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Do you own Windows XP if you have a product key? Answered

I have a used laptop with a Windows XP product key on the bottom.  I would like to format and start fresh, but don't have the install disks.  Is it legal to use a downloaded version of XP and use my key?  Is this even possible?  Thanks in advance.



Best Answer 6 years ago

As many others have already said, short answer to your question, yes. The serial/key IS your license to install/run the OS.

It would be WAY too complicated for business/enterprise to setup thousands of computers if you needed factory/legit discs for each install.

The activation scheme phones home at install time to ask if the key is legitimate. It does so by sending the key, and a hardware ID of the computer, primarily based on the mac address of the NIC *(and a few other components). That way, MS knows which physical hardware the key has been used on. When you go to reinstall, presuming you haven't changed the installed hardware too much, it should call home to activate and give the same key and hardware ID, and the activation server shouldn't put up any fuss.

THE PROBLEM LIES in all the different versions of windows. They key sticker should say exactly what version, home. pro, server, enterprise, starter (etc). You need to use exactly the same version, and as others say you can download them from microsoft.

(*UPDATE NOTE: Microsoft no longer supplies XP update files, but
provided you use your own serial number on original hardware, where you
get the files from should not matter).

Your product key is your serial number "license" for Windows XP. All legal copies must have a "valid key". You can use any installation disk, then input your key code, which then will be verified. Provided that the original owner kept the product key to themselves, and didn't share it, you shouldn't have any problems. If the key comes up as "invalid", then the key was likely used by someone else. You would then have to contact Microsoft for assistance.

Ensure that you install the SAME version of XP that is identified on the label with the product key.

>then the key was likely used by someone else

As I understand the key has been "in use" on the same computer, so such problem probably can't come up.

I have done this, reinstalled windows from a disk which image was downloaded from torrent, inserted the code from sticker under my laptop, and it worked just fine. Just home and pro etc versions can't be interchanged.

Let me clarify... a "single-license" product key can be used on the same machine to reinstall (the same version of) windows, but if the key was given out (by the previous owner) and it was activated on another machine, then reinstalling with this key may be rejected. Chances are the previous owner didn't share it, (but it does happen). The activation process ensures that we all don't upgrade our OS by using someone else's product key.

I understood that the laptop is running windows at the moment not linux or anything else. At lest the author does not mention it. Does not seem probable, that the previous owner gave legal key away and installed pirate windows onto this machine.

Anyway, do you happen to know how does Microsoft whatever-system-that-verifies-the-key know that this is the same machine as before if the key is being entered second time?
I know mac addresses in networks are independent of operating systems. But what if the motherboard has been replaced because of fault? Where could the identity piece be?

When the product key is entered, the information is sent along with a hardware ID and other identifiers put into the machine during manufacturing. They use more than one identifier because they know people upgrade and swap components.

Bottom line is, the process CAN be done. If he runs into any issues, he simply needs to contact Microsoft.

So yes, your key gives you the right to have XP installed on that machine.
I don't know about downloading a copy but you can borrow the disks from someone as long as you use your key. Just make sure you get the correct version. If its a pro version, which it will say on the key tag, you can install the pro version. Also be aware that it will be an OEM version and not a full retail or an upgrade. Finally try and get one closest to the service pack that is listed. If it says OEM Pro service pack 2 then that would have the best chance of installing with that key and not giving you any problems. If you put in a very early version your going to have to go through 3 service pack upgrades one at a time and then download about 150 meg of new current patches. That is a lot of work.


6 years ago

In short, yes. As has been said you shsould be able to do this just fine as long as you download the same version of windows. You should be able to download Windows from microsoft. If you can find a "Try it for 30 days version" you can install that then activate it with the key after you get it up and running. The trials are pretty much full versions.