My *nix world

Bypass Windows XP product activation

I must state from the beginning that this article is not about cracking Windows activation engine because we don't want to break our Windows EULA, do we?. This article tries to show you ways to bypass Windows XP product activation for those emergency situations. I will explain in details below.

Let's suppose that you have a licensed copy of an Windows XP but lately you have installed-activated/uninstalled it for several times. At some point the Microsoft Activation Server just get bored and says "OK, if you want me to activate your license then please pick up the phone and call me!".

What if you get bored (or you are just lazy) to call Microsoft and to justify yourself and to ask them "Please, can you activate the copy that I bought legally? Yes, I have an invoice, in fact I have 10 invoices because it happens that I bought more copies than I'm using right now. No, I'm not a software theft, I cross my heart and hope to die!"

Well, in that situation (let me make myself clear: when you both have the legal right to use that piece of software and you don't break the EULA) you could just try to exploit one of the Windows XP weaknesses. In fact you could try to exploit more than one, I'm sure about that (someone might think that I did it in the past; maybe they're right).

You could find yourself in one of the following situations:

  1. the 30 days has expired so you cannot access the Desktop anymore
  2. you are within those 30 days time limit but you want to get rid of this issue ASAP

Your 30 days has expired

So you've got a message like the one below:

You could also get a message like the one below, I meet that situation several times in the past, unfortunately I haven't tested to see if the trick works also for this particular situation, I guess/hope it does:

bypass windows xp product activation

Windows Product Activation - on hardware change

Anyway, so you either have exceeded those 30 days after the period when you have been supposed to activate your copy of Windows or, lately, you have changed the hardware such that the Windows has started to annoy you with the Windows Product Activation dialogue.

No matter in which situation you are just press the Yes button, like you are willing to activate your copy of Windows. A new window like the one below will be shown:

bypass windows xp product activation

Let's activate Windows - click WinKey+u

By pressing simultaneous "Windows key" and "u" (WinKey+u) you will open a window called "Microsoft narrator" where you can click on some hyperlink called "Microsoft web site" which in turn will open your default web browser (hopefully IE otherwise it works but with one more step; we get to this soon).

Note: if by pressing WinKey+u it opens another window named "Narrator" then, in order to get the "Microsoft narrator" window, you have to right-click that window's title-bar and to choose "About narrator" pop-up menu.

So the "Microsoft narrator" window should look like this:

bypass windows xp product activation

Microsoft Narrator - click the "Microsoft Web site" link

At this point the idea is to get the IE browser opened because the browser has "an issue" that we are going to exploit it. In case that your default browser is Firefox/Chrome/Opera/etc we should do some extra steps in order to open your IE browser because finally the IE is the one we are going to hack. If your browser is just IE then skip the steps below and go to the "IE browser opened".

Non-IE browser opened

  • enter "C:" in your browser URL address bar; your browser should show the content of C: directory
  • navigate to the C:WindowsSystem32 directory then click "taskmgr.exe" to download it; after it have downloaded just run that application (taskmgr.exe)
  • on Task Manager choose File->Run then enter "iexplore.exe" and hit OK; that will open your IE browser; finally you can use it (see below)

IE browser opened

In the URL address bar enter "C:" then hit OK. If you are not using IE8 then that command should exploit a weakness of IE7 (or earlier) which in turn will "crash the Windows" in that way that it will load the Desktop, the task bar, everything.

Note: for some reasons Windows keeps locking itself every 30-60 seconds so you won't be able to see the Desktop nor the task bar. If that is happening just repeat the step mentioned at the paragraph above (enter "C:" in IE browser URL bar). Hacking is not always an easy job, isn't it?

So, you have gained a time frame for ~30-60 seconds of fully functional Windows system, period when, hopefully, you will be able to launch whatever program you want even if ~30-60 seconds later the Windows will lock it again (your application is already up an running so you are happy; Windows has closed its Desktop, he think it's clever, it's happy too; everybody is happy now, right?).


  1. I've seen that if you keep that "Windows Product Activation" window opened, then the Windows Desktop doesn't lock automatically after those ~30-60s. So for example I have had the IE opened and it has remained opened for an undefined period of time, but when I closed (chose OK button) the "Window Product Activation" window then the Windows automatically logged me off so I had to begin the whole process from the beginning. I think it's good to know this "tips" upfront.
  2. If you start your Windows in "Safe mode" then the Windows Product Activation does not appear any more (regarding the safe-mode).
  3. Some interesting info here (before check this website alert).

This trick just helps you to use your Windows copy in these emergency situations; I would not recommend anyone working like this on the daily basis because it could just prove to be a nightmare.

You are within those 30 days time limit

In this situation you are reminded (frequently enough) that you have only 30 (or less) days left for activation. The trick to bypass Windows XP product activation is the simplest and the most effective one.

bypass windows xp product activation

Windows activation reminder - 30 days left

  • open Registry Editor (Start->Run then enter regedit and push OK button)
  • open the registry key at the location HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWPAEvents
  • edit the OOBETimer key value and set its value to "ff d5 71 d6 8b 6a 8d 6f d5 33 93 fd"
  • right-click on the same key WPAEvents and select "Permissions"
    • select SYSTEM group/user and check all DENY options (we won't allow XP to mess with us anymore, in fact we deny it firmly :o)
    • click Advanced button then uncheck "Inherit from parent the permission...", press OK, when prompted at next step just answer with "Copy"
    • in "Permission entries" select the SYSTEM then choose "Edit..."; check all the "Deny" permissions the OK+Apply

It should not ask you anymore for software activation. In fact you could run Start->All Programs -> Activate Windows and you should get an response message like "Windows is already activated". If not working then just try again, maybe you have missed something on the way.

If you are interested on Windows Vista/7 license activation you could read also an article I wrote about this.

[!] WARNING [!]

I would not recommend to anyone to try this procedure in order to gain the access to use an unlicensed copy of Windows. In fact, when dealing with licensed software (like Windows), I would strongly recommend you to contact your software provider to ask it if you are allowed to do something like that or not. I wrote this article only for myself for research/educational purposes so that in case of emergency to be able to rescue my licensed system. When I have refereed the pronoun "you" or "we" I meant "I".

Now, if you think that this article was interesting don't forget to rate it. It shows me that you care and thus I will continue write about these things.

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Bypass Windows XP product activation

Eugen Mihailescu

Founder/programmer/one-man-show at Cubique Software
Always looking to learn more about *nix world, about the fundamental concepts of math, physics, electronics. I am also passionate about programming, database and systems administration. 16+ yrs experience in software development, designing enterprise systems, IT support and troubleshooting.
Bypass Windows XP product activation

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37 thoughts on “Bypass Windows XP product activation

  1. Gunsmoke

    Thanks for Your Help Bro. your fully explained activation bypass method beats those half done gimmicks that oftentimes fails to work, this is my third yet successful attempt because i've must've done something right!!

  2. TheWayItis

    Worked at first. I used it for a couple weeks. Something must have updated on XP on auto-updates. I have set the registry but now I still get the Activation window and when I go into it, it says I'm already activated. When I look at the registry key, it is as you suggested and permissions as you suggested. There must be something else now.

    1. Eugen Mihailescu

      I'm pretty sure that the Windows activation mechanism is not trivial at all and that it has more than a single protection gate. The only methods I've tested were those mentioned in post, though.

  3. LatinMcG

    i had google chrome as default . it worked to "dload" c:program filesinternet exploreriexplore.exe then open it and it launched
    then i typed c: and it let me run the darn driver install for LAN so i could activate online.
    IT WORKED..i set everything back in regsitry before doing online activation.
    i had dloaded driver for it and saved to c: from
    Thanks.. sorta

  4. J

    I bought a second hand Windows XP to dual boot on my mac computer. I would love to buy a brand new copy but of course it is far too old.
    It installed and worked fine. The product key worked during installation. However it won't let me activate it and now it says I need to activate it in 2 days to keep using it. This is despite having followed your methods above. All I can think is I accidentally left the computer connected to the internet and it did an auto update or something. It is really frustrating that I payed for a copy of windows xp and now it has stopped working and I lost all my installed programs. I can't get windows 7 or 8 as the programs I want to run won't work and I don't even know if windows 7 or 8 would work well on my mac.

    Any help would be much appreciated.

    1. Eugen Mihailescu Post author

      If you are within those 30 days then the "You are within those 30 days time limit" should tinker the thing. As long as you are withing that period, if you block your registry (that key) then Windows cannot write to it anymore. So even if those 30 days have passed, maybe it will bother you with that nasty reminder should not be able to do too much about it.

  5. Ana

    Hi Eugen. Thank you for the information. I tried your method before the 30 days were up. The only thing that was unclear was the part with "edit the OOBETimer key value and set its value to "ff d5 71 d6 8b 6a 8d 6f d5 33 93 fd""
    The existing value had 2 lines with 0000 in front. I deleted everything and I was left with a line of 0000. While imputing the new value, it started generated numbers that I could not delete.
    I inputed the value you mentioned and clicked saved. and continued to the next steps, without a problem

    After restart, the windows activation message prompted me again to activated.
    What do I do now? Wait for the 30 days to be over and see if it works? I see you confirmed this in a message above, but can I do something to verify that it won't block access to my windows in 2 days when activation period expires?
    Thank you!

    1. Eugen Mihailescu Post author

      That screen is divided in three columns:
      - the 1st is read-only and is automatically calculated by Windows
      - the 2nd is where you can input values in hexadecimal format
      - the 3rd is the ASCII representation of those hexadecimal values (it may be manually edited although not recommended)

      So just ignore the columns in the left and just enter the correct values into the 2nd column, as described above. I hope that you also have set the permission to that registry key (namely WPAEvents) as described in the article, otherwise XP will still prompt you with that alert message. By setting the permissions as described in the article we don't allow Windows to control/alter that key anymore so it will be unable to protect itself. Why do you bother using Windows anyway? Linux is free and believe me, it's faster, need fewer resources, and all the software you need it's usually also free. If you are novice then start with Ubuntu Linux. It's a "next->next->....->finish" installation, it auto-updates automatically (just like Windows) and ships with many applications by default (although you will be able later to install tons of whatever apps you need).

  6. mx

    Everyone seems to forget the part Where you can not accept the Eula for Microsoft genuine advantage or none of these will work. Someplace in the update process this will try to install if you have already accepted it all these hacks will fail.

    1. Eugen Mihailescu Post author

      You are perfectly right except the statement with "everyone seems to forget the part with EULA". I explicitly mentioned in the article to not break EULA and that the hack should be just temporarily (see also the red warning 🙂

  7. Bill

    This does not work at all! It simply stops the activation message from popping up. But after 30 days it will still lock you out. Nice try - no cigar.

  8. Seth

    Hi Eugen -- I used your procedure with 28 days left on a fresh re-install of my totally legal XP-Pro-SP3 32-bit OS as a brute-force solution to frequent blue-screens. Microsoft is not activating XP at all these days, though I was able to accomplish it online just a couple of months ago. I use XP on this old-but-good PC as a simple server for my old-but-good printer and scanner, and as a music server (juke box 🙂 to my old-but-good vintage stereo system. As for me, I'm just old! I use Win 7 - 10 64bit on a newer machine for everything else, and Office Pro etc., so Microsoft is still getting its pound of flesh from me. Back to activation and not being adept at working with the registry, I ran into the same issues/questions as "Ana" above. Your explanation to her ultimately clarified my own procedure, although your terms like "That screen is divided into 3 columns . . ." left me uncertain as to what screen and how to access it. It would have been helpful to lead me by the hand to right-click on "OOBETimer" and so on. Respecting the power of the registry, I took my time and slowly proceeded to follow what I inferred to be your intent. However, there were various differences in the details all along the way. For instance, at WPAEvents - Permissions - Advanced, TWO "SYSTEM " lines appeared, the original one as well as a new one I just apparently created by the access denials. I grabbed myself by the hoo-hoos and deleted the original, pre-denial line. Somewhat to my surprise and definitely to my satisfaction, it works so far, in reporting that it is activated. I'll see what happens in 28 days to seal the deal. Now I can use this old PC as preferred, again. I did take note of your enthusiasm for Linux. I've intended to learn about it since I'm a blank slate now. My really, really old-but-good PC would be a great test bed for this well-regarded free alternative OS, and I think I'll go for it. Thanks very much for your contributions to the horde of IT-challenged enthusiasts like moi! You rock!


  9. Derrick Richards

    Hi, been trying to log on for 3 days, get activation screen, click yes, brings up another screen, click yes again, says I am already activated. So, I spent the last 3 days trying to fix this problem and nothing worked. So, I called up a buddy at Microsoft finally yesterday, and he told me Microsoft is well aware of this snag and has been for a decade. There is no way to get around it, he said, and TBH, the above op's post didn't work at all. I think why a few people got away with it is because they were accessing the registry stuff etc for the first time. Once you have tried to get around it, there is a builtin blockage, from what I have been told, and final note, Microsoft doesn't work with XP anymore, so that is their escape policy, my 4 cents, DR

    1. Eugen Mihailescu Post author

      Hi, Thanks for sharing this info with us. I recall that I was able to reactivate again even after the first registry hack. Actually after the first registry hack the problem never occurred again as the involved registry key was set as read-only (not even Windows could overwrite its value). Anyway it was long time ago so I don't remember all those small details.

  10. Arie

    I tried this trick on 2 virtual machines. Both machines locked me out after 30 days.

    Personally I don't need XP, I'm running Linux and Win7 in virtualbox. But a friend of my needs to reïnstall his XP but lost his key. Keyfinder is not an option, he allready did the reïnstall 🙁

    1. Eugen Mihailescu Post author

      Sorry about that. It is very important that the procedure is followed to the smallest detail. If you miss something (a tiny step) the result may be another. Anyway, try again the trick and check if you are able to unlock it one more time. What I did was to set that registry key (see my post) to read-only, that way I denied Windows to lock me again. But some newer Windows XP updates may overcome this trick too.

  11. Iand Me

    Thanks Eugen
    I've reinstalled XP Pro and tonight applied the regedit method: key icon now gone. Crossing fingers! ☺

    Here's a weird one back at ya. Previous installation was done over win 98 and I never had a problem. This install has led to frequent Bad Memory Pool BSOD. What stops that from happening is to have the XP (OEM) install disk in CD drive. Could it be the lack of floppy as in your article I recently glanced at? I was able to install several times without a floppy—trying various methods for overcoming BMP BSOD.

    Time for me to run through a few reboots and see if the key icon reappears.

    BTW folks. You'll find product key (of OEM faik) if you look at bottom of XPOEMCD\i386\\unattend.txt.

    1. Eugen Mihailescu Post author

      I have used Windows for decades (literally). Started with Windows 3.x (probably the most people don't know what it is) then '95. '98,etc. As far as I know BSOD was always related to hardware-software conflicts (what you call Bad Memory I would call bad memory driver or just bad kernel, thus BSOD). Probably with older version of Windows using a non genuine license key (like those randomly generated but still valid as keys) it triggers an software exception that is unintentionally handled,which for you as end user will look like BSOD. The lack of floppy should never trigger such error. It will only be a pain in the ass if you have to install the Windows on a SCSI/RAID system (which means you have to have floppy drive; if you don't then you can't install, unless you were lucky enough to read this article first).
      The BSOD problem it's mostly generated by two things: bad drivers OR bad hardware OR Windows just found out that somehow you managed to hack it and it generates a software exception. When the cause of BSOD is the latest then I suggest you reinstall the Windows (just take it easy, follow each step as described, don't hurry because the order of steps matter). Why are you still using Windows XP anyway? Nowadays you can find dozens of Linux distro much user-friendly and of course, free (no licensing whatsoever).

      1. Iand Me

        I also have used used MS Windows OS for decades. On my shelf of old software I see Win 3.0 along with multiple boxes of other DOS software. I began learning programming when Gates and crew were also still in school. I didn't stay in the art except as a hobbyist. On the more recent OS shelf I see Win 95, 98, 98SE, W2K pro, XP Pro and Win 7 - all in official MS packages: CD, manual, etc. And here are 3 versions of the Posix based Linux and beside these sits two versions of early BeOS. Here's VB and C++ from MS—ALL LEGITIMATE! How many times have you enjoyed COMDEX?
        Put your paranoia back in your pocket. I had gone through multiple cycles of install and was still going against the problem. Now that problem is solved, XP activated, No CD required. Next steps kept to myself.
        Did you not not notice the sideways shot I made in my side topic comment?

        All I really wanted was a way to temporarily shoot down the annoying nag. Back to reading one of my hundreds of books, not the Linux command manual next to SQL manual and a pile of other software manuals—you do know that an OS is software right? Loop de loop.

  12. Tyler

    Thanks for the tutorial. I have been trying to run a copy of windows XP on a Virtual Machine for a little while, and no matter what I tried it wasn't recognizing my product key, and I couldn't get it to activate at all. I followed your tutorial, and it seems to have worked with one minor glitch. Whenever I log on to the virtual Machine, it still brings me to the activation screen, but the first screen that pops up says "This copy of Windows is already active, Click OK to exit", so I click OK, and it promptly logs me off. Any suggestions?

  13. Teaspoon

    Following these steps (Activate Now) worked very well with one hiccup: I still get the activation prompt every time - declares windows has been activated, but click OK and it logs the user out immediately. I'm curious to know if anyone has found a way through this.

  14. Damian

    This is all well and wonderful and I have in fac used this method a number of times, however, as soon as I set my date and time correctly the 30 day period locks me out again -I would love a method of cracking XP that does not involve the timer..

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