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For testing purposes, I need to install a Windows XP Home environment in a virtual machine.

The thing here is I don't have a license and Microsoft won't sell it anymore. What can I do about it?

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SO has a much fuller discussion on acquiring Windows VMs through MSDN – JCotton May 17 '11 at 2:05
up vote 18 down vote accepted

To my understanding, Microsoft officially endorses the use of the unactivated "grace period" in a pure testing environment. So, if your testing is short term, you may not need to activate at all.

Microsoft says:

Leverage the Activation Grace Period

If activation does not occur immediately after the operating system is installed, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 still provide the full functionality of the operating system for an initial grace period of 30 days. During this grace period, at each log in and at common intervals, a notification appears reminding customers to activate the product, but otherwise, the operating system functions the same as an activated product.

If you have test systems that change frequently, consider taking advantage of the activation grace period and not activating the product while you’re testing it. If your testing goes beyond 30 days but is still short-term, Microsoft provides a way to reset the grace period up to three times using rearm functionality available through the slmgr.vbs command-line interface. This effectively extends the grace period of these products to 120 days. For details see Slmgr.vbs Options in the Volume Activation Technical Reference Guide.

This should be legally in the clear as long as you have any kind of Windows license that you are not actively using on another device - an OEM license for the same edition would be fine. This is technically in the clear no matter what, you are simply not required to activate for 120 days.

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While interesting, this does not answer the question. The question was "How do I get a license", and this is about "how do I handle activation". – sleske Jan 2 '14 at 12:29

If its for testing, spend the 300 dollars or so, and get a technet account - you get fully functional versions of pretty much every OS MS has made or is making , for evaluation and testing purposes.

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MSDN and TechNet are separate products. TechNet Plus Direct is, I believe, about $350 and $250 on renewal. – Multiverse IT May 17 '11 at 4:34
i was under the impression technet was under MSDN, with MSDN being developer centric, MSDNAA being student centric, and technet being sysadmin/it professional centric. I'll redact the MSDN from my answer for correctness sake tho. :) – Journeyman Geek May 17 '11 at 5:19

You can exercise your Downgrade Rights from Windows 7. See this FAQ from Microsoft here.

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+1, this is the correct answer. You can still legally buy Windows XP - it's called "Buy a Windows 7 license". – Shinrai May 17 '11 at 14:33

"Download Free Windows 7, Vista and XP via new IE Application Compatibility VPC Images"

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Note that these are time-limited (they expire at a set date, and you need to download the new image), and will only work in MS Virtual PC (there is a mechanism which prevents them from running in other virtualization environments). – Piskvor May 17 '11 at 7:59
The testing images have been updated, and are now available for Hyper-V, Virtual PC, VirtualBox and VMWare. See . They are still time-limited - however, you can just roll back to an old state using the VM tools to use them forever. – sleske Jan 2 '14 at 12:26

If you are a student/instructor, your university probably provides MSDN access to you, and you can legally get a serial number for free. Or, if you graduated from a college and your account is still accessible, you might want to see if you have access to university resources (again, MSDN.)

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Buy Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate, which include XP Mode, which is Windows XP running in a Virtual PC VM.

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This works almost nothing like XP in a VM, in my experience. – kivetros May 17 '11 at 13:30
@kivetros It exactly is XP running in a VM, so I don't quite know what you mean. If you want to install it yourself, you can always use a keyfinder in the VM to extract the VLK that MS used and then install it using your own WinXP media. – Bacon Bits May 17 '11 at 17:34
Your experiences may have been different, but it just hasn't ever worked very well for me - it's definitely no competition for Oracle VirtualBox, IMO. Upvoted for the tip on extracting the key though - that's brilliant. – kivetros May 17 '11 at 18:04

Without a license key, you cannot install Windows legally. I recommend finding a friend who owns it, and asking them. You could also try buying a copy from eBay or Amazon, they may still sell copies.

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First, that Microsoft does not sell XP licenses anymore does not mean that they are not available anymore. I'm sure, on Amazon or a similar site you will find one. Second, if it is for testing purpose only, you may use the 30 day trial period of win XP to perform your tests and then delete it.

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