I decided to change my XP CD key to the one I just got from MSDN through my school. Since my install was OEM and my new key was retail, I booted to the retail cd, chose my install of XP, and hit R to 'repair' it to the retail version. (Google tells me this is how you switch an OEM install to a retail one)

It took quite a while, but eventually it asked for my new key and for my regional settings. Now I am at the XP welcome screen, and everything looks normal. Except Windows Genuine Authentication tells me "you must activate this copy of XP before you can log in. Do you wish to activate? [yes/no]"

If I click no, I can't advance past the welcome screen. If I click Yes, my wallpaper loads and I can move the mouse cursor around, but nothing ever comes up. I'm stuck with a blank desktop indefinitely. I'm never given any sort of activation screen or whatever is supposed to come up.

I'd call Microsoft for a phone activation, but something tells me they'd just give me a number and I'd have nowhere in which to type it! I even read that you can bring up the Microsoft Narrator with win+U and click a link to open IE. I can do that, but clicking the link does nothing.

more info: -I can log in to safe mode (without networking) just fine. If I try safe mode +network support, the welcome screen tells me I can't activate XP in safe mode and I have no choice but to restart. -No clicks or keypresses seem to have any effect on the blank desktop, except win+U. Not even ctrl+alt+delete does anything.

  • 3
    Why change an already working key with a MSDN key ? You will gain nothing from this, except the trouble you are in right now.
    – Michael B.
    Aug 20, 2009 at 5:52
  • My father built a new computer, and used the same key I was using. I figured I could just get a new one for my install and it would be easy. First I tried just changing my key, but the xp versions were different. If I could go back 3 hours I would. :(
    – Hue
    Aug 20, 2009 at 5:58
  • The XP Version were different ? Do you Home Vs Pro? SP Version ?
    – Michael B.
    Aug 20, 2009 at 6:08
  • By version, I meant OEM vs Retail. The CD keys are not compatible between the two.
    – Hue
    Aug 20, 2009 at 6:10
  • Does your school have Windows 7 keys as well? Perhaps it's time to "move on" ;-)
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 20, 2009 at 6:45

4 Answers 4


Seems like the repair you've done with your Windows XP CD, broke your O/S.

You will probably need to format, and do a clean install of Windows.

Personnaly, Windows XP repair never worked for me, it was always breaking something.

This is because your Windows is up to date, but the CD is not, and it is overwrtting newer files, which breaks your existing installation.

  • 1
    I'd still give safe mode a try before doing something this drastic. His files are still on there.
    – John T
    Aug 20, 2009 at 5:57
  • 2
    Well, he already try and it isn't working. If he needs to do a Backup, he can use a Linux boot disc, or BartPE.
    – Michael B.
    Aug 20, 2009 at 6:01

It's possible you've wiped out your network drivers so your pc can't talk to the activation servers. You could try telephone activation they'd at least be able to point you in the right direction.


You could try booting into safe mode and (re-)installing the latest Service Pack. This should bring everything up to date and might resolve any incompatibilities you have been versions of files created by the repair.

You'll need another PC to download it and burn it to CD but since you're posting here you must have one.


I just ran into this same issue. The problem (as described in one of the responses here: http://forums.techguy.org/windows-xp/932753-solved-how-repair-windows-xp.html) was that the repair put some IE6 files back onto the machine, and left me with an unusable Internet Explorer. That's why I just got the wallpaper after I said to go ahead with the activation.

The solution was to go into Safe Mode, uninstall IE8 from c:\windows\ie8\spuninst and then reboot. At that point, activation started normally and I was able to continue.