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I made a Windows VM with Virtualbox in Ubuntu linux. I used the install disc that came with my laptop (I have a paid license for Windows XP). When I started my VM for the first time, it asked me to activate Windows, and said it will stop working in a month if I don't do this.

Is the a maximum number of times I can activate a VM? Am I legally allowed to run Windows in a VM with my laptop's license? I have a dual-boot set up--if I activate my VM, can I continue to use Windows natively?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can activate Windows XP a handful (between 2-5, I have had different results) of times on different hardware or a generous amount if on the same hardware as the last activation (I did it at least 10 times without a problem.)

If you have a genuine reason for doing it and reach the limit, ring Microsoft on the free number and they are more than happy to allow you to continue / reset the counter. Activation is annoying and I am against it, but Microsoft have a better implementation than a few other companies and they will only block keys that are massively and obviously abused / overused.

That being said, if it was an OEM edition that came with your laptop and not a fully licensed copy, it would not be allowed for you to install this on a different machine - unless the VM is on the original machine (I guess - as it is running on the machine it was licensed for)... That being said, licensing drives me crazy and I do not know the finer details.

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number of times of activation possible depends on how long you wait between these activations. activating one different pc every year works fine, even more often than 5 times (at least with XP Prof.) –  mihi Aug 22 '09 at 21:48
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I used the install disc that came with my laptop (I have a paid license for Windows XP).

if this is the OEM version that came with your computer, the activation is likely to fail as the key is registered and your VBox VM is technically a different computer.

but then, there is one easy way to find out. :)

if the activation via the internet fails, you can still try your luck with a MS representative over the phone and explain your situation, then you'll have the correct answer 'right from the horses mouth'.

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This is exactly what happens to me with vmware. I can boot the disk on the bare hardware, and it works. When I boot it from vmware, I get a prompt for activation. The key already in the system doesn't work. –  Jay R. Oct 2 '09 at 21:07
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AFAIK retail copies of Windows XP can only be activated twice. Legally you should have a license for each VM however according to the Microsoft Licensing Agreement. The license agreement only allows one installed instance of the OS.

This entry does a detailed analysis of the Windows XP Home license however it is the same for Windows XP Professional.

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