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Windows activation may be detecting subtle differences in the cloned drive. That will require a few extra steps to get up and running.

I bought Windows 7, Home edition in a box from Best Buy. I installed it on a clean disk. When I had all I needed installed, I registered it. Then I cloned it using XML to a new disk. I put the original away and ran the clone on the same computer. Microsoft said it does not pass genuine validation. This is the way you said it was done. What went wrong?

In this excerpt from Answercast #40, I look at a case where a drive, which is cloned as a backup, is not activating properly.

Cloned drive

Well, I'm not sure exactly what went wrong.

I will say this – I'm not sure what imaging program you're using. Just by saying "XML"; if you mean Drive Image XML, my understanding is that should in fact, work.

The problem is probably with Windows Validation. That takes a look at very specific things on your computer to understand whether something has changed underneath it. And in fact, something has changed underneath it. The hard disk has changed.

I don't know if the hard disk is the exact same size. At a minimum, at least:

  • It has a different serial number

  • And Windows Validation may be using that to determine that it is suddenly running on something other than the hardware on which it was originally activated.


So my recommendation is this actually. This is a scenario that should just work and there's nothing illegal or immoral about it from what you've described.

  • The activation process should work again;

  • If you want to try and activate or reactivate that machine.

You may need to get in touch with Microsoft and explain exactly what you've done.

Like I said, there's nothing wrong from my perspective with what you've done. It may simply require telling Microsoft that this is exactly what you did and why you did it. At that point, they should be able to give you some additional steps to cause that installation to be activated properly.

But that's my recommendation. I certainly don't see anything wrong with what you've done. It's probably explained by differences that the activation process is detecting. It should be something you can resolve by getting that machine activated again separately.

Next from Answercast 40 – How do I get rid of 'Adware Games PUP'?

Article C5647 - August 1, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Daniel Lauber
August 3, 2012 8:44 AM

I routinely clone my "C" drive for back up and very often run into the same problem, not just with Windows 7, but also SuperAntiSpyware, Directory Opus, and sometimes Acrobat X Pro. And this happens when upgrading to another hard drive. When this happens with Windows 7, it always takes a phone call to Microsoft to reactiviate Windows 7 -- a call that requires speaking to a live person. The automated system never works.

August 3, 2012 12:37 PM

I recently cloned 2 partitions from my WD 640 GB hard drive on my laptop to a 120 GB Kingston SSD. Windows 7 did NOT ask for re-activation. I did use True Image Home 2012 trial edition, so maybe this is application specific?

regards, Don

August 3, 2012 3:08 PM

I've found that not all cloning apps transfer the partition serial number to the cloned-to hard drive. Some will work if you clone the entire hard drive to another by creating exact clones, including the hard drive and partition serial numbers.

I have used partitioning tools to view the original partition serial number, then change the serial number on the clone to match. Not all partition managers have this function.

You should not have two hard drives in the system that have the same serial numbers, so if you have both in a system, it is important to hide any partitions that have the same serial numbers, except the one you want mounted.

August 3, 2012 3:22 PM

I ran into the same problem with Windows 7 Unltimate which I have under the MicroSoft Action Pack Service. After cloning the drive, it worked fine for about a week. Then suddenly I was non-genuine. Re-entered the codes, re-validated. Worked for about 3 hours. Next time I opened the laptop, I'm "non-genuine" again. Called MS. They took me through taking the system off-line before doing the change. Went back on-line. Re-validated. Got another 3 hours out of it again. Same thing. Called them again. This time, MS actually changed the validation code and activated it. 3 hours later, same problem. Now, I just accept that every time I open the laptop, I'm going to have to close the "non-genuine Windows" screen. IF they had a Canadian tax package that worked under Linux, I'd be kissing Windows good-bye, but so far, nobody in Canada has looked at that.

Just Me
August 5, 2012 9:21 AM

re: cloning & failing WGA / WAT

The only way I've found to get windows to not fail on this
is to first hook up the new disk to windows while it is still running with the current disk
This creates a hardware registry entry for the new disk

The new disk can be connected in any fashion:
USB, Firewire, e-SATA, or directly to another one of the internal integrated or add-on card SATA ports
also works on SAS / SCSI disks and older systems running IDE

After this is done, restart the system with the disk still connected and proceed with the cloning operation
Also be sure to select any option that offers to clone the MBR, Disk Signature, Volume Serial Number, Volume ID, etc.

When the cloning operation is complete:
shut down and exchange the disks,
check all connections and start it up

the only issue I have had with cloning, is if you hook up the old disk to the system windows will blow an exception, because 2 different disks are not allowed to have the same Disk Signature etc.

August 8, 2012 8:57 AM

I suspect I may run into a similar issue in trying to resurrect a crashed computer. If I have to reactivate Windows, what do I need to know to do that?

If I have the information from the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder, is that sufficient?

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