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How to change the Windows XP Product Activation Key Code

Orginally posted on labmice.net

Since the release of Windows XP Professional, Microsoft has discovered that the vast majority of illegitimate copies in use are using a small handful of leaked "corporate" keys. In an effort to thwart these illegitimate users, Windows XP Service Pack 1 (and possibly all future updates) will not install on systems using these keys, and it is unclear what additional steps Microsoft may take in the future. Microsoft claims that legitimate licensed users of XP Professional should be unaffected, however there are a number of different ways one of these leaked keys can find it's way into an otherwise legal environment and cause serious deployment issues. (When a legitimate corporate key is not at hand during an installation process, it's a common practice for some administrators to simple search the web for a valid key.) Here's how to check if your systems are using a leaked key, and how to change the product activation key if they are. 

DISCLAIMER

This article is intended for IT Professionals and systems administrators with legitimate corporate licenses for Windows XP Professional. It is not intended for home users, hackers, or computer thieves attempting to crack the product ID on a pirated version of the Operating System. Please do not attempt any of these procedures if you are unfamiliar with modifying the Windows XP registry,  and please use this information responsibly. LabMice.net is not responsible for the use or misuse of this material, including loss of data, damage to hardware, or personal injury.  INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED 'AS IS' WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND FREEDOM FROM INFRINGEMENT. The user assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and the use of this document. 

How to find your your Product key
During the installation of Windows XP Professional, you are prompted to enter a 25 digit Windows XP Product key, which WindowsXP promptly converts it into the system's product ID. Because of security concerns about piracy, Microsoft does not provide a tool that allows you to view the Product key (or CD key) that was used to install the operating system. Luckily, a clever guy named Serge Kandakov has created a simple little tool called ViewKeyXP that gets around this problem and actually displays the Product key used in the installation.  The file is a standalone .exe and is 32kb in size.  You will have to search the internet to find a place to download it.

List of leaked Product Keys
Once you've discovered your Product key, you need to check it against a list of known leaked keys. Microsoft won't release a list of keys blocked by Service Pack 1, and neither will this site. The primary code, however, used in the majority of pirated XP copies is: FCKGW xxxxx YXRKT xxxxx 2B7Q8. The xxxxx represent blanks in the code, as the other three parts should be enough to determine if it is pirated or not. This code has been commonly referred to as "DevilsOwn" code, by the hacker who distributed it (along with an ISO CD image of Windows XP) on Usenet warez groups. This is the primary key code that is blocked by Service Pack 1.

How to change your Product ID in Windows XP
If the product key used in your workstation installations matches a leaked key, you may need to change the key in order to install Windows XP service pack 1, and to make sure your environment is legal. You could completely re-install Windows XP Professional or you can try the method below. (Please backup your system before attempting this.) This workaround is only for the corporate editions of Windows XP Professional using a compromised or illegitimate key. Windows XP Home Edition and retail versions of XP Professional should not be affected by Service Pack 1. Although this procedure may work with other versions of XP, we have only tested it on the corporate edition (volume license version) of Windows XP Professional. 

>>>>>>  WARNING  <<<<<<
This article contains information about modifying the registry. Before you modify the registry, make sure to back it up and make sure that you understand how to restore the registry if a problem occurs.  

Backup your Registry/System State

  • Backup your system state by clicking Start > Run > and typing ntbackup > Click the Advanced Mode button in the Backup Utility Wizard. >Click the Backup tab, then in Click to select the check box for any drive, folder, or file that you want to back up, select the System State.  
  • As an alternative, you can backup just the Registry by clicking Start > Run > and type in Regedit  From within the Regedit screen, right click My Computer, choose Export, name the file whatever you choose, and click Save

To change the product ID

  • Click Start > Run > and type in Regedit 
  • Browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\wpaevents
  • Double-click OOBETimer
  • Remove the 'ca' part from the value. (Changing or deleting any of the binary values will accomplish the same effect)
  • Click OK and close regedit
  • Click Start > Run and type in: "%systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a"
  • Choose the 2nd option (phone activation)
  • Click change Product key (at the bottom)
  • Enter your valid Corporate Product key
  • Press Update and close the window
  • Restart your computer

Verify the change

  • After  the workstation restarts, click Start > Run 
  • Type in: "%systemroot%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /a"
  • Make sure the dialog box says 'your copy of windows is already activated'

If you performed the above steps incorrectly, or used an invalid key, your system may not be able to boot. Use the F8 key to boot to the last known good configuration and retry with a valid key.

Automated Tool
wet_paper_bag over at #winbeta has produced a utility which automates the process of modifying your registry for you. All you have to do is enter the CD-key. We've tested this on our systems and it works fine, but we can't verify it's stability or suitability for production environments, so use it at your own risk. That said, you can search for the file to download. It is called "xp_cd_key_changer.zip"

Additional Thoughts...
We are hoping that Microsoft provides a tool for checking machine product ID's on an Enterprise level (either via SMS or another reporting tool) prior to the release of Windows XP SP1. Perhaps they'll see their way to making a tool that can verify and change the Product Keys remotely as well. For now, Microsoft has contacted the corporate customers whose keys have leaked onto the web, but has debunked stories that it is changing volume license keys, or the algorithm used to create them.

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