In May 2003, TechRepublic contributor Brien Posey published an article explaining how to change the Product Key on Microsoft Windows XP, and I republished it in the Microsoft Windows Blog last year. His method involved a Registry Edit or the running of a script, and it was not for the faint of heart. Microsoft has since published an applet that makes the process much easier and safer. Here's how it works.Note: In order to change a Product Key you must have a valid copy of Microsoft Windows XP and a valid Product Key. This applet is going to perform a Genuine Microsoft Software check before it will allow you to change the Product Key.
StepsThe first step is to go to the Genuine Microsoft Software self-help page, Update Your Product Key: Select Your Version of Windows (Figure A).
Update your product key and select your version of Windows.Note: Don't make the mistake I did, the applet will work much better if you use Internet Explorer. Select the Windows XP button to get to the Web page shown in Figure B.
These are Windows Product Key update tool instructions.
Carefully read this page. Microsoft suggests creating a restore point, which is always a good idea before making changes to your Windows XP installation. Note the gentle warning about sending information to Microsoft so the system can verify the validity of your operating system.Assuming all of that is OK with you, click the I Understand check box and then click the Download button. You'll see the typical Run, Save, or Cancel dialog, shown in Figure C.
Select Run, Save, or Cancel.The rest of the process is your basic follow-the-wizard instructions you should be intimately familiar with by now. Click Run to get the security screen shown in Figure D.
Yes, I am sure.Confirm you want to run the applet and start the wizard as shown in Figure E.
Start the wizard.Click Next, and you will finally reach the screen (Figure F) where you will enter your new Product Key.
Enter the new Product Key.
When you are finished, click Next and then Finished on the next screen to restart Windows. Once Windows is running again, you will need to go through the standard activation procedure to complete the change of Product Key process.
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Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.