How to Avoid the XP Product Activation After a Reinstall

xplogo Have you ever had to reinstall Windows XP? If so, have you ever had to reactivate it? I recall hearing one of the guys at work talking about the problems he’d had during a reinstall. He had to jump through hoops in order to convince Microsoft to allow him to reactivate.

If you plan to reinstall WinXP on a machine that already has XP on it, you can back up the current activation keys and restore them after you reinstall. You won’t have to contact Microsoft for a reactivation.

Before you Reinstall:

1. Make sure that you back up all of your personal files, data, programs, license keys and product keys.

2. Gather copies of the service packs and security software that you’ll need.

3. Go to the following folder: C:\Windows\System32

4. Find the files named wpa.dbl and wpa.bak, and copy them to a floppy disk or CD.


During and After You Reinstall:

I’ll recommend that you take your PC offline (no internet connection) during installation. This allows you to install the service packs and security software before you reconnect to the internet. An unprotected PC can get infected in less than a minute online.

At the end of the installation, if you get a prompt to activate Windows, follow the steps below:

1. Just say no. Microsoft will allow you a grace period to activate.
2. Reboot the PC.
3. Hit the F8 key during boot to get the advanced boot screen.
3. Choose “Safe Mode”.
4. Once in Safe Mode, open up that same folder at C:\Windows\System32.
5. Locate the two wpa files wpa.dbl and wpa.bak. If you don’t find the bak file, don’t worry.
6. Rename the files to something else, like maybe and
7. Now copy the two files, Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak, from the floppy or CD, into the system32 folder.
8. Reboot as you would normally.


Now you don’t have to contact Microsoft and you haven’t broken any rules, as far as I know. You’re good to go.

Do You Have XP Activation Problems?

If you have problems with your activation, I found this forum thread that may help.

You can also find out more about XP activation at this Microsoft page.

Here’s what MS says about why it needs you to activate.
Product activation makes sure that each Windows XP license is installed in accordance with the EULA and is not installed on more than the number of computers that the license permits. Windows creates a unique installation identification (ID) that is based on information from the product ID and a hardware identifier that are created when you install Windows XP.

This article was inspired by a visit to my friend Gary’s website. His site, InternetFixes, offers thousands of tips, tricks and fixes for all Windows PCs.

Do you have any questions about Windows XP or reinstalling it? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? Be sure to add a comment below or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

Published by

Clif Sipe

Promoting Freeware and Free information since 2004. Owner of with over 2000 pages of freebies. Please subscribe to my Google Feed or follow me on Twitter @clifnotes.

  • I will definitely use this information next time i need to re-install windows XP on my computer. Thanks to you, I’ve acquired interesting stuff worthy being shared. All in all, great post.

    • Thanks for the comment La Digue. I’m happy I can help.


  • Bill

    I have a very serious problem. After my XP Home OS was trashed by rogue software – a trial of a thing named TuneUp – I did a clean install, including HDD reformat of Windows XP Pro, from a purchased OEM disk. This was

    Service Pack 2, subsequently upgraded to SP3. I had conclusively mislaid the product key. I had to access data on the machine VERY urgently and I did not then know that under some circumstances Microsoft might agree to provide a replacement.

    I found what I now know must have been a pirate key on the Net which enabled installation but NOT activation. This of course left me functional but 30 days before meltdown – about 20 days left as I write this. Various

    retailers want around £100 for retail with matching product key. – this would be paying twice over just to continue use on the same computer. I have neither need nor intention of installing XP Pro on any other computer.

    I have tried a number of applications claiming to deal with this problem but none of them work. A Belarc profile shows that the pirate key has replaced the original one on the system so your advice re saving the file containing the key doesn't work. I have now found two keys, one of which might be the original, but neither work. I am about to upgrade the HDD and it looks

    like I will just be passing the problem on when I install XP. I have retrieved a key from the disk, but it is seemingly one Microsoft use in production and

    does not work. It is 76487-OEM-0015242-71798.

    The keys I have, one of which which might or might not be the original, are CD87T-HFP4G-V7X7H-8VY68-W7D7M and FC8GV-8Y7G7-XKD7P-Y47XF-P829W (or P819W – I believe it to be the latter, but the box will not accept it). The pirate key which has enabled this install and which is now stored on the system but will not activate is QQHHK-T4DKG-74KG7-BQB9G-W47KG. In these circumstances is it likely that Microsoft would issue a replacement? Is there any other solution? I am

    not trying to defraud anyone, just to keep on using the product I legitimately bought.

    • Derek Domino

      Click the Start button and select Run. Type or paste the folowing line:

      notepad c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts

      Click OK.

      An editor window will appear with a file that ends with this line: localhost

      Be careful not to change that line or anything above it. Add a new line at the bottom:

      Save the file and exit.

  • Jay

    The is why I switched to Ubuntu

  • WG

    I want to install XP Pro from an OEM disk on to a computer presently running XP Home. Will the 2-file key trick you advocate work to install XP Pro with the current files on the XP Home system? I should be legal and above board, the machine that originally ran XP Pro now runs Windows 7.

    If it’s relevant, I don’t have an XP Home installation disk, it came pre-installed with recovery disks. I don’t particularly want to preserve XP Home.

    • I don’t believe the files from a different version of Windows, or from a different computer will work. It wouldn’t hurt to try though.

  • Bill

    Is there a procedure that would facilitate installing XP Pro from an OEM disk dating from around 2007 as dual-boot on a computer already running Windows 7 Professional without running into the product key problem? Presumably I would still be “legal” from Microsoft’s perspective as I don’t have XP Pro installed on any other machine. Is it possible that an attempt to do so could cause a product key problem for the Windows 7 Professional installation? It was installed from a full retail disk. I didn’t have any product key problems with a replacement hard disk installation.

    Belated thanks to those who responded very helpfully to my two postings last year.

    Regards, Bill

  • Bill

    My apologies, I ommitted a couple of points which might be relevant. My Win 7 installation now includes Service Pack 1, and I have installs for XP Pro SP2 and SP3. I have not installed SP3, regarding it as unnecessary for my requirements.