Windows XP and me.
April 19, 2007 9:20 PM   Subscribe

I have a legal copy of Windows XP running as my OS right now, the problem is I no longer have the original installation disks. Is there a way for me to somehow make a copy ...

of XP so I can reinstall it if I need to?

(Yes, I know this is a borderline question so if it gets deleted I won't take it personally.)
posted by 517 to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you still have the registration key then, yes, any valid copy of windows XP should be fine. Find a friend, or find an extra disk, or god forbid, download it from somewhere.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:39 PM on April 19, 2007

Your question isn't borderline, people lose stuff all the time.

If your installation disks are from a large OEM you can often just call and ask them to send you another copy. I know Dell will send replacements for free.

If you have a retail install, just download a cd image from one of the various torrent sites and install with your product key. This will be a legal copy; a legitimate key is what makes an install valid or not. Your product key can be found by using this key finder on your current install. If you don't feel comfortable downloading a cd image, you can contact Microsoft to arrange for a replacement copy of your lost media. But, I'm not sure if this costs money or not (logic dictates that it probably does, though).
posted by tracert at 9:43 PM on April 19, 2007

If you can't find your registration key, you can try this application: Produkey

It's saved my hide a number of times.
posted by imbecile at 9:44 PM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

As a side-note, I was in a hurry to reinstall a broken machine and couldn't find my key. I installed off the disk, and then altered the registry so that it would not bug me about contacting microsoft to verify my key and all that. This is a low-level hack and does not really verify your product, it just lets you use windows un-impeded. I planned to fix it at the next available opportunity when I found my key.

Anyway, in the interim I really needed an update from and this particular one required a verification, which naturally I failed. They alerted me that I had a pirated copy of windows, and offered to sell me a valid copy at a lower price than I've seen anywhere else, including OEM versions on newegg, etc. I figured what the hell, I could use an extra one, so I bought it. They gave me a new key right away, which I entered into the system, I ran a little program that they gave me to "fix" things, and they eventually snail mailed me another windows XP disk.

It wasn't a lot cheaper than newegg, but probably $15 bucks cheaper.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:48 PM on April 19, 2007

Why do you need a program? Go to control panel -> System and it's right there in the general tab. Registered to: (me), then my product key.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:50 PM on April 19, 2007

Why do you need a program? Go to control panel -> System and it's right there in the general tab. Registered to: (me), then my product key.

Are you sure that's your product key? On all 6 of my boxes, I have string of numbers there, not an alphanumeric product key. Besides, if installation keys were that visible, I'd just go to Bestbuy and steal all the licenses from the demo machines.
posted by tracert at 10:01 PM on April 19, 2007

The number in the system panel is the serial number, not the registration code.

You can retrieve your existing registration code, do a google search for `magical jellybean xp keyfinder'. Saved me a lot of trouble on a number of occasions - reinstalling legit copies when I've lost the piece of paper and so on.
posted by tomble at 10:04 PM on April 19, 2007

Response by poster: So there isn't an easy way to get a copy of the XP version I have on my machine right now?
posted by 517 at 10:20 PM on April 19, 2007

There is. It's called creating a ghost image.

Probably the most direct way of accomplishing your goal.
posted by Industrial PhD at 10:32 PM on April 19, 2007

There's some borderline advice going on in this thread. If you don't have the install discs, then retrieving the product key won't help a lick. There is no way to get an image of the install discs back by using your current copy of windows.

On the other hand, if you get an identical copy of windows xp from a friend, then your product key will work (You can't mix and match OEM and non OEM windows copies or SP2 with SP1 copies). The various programs that were mentioned up-thread work by looking inside of your registry and retrieving the key.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 11:00 PM on April 19, 2007

I'm going to assume this is a legit question (not that I care if you're pirating XP or not).

You paid for the key, which represents the license, if and when you bought Windows, not the media.

If you've paid for a legitimate key and still have it, hop on your favorite peer to peer network, grab a new copy of XP (might as well grab one with slipstreamed SP2), or borrow and copy one from someone you know. Burn it to CD, making sure it's bootable, and use your old key to re-install.

If you do not know the key you paid for originally because you've lost the media or packaging, you can use the Magical Jellybean Keyfinder (stupid name, but the app works fine) to retrieve the original key that was used to install your current version of XP.

Insecure (I'm not going to bother with the l33tness) is correct about OEM vs. retail-specific versions, but not about SP1/SP2. An original key provided with a physical copy of XP when it was released will work just fine with an newer version of the install that has SP1 or SP2 slipstreamed, provided that key has not been blacklisted by Microsoft.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:23 PM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

(I guess I'll qualify the 'Insecure is incorrect' with 'in my experience', though.)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:07 AM on April 20, 2007

Stavros, I don't think you can mix and match product keys for retail XP and retail XP sp2 CDs.

Microsoft likes to play with its base installation discs, so I think that even if the Service Packs are slipstreamed onto a cd, product keys are only interchangeable when the base cds (pre-slipstream) match.

Can anyone verify this?
posted by |n$eCur3 at 1:01 AM on April 20, 2007

I don't think you can mix and match product keys for retail XP and retail XP sp2 CDs.

That could be. I'm not sure if I've ever used a retail XP2 CD.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:03 AM on April 20, 2007

There is. It's called creating a ghost image. Probably the most direct way of accomplishing your goal.
posted by Industrial PhD at 6:32 AM on April 20

The successor to Ghost is Acronis's True Image
posted by dance at 1:50 AM on April 20, 2007

Best answer: You can run into all kinds of weirdness with trying to mix keys between versions. Retail and OEM are different key lines at the very least. I don't know if SP1 and SP2 are different or not.

First, you need to find a CD image that will install using your product key. You can test this with VMWare (use the free Server product.) If you mount the ISO image as a 'physical' drive under VMWare, the install goes extremely quickly, and you can test for validity within a few minutes.

Once you have a base Windows CD you can use, you can then slipstream in any service packs you like, and I'm nearly certain that your code will keep working. Again, test with VMWare, it's much easier.

Alternately, of course, you can just install the version that works, and then add SP2 afterward. Just make sure to enable firewalling BEFORE you connect it to a network. (pre-SP2, firewalling is off by default.)

I'd be careful about your source, though. I would think pirated Windows CD images would be a very popular target for malware.
posted by Malor at 5:50 AM on April 20, 2007

SP1 keys work with SP2 discs. At least with the corporate volume versions. Not sure about the retail package or OEMs, but generally MS doesnt consider an SP a different OS. I dont remember this coming up with the various windows2000 SPx media either.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:00 AM on April 20, 2007

I just went through this with a Dell laptop that I formatted with the intention to sell. I bought it bundled with Windows XP Professional and lost the disc; at some point the harddrive died and when I reformatted I used a corporate key for years because my key wouldn't work on anything I found (justified it to myself but of course not the proper way to do things).

When it came time to sell, I wanted to preinstall with the proper key but but when I downloaded an OEM version of Windows XP Pro with SP2 slipsteamed the product key still would not work.

I couldn't find XP Pro with no service packs online but a friend gave me his disc from a previous Dell purchase and my product key worked for the installation and activation with no problems.

Long story short - find an OEM disc that matches the manufacturer and Windows version (including service packs).
posted by jeffmik at 10:09 AM on April 20, 2007

Easiest way is to find a disk that matches the manufacturer and windows version especially which service pack. You can use a non manufacturer specific disk sometimes if the service packs match. Dell disk seem to not really care about what computer so long as you have a valid keycode. Their green windows xp SP2 cd's are the most friendly.

Or you can clone your disk using one of the flowing freeware applications:
Trinity Rescue Kit
DriveImage XML
PartImage (Open Source) which can be found on the live distro PING
posted by the_binary_blues at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

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