Windows XP repair install activation before login

Hello, all.  I have a system that came in unable to boot fully to the desktop - loaded wallpaper and cursor, but no icons or taskbar.  Task Manager was not accessible.  Connected the HD externally to one of my own systems and a malware scan revealed 3-4 rootkits and about 4-5 trojans.  These were erradicated by my BitDefender (ran several scans until it came up clean).  Unfortunately, this didn't resolve the boot problem.  Safe Mode - same deal.  Desktop not fully loaded.  LKGC didn't resolve anything.

Not having the original OEM discs on-hand (the Acer OEM disc being a "restore" disc anyway, as opposed to a "Windows" disc), I slipstreamed a WinXP Pro OEM SP2 install disc I had to SP3 - to match the WinXP version on the system (WinXP Pro, SP3, OEM).  This ran through fine, but now I am met with a "you must activate this version of Windows before logging on" message.  If I cancel, it shuts down the system.  If I accept, nothing happens.

I am guessing not all of the device drivers were installed at this point - mainly the NIC drivers - so the activation is unable to connect anywhere.

Now, my question is, how do I get around, or through this catch-22?

A note, if relevant....  This system has been into me before a few times.  First instance was to upgrade the HD (original HD out of space - cloned to new/current HD).  Second and third instances were to remove heaps of malware (as this time).  I ended up doing either a repair install or full reinstall those times due to the amount of damage incurred by Windows.  At last visit, we loaded BitDefender and ZoneAlarm (free) for security, but we suspect *someone* in the household (teenage male) is disabling the security while roaming freely online.

Any and all help would be greatly appreciated...  Thanks much in advance!
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CThomp2005Asked:
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techassoCommented:
did u formatted the system or just repair it?
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Just a repair install at this point...to keep their data and apps intact...  Trying to avoid a full reinstall at this point, but realize that this may be the final resolution....
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Britt ThompsonSr. Systems EngineerCommented:
Try booting into safe mode and activating over the telephone if takes you to the activation screen.
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Thanks for the response, renazonse...  and my apologies, I should have clarified this better...

At this point, booting into Safe Mode, I am met with a slightly different message that basically says (paraphrased) "you must activate this version of Windows before logging in - however, since activation cannot be run in Safe Mode, reboot into Normal mode to activate".  Hitting OK (only option) restarts the system.

In either case, there's no actual Activation Screen that appears - just the message.
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Britt ThompsonSr. Systems EngineerCommented:
It appears as if this may be related the slipstreamed OEM disk (especially if this is a machine manufacturer's disk like a Dell XP install) slipstreaming may break the activation in this case and you'd probably be better off repairing straight from the CD without slipstreaming SP3. Here's a few threads the may confirm my theory.

http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Windows/XP/Q_24403913.html
http://forums.techarena.in/operating-systems/1200184.htm
http://forums.thinkbroadband.com/windows/3640269-xp-activation-after-repair-install.html
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flubbsterCommented:
You can give this procedure a shot. If you like, make an image of what you have first just in case.
http://www.burchwords.com/archives/1338

Restart the machine.
Choose Safe Mode with Command Prompt by pressing F8 before the windows loading screen.
type explorer or c:  in the command prompt (This will bring up My Computer or Explorer.
Insert your Windows XP install disk.
Find the Tools folder on the Windows installation disk.
Copy Tools to the C: drive of you machine.
Now in the folder you just copied to the C: drive, extract the deploy.cab
This will create a folder call Deploy.
Inside the deploy folder, run the sysprep.exe
Once, sysprep runs choose Factory Seal.
Sysprep will do its thing and restart the machine.
When the system comes up again, you should be able to login to the desktop with no problem.
Last step very important! When you make it to your desktop sysprep will launch itself. Make sure you Reseal the installation for the end-user. You can also check do not recreate security identifiers that way it does not recreate new ones.
The system will reboot one last time, you will put in the windows installation key, and activiate your copy of windows. Everything will be intact and ready for you to login.
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Thanks renazonse and flubbster for your responses...  I will have to revisit this tonight when I get back in and will try your solutions.  Will let you know how it goes.
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
My apologies, everyone.  Got in late last night and didn't have a chance to try either of the last solutions.  I will have a go at it tonight.

Owner should be dropping off all of the system's install discs this morning, in case they are needed for the full install.

Thanks everyone for your patience...
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Have just gotten back to this...  Decided to try flubbster's resolution first, and am, unfortunately, I think, at an impasse.  Ran through the list of steps, and everything seemed to go fine, until the "Factory Seal" phase when I was met (about 20 secs apart) with three error mesages (something about not finding "...active activation context".  Clearing these, all seemed to proceed as normal, even rebooting.

However, now I'm at a "WindowsXP Please wait..." screen, which has been running for about 10-15 mins now.  Don't know if it's hung or working.  HD activity seems minimal, with a flicker now and then.  I actually forced the system down and rebooted, but came back to this screen, which I seem stuck on.

Any ideas how to get past this, or should it take this long?
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Sorry, strike that (above)...

Factory Seal went fine.  It was during the Reseal I got the errors and then on reboot I'm hung at the "Please wait..." screen....

(Still there, after 20-30 mins now.)  
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Update....  I posted a note on the site you linked to, flubbster, and the author diligently responded back stating that this seemed normal from his experience, too.  It ran "overnight".  So, at this point, I'm waiting to see if this finishes up.  Will let it run the rest of the day while I'm out and see what I run into tonight.
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flubbsterCommented:
k... good luck!
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Well, seems I'm in a little bit of a mess now.  "Please wait..." screen running for a little over 18 hours now.  I think it might be safe to say it's "stuck".  So now, what to do next....

I'm thinking of running back to the repair install, to try to "reset" back before the sysprep attempt.  Possibly using the original SP2 disc w/o the slipstreaming.  I don't think I ever answered renazonse's comment about the disc I'm using being a "Dell" (branded) OEM disc...  This is actually an unbranded OEM Windows XP Pro SP2 install disc - plain Jane.

Aside from that, I might try the SP3 slipstreamed disc and try the sysprep again.  After the Factory Seal step, I could actually get to the desktop and get to the activation message.  I skipped this in lieu of the "Reseal" step.  Possibly activate then Reseal?

Lastly, the owner is coming Sun with the original OEM discs, so if all else fails, a full reinstall will be on-deck...

Thanks for any thoughts, tips, suggestions...
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Britt ThompsonSr. Systems EngineerCommented:
Why not just run the repair with the original OEM Windows XP Pro SP2 install disc without slipstreaming? From my comments before the slipstreaming can be a major hindrance to the process and it only takes a few minutes to update to SP3 after the repair.

I should've known it wasn't a Dell disc because you can't repair install from those.
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
I'll take that as an "I told you so."...renazonse.  :-)

Am just now starting to get back to square one.  Up until now, booting in Normal mode brought me to the "Please wait..." screen from sysprep - which never goes away.  Safe Mode gave me an error that something was wrong with the install and run setup again.

Ran repair install again and still came to "Please wait..." in Normal mode, but just this morning, decided to try Safe Mode and I get to the desktop.  Tried running sysprep again, but it failed this time.  However, I can now log in Normal mode, but it will not activate.

Am *now* going to try another repair install using my original OEM WinXP Pro SP2 disc (sans slipstreaming).  Will let you know how it goes....

Thanks all for hanging in here.
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Well, so far, so good...  I humbly bow to renazonse's wisdom...  Repair install this time around with the "base" SP2 disc seemed to do the trick.  Was able to activate (successfully) during the repair install process and get to the desktop (in both Safe Mode and Normal Mode).

Am now running the SP3 updates (which I have on a seperate disc by themselves), and we'll see how it goes from here.

Lesson learned...  I *usually* try to match the SP of the original (OEM) install before updating, but in this case I figured I'd "cut corners" and move right to SP3 to avoid the lengthy update process.  Seems this "broke" everything.

Points-wise...  renazonse's response seemed to cut to the core of the problem (the SP I was using for the repair install), however, I'll throw some points at flubbster as his posting re sysprep addressed the "activate before login" situation, which I've never encountered before, and would be a great resource for others in a similar situation (who use the right disc to begin with!).

Thanks all for your input.

(BTW...flubbster...the author of that article you linked to has been *great* with following along with the problem.  Jacob has been following along - through seperate e-mails, every step of the way - with the problem.  I'd throw *him* points, too, if I could!)
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CThomp2005Author Commented:
Thanks both of you - flubbster and renazonse - for your time and efforts.  A great lesson form renazonse, and a very interesting link/process (sysprep) from flubbster that I've heard about, read about, but never used for anything.  Thanks again.
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flubbsterCommented:
The importatnt thing is that you got it up and ruinning. I learn a great deal here myself whether I am right or wrong. I will add this one to my Knowledgebase for future reference.

Take care.
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