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Can I (legally) repair a Windows XP install without a copy of Windows XP? Restoring from the OEM recovery disk and wiping the applications is not particularly appealing, especially since I'd like to recover application settings. Am I expected to buy a copy of Windows XP in order to do this? Are they even still selling them?

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What exactly is wrong with your Windows XP installation? – Patches Mar 5 '11 at 6:03
@Patches: not sure. See… for more details. – intuited Mar 5 '11 at 6:56
I posted a possible solution that doesn't require the XP disc as an answer to that question. If that doesn't work you will need to obtain an XP CD by some means to fix that problem. – Patches Mar 5 '11 at 7:17

If your Windows install key/license is legit you can use any compatible media to reinstall however you'd like.

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By "compatible media" do you mean that I can use any XP disc, rather than just the one that was used to install the computer's OS? – intuited Mar 5 '11 at 6:55
@intuited - by compatible I mean same version and edition the key is from (ie: XP Home OEM). You may have to watch out for BIOS-locked OEM images, but those are rare in recent years from my experience. You can download the image from a torrent for all MS cares (although they don't recommend it). – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Mar 5 '11 at 7:01
If it's an OEM version of XP, will it say that on the Certificate of Authenticity? It just says "Windows XP Professional 1-2 CPU". – intuited Mar 5 '11 at 15:07
If it's a sticker, which should be affixed to the system, it's OEM. If it doesn't name a specific OEM lke Dell or Teshiba, etc. then you're odds are better that any generic OEM XP CD will work. – Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Mar 5 '11 at 19:06

The vendor should have provided a Windows XP CD-ROM (preferred - vendors who do this are providing a better service in my opinion), or some sort of a process to create a Windows XP installation/recovery CD (I regard vendors who do this as "cheap").

There are a few products which will likely be of interest to you:

  Drive Snapshot (full disk imaging)

  Magic Jelly Bean KeyFinder (to recover your Product Key in case your sticker gets lost)

Before you do anything else with your machine, use Drive Snapshot to create an image of your hard disk. That way, if your experiments go wrong, you can get back to where you were. The beauty of a backup image that you can "snap back to" is that you can do risky stuff with your experiments to really get the answers you need since you don't have to worry about "losing the [whole] farm."

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Well, I've got the disk image snapshotted (via linux ddrescue) in a VirtualBox .vdi disk, and the product key is still legible on the box. I just need a bootable XP disk image so I can try to fix the install. – intuited Mar 5 '11 at 6:55

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