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I have several images created with Ghost Solution Suite (v11 I believe), the images have been in use for a few years now, but I am finally to the point where I have enough time to attempt to virtualize them for easier updates.

I am running VMWare and attempting to image the virtual machines with my ghost image files.

For my images I am running sysprep with minisetup and using reseal.

The image deploys successfully, however when I start the VM for the first time, it demands windows activation. This doesn't happen when I image a physical computer, even a different model with different hardware.

The idea of virtualizing my images becomes rather worthless if I am unable to deploy the images without having to activate every time (especially as Microsoft keeps declaring our volume licence key as invalid for activations).

Does anyone know why it is asking for activation on a virtual machine, but not a physical PC? How can I prevent this?

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This might be better suited to serverfault? – Tyler Apr 22 '10 at 16:53
Have seen this as well and have never found the answer. Has only been a minor pain so far. – Dave M Apr 22 '10 at 17:55
This is perfectly suited for Super User and I demand an answer! Excellent question +1 :-) – Ivo Flipse Apr 22 '10 at 19:31
Hi Chris, if neither of the two new answers below are helpful, can you please comment on them and let us know where we missed the boat so that we can try again? – Larry Smithmier Aug 20 '10 at 21:38

I highly suggest using VMware Converter if you are going to be migrating into a VMware. environment.

Also the reason its asking for activation is because you have moved to the VMware Hardware which does not match your SID of your physical hardware.

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Agreed: Image to a physical computer, then use VMware Converter. No activation problems this way. – harrymc Aug 30 '10 at 17:32

Some hardware vendors get special OEM versions of Windows that recognizes their specific hardware through OEM Voodoo and bypasses activation. I would guess that you have all HP or Dell machines and have been transferring images between them (within the same brand). The Virtual Machine doesn't present the same hardware/firmware image so the OEM Voodoo can't work even if the hardware it is actually running on is the right brand. The Virtualization layer gets in the way. You may be able to find some hack to get around this issue, but be aware that doing so would undoubtedly violate your license with MS.

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If you provide more information about the systems and the Windows version, I can probably find some supporting documentation. Also, are you running VMWare in Windows? If so, what version? I can help you navigate the license maze virtualization causes. – Larry Smithmier Aug 11 '10 at 18:10
We are using XP SP 3. Most of our PCs are HP devices. dc 7600 through 7900, 5800, 6000 are our current models. – Chris Sobolewski Oct 11 '10 at 13:53
Hey Chris. I found a forum entry:… that suggests that the XP activation key for HP is the Manufacturer Name key within bios, and that setting it to 'Hewlett-Packard' will achieve your desired results. – Larry Smithmier Oct 11 '10 at 14:00
This led me in the correct direction, thank you! – Chris Sobolewski Oct 13 '10 at 19:16

Activation is necessary because the hardware that VMWare is virtualizing is different enough from what was used to build the original image.

The same thing happens if you change a motherboard in an activated computer: Windows recognizes this and wants to be activated again. See this description of Windows Product Activation for more details.

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This does not answer the question at all. The question is much more about product keys than it is about activation. – Chris Sobolewski Aug 10 '10 at 17:21
@Chris Sobolewski: The question does seem to be about activation. – harrymc Aug 30 '10 at 17:29

Could it be that the ghost images are from installations using an OEM copy of Windows which is bios locked to the Manufacturer and hence are not valid in the Virtual Machine as it has a different bios?

Had a issue like this with a Sony Laptop. The existing XP key would not work in the VM as it was not using a Sony Bios. The volume license key would not work (possibly because the installation was a OEM install). I was told by Microsoft Support that I needed to buy a Retail copy of Windows XP and re-install.

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No, they aren't bios locked. They work once I fish out a different key. – Chris Sobolewski Oct 11 '10 at 13:54
up vote 0 down vote accepted

@Larry Smithmier led me in the correct direction.

I was able to go to and find an HP BIOS/SLIC file for HP devices.

This allows me to fake an HP machine, and thus skip activation when using an HP OEM disk as the basis of my image.

For others having this issue, my digital life has many slic files, so you can virtualize from an HP or Dell, ASUS, etc.

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