Unless you're working in a geographic region with a high rate of counterfeit software, it's unlikely the Windows XP machines you support will have invalid licenses. However, even in the best run IT shops, unauthorized software can find its way onto the desktop. An end-user may have installed a pirated copy of XP but now wants to go legal. An organization may have installed 100 pirated copies of XP but now has a legitimate volume-licensing key.
When you encounter product key problems, changing Windows XP's product key is often the most practical solution. In this IT Dojo video, I demonstrate a quick and easy registry hack that replaces an invalid Windows XP key with a legitimate one.
If you need to change the key on multiple machines, Microsoft provides two WMI scripts (one for Windows XP installations without SP1 and one for Windows XP installations with SP1 or later) that can automate the process. You can get the code for each script and detailed instructions on their use from the Microsoft Knowledge Base article, "How to change the Volume Licensing product key on a computer that is running Windows XP SP1 and later versions of Windows XP."
Once you've watched this IT Dojo video, you can read the original TechRepublic article, print the tip, and learn more ways to resolve Windows product key problems with the following resources:
- Change the product key on Windows XP
- SolutionBase: Find a lost Windows product key
- A workaround to XP installs when the product key is missing
- Get IT Done: Uncover more product keys with Magical Jelly Bean's Keyfinder
- SolutionBase: Changes to Product Activation and Volume Licensing
- Find a lost Windows product key
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. He was most recently Managing Editor for TechRepublic Pro. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.