Why is the Windows XP COA product license serial number key (XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX) found by winkeyfinder different from the genuine sticker product key?

I re-installed Windows XP on my Dell Inspiron 8600 notebook, the Windows XP Pro disk was provided by Dell for the notebook.

After the install, Windows did not ask for the product key on the genuine sticker.

running wind key finder gave a different key from that on the sticker


Can anyone explain?


Basically most mass market systems use a system locked preinstall key, which is mass imaged to systems, and the restore disk will pick up on a key stored in the system's bios.Every dell (least of the same model) as such will have the same key. If you were to use a 'generic' install cd (such as one a small system builder would use), you'd need to use the key on the system.

  • +1 Thanks, that is informative but why would the key stored in the system's bios be different from that on the sticker? – therobyouknow Nov 29 '11 at 12:37
  • I'll accept this as I guess having a mass key is a valid way to pre-install and simplify (i.e. reduce cost of) the manufacturing. It's a bit like a volume license in a way. – therobyouknow Nov 29 '11 at 12:40
  • The restore disk I have is a full install CD of Windows XP Professional. Presumably this same disk can be used to re-install Windows XP Professional on another machine -- provided that other machine has its own genuine COA product serial license key sticker which is valid for the same Windows XP (i.e. professional)? Following such an install on that other machine, then Microsoft's own WGA product key changer tool would be used to update the key for the install on that other machine to that as it is reads on its COA sticker. – therobyouknow Nov 29 '11 at 12:42
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    I've used the licence key on a the label from a dell with a non SLP media (our office computers use that - they activate and require a key just like the regular retail version) - it required the key and the activation.Presumably SLP media with non SLP systems would need the same. The dell/other big computer company version isn't the same as the OEM version you'd get from newegg or a small system builder. For the OEM having a identical licence key allows them to mass image systems quickly (rather than needing a key per install), or changing the key post install. – Journeyman Geek Nov 29 '11 at 13:41
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    COA-OA key is a single user license key, the one in the bios is a Volume License Key (VLK) Single user key belongs to you (its the one you paid for), VLK belongs to Dell, HP etc. VLK makes it simple for Dell to install windows on millions of PC's and meet the license requirements from Microsoft. Copy the COA key down somewhere safe as these stickers get worn down and you cannot get another user license key. – Moab Nov 29 '11 at 15:47

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