Win XP Pro SP2: I have a product key but I don't have the software RRS feed

  • Question

  • I downloaded an ISO image of Windows XP Pro Service Pack 2 from my university and was also issued a product key for it.  Unfortunately, my hard disk crashed, and I lost everything, including that ISO image.  However, I have an OEM copy of the software.  If I could install that copy and then just use my key, that would be very convenient.  Is this possible?
    Friday, September 12, 2008 6:45 PM


  • Ted Paul,

    Thank you for visiting the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program forum.  The purpose of this forum is the support of the WGA program.  Your question is off topic as well as outside my area of knowledge. I would like to provide some information which may help. There are two types of licenses for XP that consumers will encounter. Retail (aka the full version product), and OEM (original equipment manufacturer product).

    Retail licenses may be moved from one computer to another, as long as the license is activated on one computer at a time and as long as the previous installation of the license is removed from the previously licensed computer.

    OEM licenses for XP are tied to the first computer onto which they are installed and the license is not permitted to be moved on any other computer.  For the purposes of defining what a computer is, since a computer is really just a collection of parts, Microsoft has established that the motherboard is the base or "defining" component, and the OEM license is permanently tied to the motherboard.

    There is one exception. If a motherboard becomes defective, you are permitted to change it and reinstall your OEM XP license to it.  You should replace it with an identical board or the manufacturer's designated replacement. OEM licenses obtained thru a major manufacturer that uses SLP technology set the recovery or repair CD to look for certain bits in the BIOS of the official manufacturer's motherboards.  If such bits are not found, as they would not be if you replaced the defective board with one not from the original computer manufacturer, then the CD will refuse to install XP. The correct thing to do in these cases is to install XP using a genuine system builder/OEM Microsoft Windows XP CD-ROM, which does not have the SLP technology.  When installing, be sure to use the Product Key on the Certificate of Authenticity affixed to the computer, and NOT the Product Key that came with the CD-ROM. (Note that retail and Volume License CDs will NOT accept OEM product keys, returning an "invalid product key" error.)  Finally, when installation is complete, do a Telephonic Activation because the OEM PK on the COA will not be accepted by the automated online activation system.  If the automated telephone system also refuses activation, choose the option to speak with an activation rep and explain that you are replacing a defective motherboard and cannot use the manufacturer-supplied recovery CD-ROM.

    One does not "lose their license" for XP if the motherboard becomes defective and has to be replaced.  If the computer owner chooses to use, or because of availability is forced to use, a board that is not a direct or identical replacement, there has to be a mechanism to accommodate these circumstances, and that is why a telephonic activation is authorized.

    Note that if the computer owner decides to replace the motherboard for performance reasons or to add features or new technology, the defective exception is NOT applicable and a new license for XP is required to be purchased. A clean installation destroys all data on the hard disk, so be sure to back up any valuable email, pictures, docs, music, etc that you cannot afford to lose.

    Additional Information:

    For licensing questions, please call 1-800-426-9400 (select option 4), Monday through Friday, 6:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. (PST) to speak directly to a Microsoft licensing specialist.

    Volume licensing customers can use the Microsoft Volume Licensing site to find contact information in their locations. See the following link:


    You may need to contact your origial vendor where you received your copy of the XP ISO to continue with that particular license. Thank you for visiting us in the WGA program forums.

    Rick, MS

    • Marked as answer by RickImAPC Friday, September 12, 2008 9:38 PM
    Friday, September 12, 2008 9:38 PM