My netbook's hard drive broke down and Windows XP was no longer able to boot. I rescued the data and copied everything (cloned) onto a new disk. Even though the disk was exactly the same model, Windows XP complained about a missing driver.

To complicate things further, I grabbed one of the Windows XP Recovery CDs I had produced with another installation years ago and built a Windows XP CD with it, slipstreamed the appropiate driver and had choosen a recovery install on the netbook machine. Even though the netbook came with a legal Windows XP copy, activation fails with the product key from the Certificate of Authenticity from the back of the netbook back.

What are the next steps for activation? Do I have to change product keys? Does it matter that I used a Dell OEM CD to build the recovery CD with appropiate drivers? After purchasing a new product key, will it activate?

PS: In the system properties dialog, it shows me the a 20 character long key that seems to be currently active with "OEM" in it.


I have come across systems where the the install only accepts a single key, and any other keys (legit or otherwise) were not accepted, forcing you to only use the one which is normally printed on the certificate on the bottom of your laptop of computer.

If you've tried to clone the entire system, this could cause issues if there are slight differences in the 2nd machine that you copy it over, as windows tries to identify the hardware (serial numbers etc)

  • So changing a broken harddisk (malicious sectors) could be the only reason why activation fails? Perhaps changed hardware even overrides the BIOS ACPI_SLIC information (see Joe's answer). – f4lco Sep 3 '11 at 14:03
  • It's completely weird - now I've taken the Windows key from the back of the computer the recovery CD was originally created from and it could succesfully activate... no matter that each single piece of hardware has changed. – f4lco Sep 3 '11 at 16:16

Usually if you use an OEM CD to activate a product that had Windows preinstalled the activation is done by querying the BIOS for the OEM's hardware-embedded BIOS ACPI_SLIC information signed by Microsoft

So if your netbook had an OEM copy of XP preinstalled it should not matter that you use another OEM Windows XP disk. Activation will query the BIOS and return that there is a OEM SLP license present and show windows as activated.

  • Unfortunately it definitely wants to be activated. +1 for some technical details about OEM activation (if I had enough reputation)... – f4lco Sep 3 '11 at 14:00

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