I have an somewhat older Notebook with an original Windows XP Professional License Sticker underneath. This Notebook was erased completely once and now I want to install a new Windows XP Professional System on it using the key that's on the sticker.

But there seems to be one problem: I am using an Windows XP Professional SP3 image I got from my university (thanks to MSDNAA). But somehow I cannot use the license key on the sticker with this installation. It keeps saying that this key is invalid. What can I do? Is this because I try to install a Win XP Professional with SP3 directly? Do I need another image to install this?

  • With a Windows XP SP3 Home or Professional disc, you can press Next when asked for the Product Key. See my expanded answer below. – stukelly Dec 16 '09 at 0:30

With a Windows XP SP3 Home or Professional disc, you can press Next when asked for the Product Key.

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After the install has finished, you will be prompted for the product key when you activate Windows.

Product Key-less install option. As with Windows Vista, new XP with SP3 installs can proceed without entering a product key during Setup.

Source: http://www.winsupersite.com/faq/xp_sp3.asp

We regularly use this method at work to reinstall Windows XP for customers who have no restore discs.

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  • This looks great. But can I use the OEM License-Key afterwards? – Ham Vocke Dec 16 '09 at 6:55
  • Yes. When you try to active Windows, it will ask for the product key. The product key is checked over the internet, or can be done over the phone. – stukelly Dec 16 '09 at 12:45
  • Well, this does not work in my case somehow. I guess I got a wrong image which is not actually SP3 at all. Thank you anyway! – Ham Vocke Dec 16 '09 at 16:42
  • How far did you get? You can integrate SP3 to a Windows SP2 CD by slipstreaming: winsupersite.com/showcase/xpsp3_slipstream.asp – stukelly Dec 16 '09 at 19:36
  • I just not have the option to leave the key empty. But I got a new image which should be working now. – Ham Vocke Dec 18 '09 at 10:02


Unlocking WinXP's setupp.ini explains how to force Windows XP to accept retail, OEM, or volume license keys during installation (as well as how to change the CD's behavior). This is especially useful for installing Windows XP on a computer with an OEM license when you've only got a retail CD handy. Working from a retail ISO image, simply open I386\SETUPP.INI in a text editor and replace the last 3 digits of the Pid with "OEM" (sans quotes). Tested successfully with HP, Gateway, and Toshiba OEM product keys. See also: Editing ISO images and Product IDs (cached copy).

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You can install Windows without a key and then after installing change the last three digits of the value Pid in key HKLM\SYSTEM\Setup\Pid to OEM. This will change the retail version of Windows into OEM.

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Yes, different installation images require different keys. The sticker on your Notebook is likely for an OEM build, and you are trying to use that key on what may be a student or some other retail build. It simply won't work.

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  • With a Windows XP SP3 Home or Professional disc, you can press Next when asked for the Product Key. – stukelly Dec 16 '09 at 0:24

The license key on the sticker is probably an OEM key, which will only work with an OEM installation disc.

The full version SP3 installation disc is not an OEM disc, and will not work. However, this disc should have come with its own, working key. Try talking with someone at the bookstore.

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