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Windows XP Product keys

Posted on 2011-09-06
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Last Modified: 2012-08-14
Hi Experts -

I may need to do a system reinstall on one of my Windows XP Pro boxes and got to looking for the product key on my Dell Precision M6300.  So far I have found 3 different keys and I am wondering which one is the right one and what the other two are for.  I purchased this laptop new, directly from Dell, so I know the license is reputable and it was validated by MS as genuine at activation time.

One possibly important point is that I purchased the laptop around the time Vista was coming out so it came with Vista installed and then down-graded by Dell to XP Pro at my request.  So I wonder if one of those keys has to do with that.

Code #1:  Right click on my computer, I see where it is registered to me, and then below that is a string of chars that looks a lot like a product code:   5digits-OEM-7digits-5digits

Code #2:  Open C:\WINDOWS\system32\$winnt$.inf - there is a 20 character product key which is similar to other product keys that I have seen on other MS computers, in the following format:  4 chars-4chars-4chars-4chars

Code #3:  On the bottom of the laptop there is a "proof of license" sticker with a "product key" in the following format:  5chars-5chars-5chars-5chars-5chars.  Sadly, I cannot read all these characters anymore, which is what prompted me to go on the hunt for some other way to find it, but I have found nothing that looks like that.  So if I need that number, I also need to know how to find it in some other way!

Thanks for your help.
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Question by:ee_reach
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LVL 26

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by:
pony10us earned 100 total points
ID: 36490164
If you are using the installation software that came with the machine and the sticker on the bottom says it is for Windows XP then that is the one you should use. If you can't read the code then you can try this site and see if it will help you:  http://pcsupport.about.com/od/tipstricks/ht/findxpkey.htm
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by:athomsfere
athomsfere earned 100 total points
ID: 36490172
Use Magic Jelly Bean.
www.magicaljellybean.com/keyfinder/

It will tell you your current license, write it down and reinstall... once installed just use the license Magic Jelly Bean gives you.
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by:jamietoner
jamietoner earned 100 total points
ID: 36490176
If you use a dell branded xp pro cd it shouldnt ask for a key and should activate without issue.
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
☠ MASQ ☠ earned 200 total points
ID: 36490190
Do you have a Dell re-installation CD for XP Pro SP3?  If so that's all you need.  The installer will identify the Dell hardware and install and activate XP without you needing to worry about an activation key.

Code #1 is your Product ID - See LunarSoft article in the link below
Code #2 This should be under [UserData] and is the Key used at activation by a supplier
Code #3 is your Certificate of Authenticity sticker - although there's a Product Key on it it will be a Dell OEM key which isn't for activation but proves your computer has a valid OEM license for the Operating System stated on the label.

See also:
XP, OEM and the repair/reinstallation - which disk do I need?
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by:ee_reach
ID: 36490457
Hi Experts - Thanks for the answers thus far.  I will look around for the CD next.  

Re the product keys and CD's, s there any significance to the fact that it was downgraded from Vista to XP Pro?  Should I be looking for both a Vista CD and key as well as an XP CD and key?  

The sticker on the bottom of the laptop says: Windows Vista Business OEMAct
The sticker does not mention anything about XP.  So I am wondering if I have to install Vista first (requiring a key) and then install XP overtop of that (requiring a second key).


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LVL 62

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by:☠ MASQ ☠
☠ MASQ ☠ earned 200 total points
ID: 36490526
The downgrade was provided under Microsoft Licensing downgrade rights so you retain a license for the more recent qualifying system.
Because it's OEM Dell should have shipped it to you ready-configured for XP with both the Vista DVD and XP CD - you just go straight for the XP Disk.

Neither the DVD or CD need an activation Key because they are linked to the hardware ID (See SLP in my article).
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