Windows

A workaround to XP installs when the product key is missing

How the simple hacker tool ViewKeyXP can identify a product key

Microsoft’s new Windows Product Activation presents support techs with all sorts of new challenges, including the need to have a valid product key to install, or reinstall, Windows XP on workstations. But what do you do if you can’t find the CD with the original key that matches the machine you’re working on? You can discover the key using ViewKeyXP.

Why you need to know your product key
For years, Microsoft has (quite legitimately) been concerned about piracy issues surrounding its products. In an effort to combat this, it came up with the concept of Windows Product Activation. When you install Windows XP on a workstation, you must enter a 25-digit code from the original Windows XP CD during Setup. Setup takes this information, mixes it with information it derives from the hardware configuration of the workstation, and creates a code that it sends to Microsoft to validate the installation.

This can cause problems for support techs, because each product key can be used only one time. After the key has been activated, it can’t be used on another workstation unless you’re using a Volume-Licensed version of Windows XP. That means each Windows XP workstation in your organization has a different product key.

If you try to reinstall Windows XP and don’t have your original product key or CD, you can’t simply borrow one from another workstation. Normally, you’d have to obtain a new product key, meaning a new purchase of Windows XP. Naturally, you don’t want to do that because you already have a copy of XP—you’re just missing the valid key that goes with your workstation. That’s where ViewKeyXP comes in handy.

When bad software goes good
In reality, ViewKeyXP is a hacker tool used to reveal Windows XP product keys. But just because it can be used maliciously doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for good.

ViewKeyXP performs a reverse hash on the Product ID that you find in the Registered To box when you right-click My Computer and select Properties. Taking this number, ViewKeyXP deciphers and displays your original product key. You can then write this number down and reinstall Windows XP. When prompted, all you have to do is reenter this number and you’re ready to go.

Other Windows software uses product keys, but ViewKeyXP won’t help you find those keys. It works only with Windows XP. However, it will reveal the product key no matter what version of Windows XP you’re running: Home, Professional, or the Corporate Edition.

Obtaining and using ViewKeyXP
You can find ViewKeyXP on the Internet by doing a simple Google Search. Be very careful when you download it. Because it is a hacker tool and not supported by any legitimate organization, don’t be surprised if the version you’ve download has a virus embedded in it. If you choose to download the file, make sure you scan it with an updated virus-scanning program before using it.

In today’s world of setup wizards and multi-megabyte downloads, ViewKeyXP is amazingly simple. The file itself, Viewkeyxp.exe, is small—only 32 KB. There is no installation program. Just run the program, either from the command line or by double-clicking it from the folder you downloaded it to. When you do, your product key will appear as shown in Figure A. (I changed my product key in this image for security reasons.)


Figure A
ViewKeyXP makes it easy to find your original XP Product Key.


It doesn’t get much easier
That’s all there is to it. Write down the number and then you can reinstall Windows XP, or place the key in a database where you won’t lose it. ViewKeyXP is a handy hacker tool to keep in your software utility toolbox.

 
1 comments
tershar76
tershar76

My son died two years ago and I have been using his computer HP Pavillion a1640n that has XP Professional Service Pck2 on it.  We had a power outage that wiped out the power supply and hard drive.  I installed a new power supply and replace the hard drive as well as the data cable. I used His CD kit 394378-002 that came with the computer for a clean reinstall but cannot find the Product key so I get stuck when I don't have the 25 numbers.  Can you help?

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