Activate Windows XP on more than one PC?, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

Recall --

Infopackets Reader Marie 'ChameleonsGirl' asked if it was possible to use the same copy of Windows XP that came with her new computer and install it onto her second computer.

My response was that Microsoft has designed Windows XP so that it can only be activated on 1 computer (per copy). This is a form of copy protection and is aimed at stopping software piracy, and works something like this:

  1. You buy Windows XP on CD (or it comes with your computer) and includes a registration number.
  2. The Windows XP activation program looks at each hardware component inside your computer, gathers their serial numbers, and produces a unique "DNA fingerprint" of your computer's identity.
  3. The XP CD registration number + computer hardware DNA fingerprint = a unique Windows XP activation code.
  4. Since an activation number includes a unique DNA fingerprint of a specific computer, it will not work on any other computer.

Having said that, a few Readers emailed me today and asked a few more additional questions. Gord S. writes:

" I read yesterday's article on installing Windows XP on more than one computer (Jan 14 issue). What happens if I decide to reinstalling Windows XP on the same computer, but with an updated motherboard and processor? I'm asking this question because I recently upgraded my computer and activated it with no problem. Wouldn't this be the same as installing it on a second computer? If so, why was I able to activate it without any hitch? "

My response:

As far as I understand, you are allowed so many "major" hardware changes (such as yours) within a certain time period, and then your XP activation may no longer function. If this happens, you will have to activate XP using the "Activate by Phone" method and inform Microsoft that your system has been upgraded.

The next question came from Reader Mary 'HeartGem':

" I read with consternation the answer to Marie's query about Windows XP. So, does this mean that if I put a new video card, sound card or other hardware upgrade it, voids my Win XP license? "

My response:

Highly unlikely. As I stated in the above response, only major hardware changes (such as a new motherboard and CPU) would send a "red flag" to Microsoft.

The third question came from Infopackets Reader Lawrence K.:

" Because the Windows XP CD install disc is not writeable, how is it that a 'computer DNA fingerprint' (as you call it) get saved? How does Windows XP know the 'DNA fingerprint' of a computer is different from any other? "

My response:

As far as I understand, the activation code which is used to register your copy of Windows XP is recorded into a Microsoft database (accessible via the web), or it is entered over the phone by a Microsoft telephone operator.

Inside the activation code lies a series of letters and numbers which are matched against the computer's "DNA fingerprint". If the two codes don't coincide, then Windows XP won't activate.

RE: Additional License Purchases

On one final note, I received an email from a Reader who reported that you can purchase additional XP licenses on the web for around $70.00. You can still use an existing XP Install CD to install onto another computer, except this time, you would use a different license number. This method of activation is cheaper than having to purchase the retail box of Windows XP (which normally includes manuals, CDs, packaging, etc).

Thanks to all who wrote in with their questions.

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