Preserving OEM Pre-Activation when Re-installing Windows XP
By Stephanie Ybarra
Large PC Manufacturers known as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have the ability to pre-activate Microsoft® Windows XP software installed on new PCs. As a result, end users are typically not required to activate the software during the set up process by typing in the product key found on the Certificate of Authenticity attached to the PC (COA Key).
In order to reduce a significant source of piracy, Microsoft has disabled online activation for COA Keys that are attached to PCs that have been pre-activated by OEMs. This change should have a minimal impact on licensed users who generally do not use their COA Key to activate the software because it has been pre-activated by the OEM. However, if a licensed end user needs to activate because the OEM pre-activation does not work as expected (e.g., after the replacement of a defective motherboard) they can do so via phone-based activation.
To help minimize the potential impact on licensed users, this whitepaper provides steps licensed end users can take to preserve OEM pre-activation when reinstalling the operating system using any of the four scenarios outlined below (sysprep, OOBEinfo, manual and unattended).
The following product keys should be substituted for XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX in the solutions discussed below.
Windows XP Professional 32 bit
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
Windows XP Professional x64 bit
For any of the solutions outlined below, you can verify that the OEM pre-activation has been preserved by clicking Start -> Run and typing %SYSTEMROOT%\system32\oobe\msoobe.exe /A and then click OK. If the procedure was successful, a message indicating that Windows has already been activated will be displayed.
Note: Instead of implementing any of the solutions outlined below, Volume License customers can use Volume License media to install the same operating system that was licensed from an OEM without acquiring a volume license for a PC being re-imaged. More information about this option is available here under “Re-Imaging Rights”: http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/resources/volbrief.mspx. Because Volume License agreements do not provide a full operating system license, Windows licenses should be acquired as part of the PC purchase from the PC manufacturer.
I. Using “sysprep –reseal –mini” Command
OEM pre-activation can be preserved when Sysprep.exe is run to reseal the system using the –reseal – mini switches by following these steps.
Ensure the following three files are present in the C:\Sysprep folder: sysprep.exe, setupcl.exe, and factory.exe. These files can be found in the deploy.cab which can be downloaded from the Microsoft® download center available at this location:
Create a file named sysprep.inf using a text editor such as Notepad that contains the information shown below substituting the appropriate product key.
Save the sysprep.inf file in the c:\sysprep\ folder.
Run c:\sysprep –reseal –mini
For more information on the sysprep process, please visit
II. Making changes to the OOBEinfo.ini file
OEM pre-activation can be preserved if changes are made to the OOBEinfo.ini file by ensuring that the %SYSTEMROOT%\system32\oobe\oobeinfo.ini file contains the information shown below but substituting the appropriate product key.
III. Manual Install
OEM pre-activation can be preserved when doing a manual installation by inserting the appropriate product key listed above when prompted for a product key by Windows setup. If you run sysprep –reseal –mini following the manual install, you will need to follow the steps outlined in Section I.
IV. Unattended Install
OEM pre-activation can be preserved if you use an unattended answer file (Unattend.txt or Winnt.sif) to automate installation by including the information shown below in the answer file substituting the appropriate product key listed above. If you run sysprep –reseal –mini following an unattended install, you will need to follow the steps outlined in Section I.
For more information on sysprep process, please visit