows?  I assumed that was the whole point of the sticker on the side of the box . . . So you CAN'T really lose it.
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by:johnb6767
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"Can't I install xp using my retail cd (as long as pro or home matches the client license) using my retail key for the install"

No, it shouldnt even make it past the license input screen. Because it sees the PID in the setupp.ini, and knows what kind of key to take.....

If it does make it, then the key probably cant be changed....
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by:johnb6767
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"Dell for example just ships you a reinstall windows xp cd and the license is on the side."

They usually have something in the box if I remember correctly. Maybe that stopped when they stopped shipping restore CD's..... That aspect is really going to apply to the Retail licenses......
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
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"Dell for example just ships you a reinstall windows xp cd and the license is on the side."
Yep, you get the COA sticker on the case the (unopened) OEM install disk in a paper sleeve and a glossy 16 page booklet. The only unique aspect is the code on the COA sticker.

Like johnb6767 have spent many a "happy" hour on the 'phone to M$ over reinstallation :)
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by:Jsmply
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JohnB I don't think you follow me. Of course I get past the install screen because I use my retail key that came with my retail disc, then change the key once windows is installed using the XP oem key on the side of the clients box that they legally own.
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
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Jsmply, do you understand now why the Dell Key won't work with your OEM installation?
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by:Jsmply
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Thinking about it more, isn't the whole point of the upgrade key wizard from MS to upgrade your illegal key? Meaning if you had someone use their illegal copy weither it be corporate, oem, etc, you can update to a legal key?  I've helped clients buy a legit key from MS and then download and run this wizard and it never asks if the illegal copy is Oem, retail, etc it just let's you download it, enter the new key, makes the change, restarts, and activates windows.
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by:Jsmply
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Masqueraid: yes, but please read my above post. I know it won't accept it for installation, but won't it work after the install (from within windows) using the update key wizard?
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by:brandonvmoore
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If you want to do it manually you can check out the link I gave you: http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5034890.html

I think it's a licensing thing and that the wizard is probably not going to work for you.  Which also means that it may not 'technically' be legal.  But in all honesty this wouldn't stop me from doing it for one of my customers because as far as I'm concerned they have a valid license.
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by:Jsmply
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Well that's what I mean, the wizard has worked for me 90 percent of the time despite if the cd was retail or oem, etc . . . It let me convert to the dell key.
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
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>>but won't it work after the install (from within windows) using the update key wizard?
No - because the Update Key Wizard doesn't make the installation type match the Key type you are using. They have to be compatible already (plus the Dell COA Keys aren't desgined for use for Activation they are more "proof of licence" the Dell install creates it's own valid "VLK" type registration and pre-registers using this).

The exception you have alredy pointed out is the WGA Activation Upgrade which changes the channel code of the Product ID to "-083-" by replacing some of the installation files so that the Upgrade Key then matches what's on the PC.


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by:Jsmply
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That's what I mean. The WGA wizard must be what I usually use. Can't that work for my situation?
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
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The WGA Wizard is only for upgrading an "illegal" install and is meant to be used in conjunction with a new CD Key purchased online from Microsoft.  It converts whatever the install is currently (usually a pirated VLK) into a WGA version.  Then the Key M$ issued will work to activate it.

What you were using before I'm sure was some form of Key Change Wizard which forces reactivation of Windows allowing you to put in the owner's legitimate Key and pretty much as you describe, about 9 times out of 10 that will work with no problem.  What this thread seems to have become is an insight into what's going on for those 1 in 10 times it doesn't work.
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by:Jsmply
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Right, but I usually always use the MS wizard, not a third party. Can't I use that 10 out of 10 times.
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by:brandonvmoore
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Oh my good Lord!!  What is so special about using this method that you are so unwilling to do it another way? Haha :)
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by:Jsmply
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I'm willing to do it anyway!  Lol. I was just trying to determine if there is any 100 percent method and the WGA way seemed like it?
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by:brandonvmoore
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Editing the registry key (the article I posted explains how) yourself should be a 100% method.  It's just probably not as convenient, though it's not at all difficult.
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by:Jsmply
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I'm willing to do it anyway!  Lol. I was just trying to determine if there is any 100 percent method and the WGA way seemed like it?
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by:johnb6767
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I think youre missing teh point. I am willing to bet $1, that if you called MS, and explained to them the method you are using, they will most CERTAINLY tell you that is not a legitimate way to handle these........

Thats the bottom line.....
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by:Jsmply
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Sorry, that's what I'm trying to clarify. What is then?  Tell customers we can't do a reinstall unless they have their discs or buy a new copy?
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by:StefanKittel
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Hello,

this depends on the country your are in.

In Germany e.g. it is legal to use any disc you can get with any key. As long it is working. You can buy a spanish XP and use your german HP xp CD.

MS may tell different. They earn more selling more.

Stefan
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by:johnb6767
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"Tell customers we can't do a reinstall unless they have their discs or buy a new copy?"

I think we are all trying to tell you ways to accomplish it, but with that said, if I have the cabs, then great, I will build one for thier system, and get them up and running. Or, if not, I will find one in my stack that WILL work with thier License from teh install without having to change it later.....I know what MS standpoint on it is, but I personally feel that if they have a sticker, it's good enough for me.... But thats just me. My clients pay me to fix it. And I do, with any reasonable NON PIRATED solution I can.....
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by:PCBONEZ
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Raise your rate $10/hr then offer a $10/hr discount to customers that bring their CD's in with the system.
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by:dstewartjr
dstewartjr earned 100 total points
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Is this the tool that you are trying to change the product key with ?
http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=50346&clcid=0x409
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by:Jsmply
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Yes I believe so.
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by:Jsmply
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I'm going to go ahead and close this and award points to the first few posters as I think we covered a bunch of different questions here.  Thanks guys and gals!
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