How to Transfer Windows XP Activation Information

How to reinstall Windows XP without having to reactivate with Microsoft

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Software piracy is rampant, and Microsoft is the target for a large percentage of theft due to its dominance in the market. The company has a right to try to stop or at least control that privacy. Product activation seems to be a fair way of ensuring that only legitimate software owners get to benefit from using it.

That said, many users loathe the process of product activation. Unfortunately, they might very well run into a situation where they do. Product activation monitors the system configuration. If it detects a significant hardware change or even too many minor hardware changes within a set number of days, then it crosses the threshold and requires reactivation.

April 8, 2014, was the last day Microsoft issued security and non-security updates to Windows XP. With the operating system no longer being supported, Microsoft suggests that users upgrade to the newest version of Windows. This article is for reference purposes only.

Reactivating Your Microsoft Product

Users who reformat their hard drive and perform a clean installation of the operating system will find that they need to reactivate the product. But, as long as the new installation is on the same system and there won't be any hardware changes, it is possible to transfer the existing product activation and skip having to go through the product activation process again.

Save Activation Status Information in Windows XP

Follow the steps below to save the activation status information in Windows XP and restore it once you rebuild your system. (We also have instructions on how to change the Windows activation key in Windows 10, 8, 7, and Vista.)

These steps won't work for transferring activation information from one computer to another or if you alter the hardware because then the information contained in your "wpa.dbl" file will not match the configuration of the machine. This trick is only for reinstalling Windows XP on the same computer after formatting the hard drive.

  1. Double-click My Computer.

  2. Double-click on the C drive.

  3. Go to the C:\Windows\System32 folder. (You may have to click on the link that says Show the contents of this folder.)

  4. Find the files "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" and copy them to a safe location. You can copy them on a floppy drive or burn it to a CD or DVD.

  5. After you have reinstalled Windows XP on your reformatted hard drive, click No when asked if you want to go ahead and go through the activation process.

  6. Reboot your computer into SafeMode. (You can either press F8 as Windows is booting up to see the Windows Advanced Options menu and select SAFEBOOT_OPTION=Minimal.

  7. Double-click My Computer.

  8. Double-click on the C drive.

  9. Go to the C:\Windows\System32 folder. (You may have to click on the link that says Show The contents of this folder.)

  10. Find the file "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" (if it exists) and rename them to "wpadbl.new" and "wpabak.new."

  11. Copy your original "wpa.dbl" and "wpa.bak" files from your floppy disk, CD, or DVD into the C:\Windows\System32 folder.

  12. Restart your system. (If you followed the directions in starting Windows XP in SafeMode, you might need to go back into MSCONFIG to turn off booting into SafeMode).

Windows XP is now reinstalled on your reformatted hard drive.