Save time. Download the preformatted,
ready-to-print version of this FastAnswer handout. The next time the problem
arises in your organization, simply print and distribute the file directly to
end users or members of your IT staff.

The problem

You discover that invalid product keys were supplied for a
Windows XP Professional installation, or you receive an invalid product key
error when attempting to install a Windows XP Professional service pack, and
you don’t wish to reinstall Windows XP Professional to correct the situation.

The cause

Windows Product Activation prevents software deployments
that use invalid product keys or pirated product IDs.

Provide your feedback on this download

This is one of TechRepublic’s new FastAnswer handouts. The PDF download aims to save you time by eliminating the need to
repeatedly research common questions and provide you with a preformatted,
step-by-step solution you can pass directly to users or staff. Please send your
comments and any recommended revisions to Erik

The solution


Editing the registry is risky, so be sure you have a
verified backup before making any changes.

  1. Edit
    the registry of the illegal machine.
  2. Use
    Regedit and find:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\Current Version\WPAEvents
  3. In the
    right pane, right-click the ODBETimer binary value and select Modify.
    Change at least one character of this value to either a number from 0 to 9
    or to a letter from A to F, and then click OK and close the Registry
    Editor. This renders the current product key invalid and deactivates
  4. Reactivate
    Windows using your new product key.
  5. Click
    Start | Run and enter the command: %systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe /a
  6. Windows
    will launch the Product Activation Wizard.
  7. Select
    the option to telephone a Microsoft customer service representative to
    activate Windows.
  8. Select
    the Change Product Key option and enter your new product key.
  9. Click
    Update and close the window.
  10. If
    Windows returns you to the previous screen, just select the Remind Me
    Later option. When the wizard is finished, reboot the system.
  11. When
    Windows reboots, your next step will depend on which Windows XP version
    you are using. If you have XP Home or Professional, you’ll be prompted to
    reactivate your copy of Windows through the normal activation process. If
    you have XP Corporate, no activation is required and your machine should
    have a valid product ID.

Future prevention

You can help prevent this problem from occurring again by
following these steps:

  1. Only
    use valid product keys for Windows XP when installing XP in your
  2. Track
    and inventory product keys to ensure that all keys are valid.
  3. Use a
    key finder such as Magical JellyBean to ensure that the keys you’re using are
    valid and not copied from the Internet.