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I have a Windows XP Professional SP1 system with an illegal key (not mine).

I need to get it to SP3 in order for it to handle the software I am trying to install; I have a valid key for Windows XP Professional with SP3.

I seem to remember having a problem with this once before, like the key for a higher SP3 version not working to activate an SP1 Windows.

What steps should I take so that the computer can upgrade to SP3 with the new valid key without formatting it, or screwing it up?

A good answer would show a definitive activation and upgrade path that is sure to work, as making the machine inoperable is not a risk I can take.

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I've edited the question to include information from comments on an earlier answer. – peth May 31 '11 at 16:29
+1 because the original poster is being ethical by trying to correct a licensing problem. – Randolf Richardson May 31 '11 at 17:59
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Use the Magical Jellybean Keyfinder to update the key. Then install SP3.

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Have an upvote, because this is exactly what needs to happen. – francisswest May 31 '11 at 17:11
This did work, Thank you ^_^ – Gwilym Jun 2 '11 at 10:51

I solved this same problem by using Microsoft's Windows Product Key Update Tool - select Windows XP (also available for Windows 7), etc

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This web site may help you get those updates installed so that you can get up to the Service Pack 3 level:

  Windiz Update

IMPORTANT NOTE: This web site supports all web browsers except for Internet Explorer. If you use Internet Explorer, you'll get an error indicating that your web browser is not supported.

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