I'd like to get my hands on to legal Windows XP keys so that I could setup a few virtual machines. I'm a software developer and this would be greatly useful.

I'm willing to buy them (cheaply) if needed but I've not been able to identify a source for legal Windows XP keys. Is it possible for a previous user to resell Windows XP or is this against Microsoft's terms?

I am aware of MSDN Subscriptions, but I was hoping to keep this entire project within $50 (USD). I only need two to four keys...

(Note: The legal portion is extremely important. I don't even want to be in the gray here...)

8 Answers 8


Retail copies of XP can be resold with no problem. OEM copies are tied to the machine (specifically, the motherboard) and therefore non-resaleable after install. Also, you want to have physical possession of the sticker the key is on.


Are you in a startup? If so, BizSpark may be useful.

  • I've looked in to that. Its a good idea but this is for personal use -- open source software. I don't think I'd qualify.
    – Frank V
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 18:48
  • 3
    You might qualify. All you need is a website, address, business name, and maybe one or two other things. I'd check it out.
    – tim
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 19:23

Newegg is still selling XP Pro licenses, but they are very expensive at $440 for a 3-pack or $140 for a single license.

  • It looks as though those offers have expired. Commented May 16, 2011 at 4:36

Soeone else mentioned bizspark and you questioned if you were eligible:

Taken from the MS pdf

Startup Eligibility Requirements: An eligible startup must have the following characteristics at the time of joining:

• Actively engaged in development of a software-based product or service that will form a core piece of its current or intended business

• Privately held

• In business for less than 3 years

• Less than US $1 million in annual revenue.

I think that even a personal project would fit that. Their goal I think is to win back some of the people who have been leaving the MS platform for Linux and Mac.

I'd investigate if I were you. All it would take is a domain name and email with that domain that was hosted anywhere. You also have to provide a website with contact info. (I might be confusing this with one of their other programs, but they may be the same)

  • I'll give it a try. I have a domain name and a valid email to that domain name. It could be considered a business, if I wanted to think of it like that.
    – Frank V
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 19:51

You could always save your money and download Virtual PC images from Microsoft, although you'd have to get new ones every few months.

  • Seems Microsoft may have discontinued that link. This is a real problem. Microsoft either needs to provide a way for people to get cheap XP licenses for experimental and hobby use or come out and say Wine for GNU\Linux is actually legal. Windows 10 and Windows 11 have their strong points but they also have serious issues IMO. Some EXPENSIVE programs just flat won't run in GNU\Linux, Mac or modern versions of Win 10/11. Most home users these days probably don't actually want XP, but I have legitimate use cases for XP presuming I can put up with the massive security holes.
    – Shawn Eary
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 23:33

Have you tried eBay or Craigslist for old retail copies of Windows XP?

  • 2
    No. I didn't want to contend with software pirates reselling stolen or made up keys... Have you had luck with this in the past?
    – Frank V
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 18:52
  • 3
    Not on eBay specifically, but in person deals have worked well. Actual CD with the certificate of authenticity are what is best to personally check for before buying.
    – Chealion
    Commented Jul 21, 2009 at 18:59

If you already have XP installed as the host, I have been told you can legally isntall and run up to 4 virtual instances with the same key. Something I was told at a Microsoft TechEd Conference.

From: Windows 7 licensing and virtual machines clarified

if you have Volume Licensing, an SA and the Windows 7 Professional Upgrade License (Volume Licensing Upgrade License) or Windows 7 Enterprise then you can run 4 virtual copies of Windows 7 on a server or desktop

  • IMO, this is something you need to cite a source for... Something more than "I heard".
    – Frank V
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 17:50
  • 1
    @FrankV "up to four instances" for Windows 7, it's hard to find licensing docs for Windows XP from an official site these days though as it is end of life. blogs.technet.com/b/simonmay/archive/2011/01/13/…
    – AaronLS
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:10
  • @FrankV You also get free license for virtualizing XP under Windows 7 using XP Mode, which is covered there as well.
    – AaronLS
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 19:12
  • @AaronLS - It's hard to find Microsoft consistently displaying info for the licensing for any product line IMO... The licensing is posted online one day and then it is gone may half a year later. Then they like to change licensing rules between versions of software (i.e. Win XP, Win 7, Win Vista, Win 8.X, Win 10 or Office 2003, 2007, 2010). Maybe I'm imagining all of this shiftiness, but Microsoft has really ticked me off in recent years...
    – Shawn Eary
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 23:42

eBay should be a good way for most people to get it. You don't have to worry about counterfeits if you pay attention to their feedback scores and reviews (nobody is going to blow a 10,000 rep for $50), and make sure to open a dispute in time if it does turn out to be counterfeit to get your money back. Plus, if you find someone in your area, you can opt for local-pickup and meet them in person to examine it yourself and save on shipping.

Another option is online classifieds. That way, you can meet the seller in person and examine it as with a local-pickup. Many countries have Kijiji (renamed to eBay Classifieds in the USA) and others that don't usually have some sort of local counterpart. It is indispensable because it greatly helps to reduce waste by making it easier for people to buy and sell locally. I highly recommend it for general use.

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