Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
To 'legalize' your Windows XP Installation, simply install a legal copy over your old copy.
I bought a laptop with an illegal copy of Windows XP Professional. I want to remove this and get a new copy, as SP2 won't install. Can I reinstall over the current version? Or how do I remove the illegal copy? It doesn't appear in add remove programs.
Let me start by saying "good on you" for doing the right thing!
And doing the right thing is fairly easy.
I do want to point out that I don't think that Microsoft is restricting installations of SP2 to only legal installations just yet, though they have indicated that they plan to in the future. So, the illegal nature of your install may not be the issue there.
The short answer is to just install a legal copy of Windows XP on top of your old one. (Be sure to backup your data though, just in case.) The key will be to run Windows Activation once you're done so you register your legal copy with Microsoft. This will ensure that you're able to download and install future patches and updates. In addition, be sure to install SP2 right away.
If you were able to resolve the SP2 installation problem some other way, I'd also be tempted not to install the legal copy at all until I had to. Once you've actually purchased a copy you're technically legal, so unless you have other reasons to reinstall, you could just run with what you have. Eventually you will want to go ahead and reinstall; perhaps because Microsoft will begin enforcing legal updates only or many other reasons. In the interim, you'd be fine.
Oh, and as for Windows not showing up in it's own add/remove list... it can't! I suppose there could be an entry to "remove Windows" after which you'd be left with a machine with no operating system - which wouldn't make a lot of sense. I sure wouldn't put it there. Too many people would hit it by accident and be left with an unusable machine!
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