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If you've lost your original product installation product key for Windows XP you may be out of luck. There are a few work-arounds you might try
Hi, Leo. I'm confused. I want to reinstall my Windows but I don't have the CD. Now I read all your posts about it. I downloaded a program to find my product key for the Windows I already have installed. I did find the product key but as I told, I don't have the installation CD - but I have an installation CD from another PC of mine. Now I tried to install Windows but when it asks for the key, it didn't find it suitable so I couldn't install. My PC runs Windows XP professional, SP3. The CD I have is for the same version. Is there any way to install Windows with an installation CD but with a product that was for my lost installation CD?
In this excerpt from Answercast #94 I look at the difficulties involved in trying to install Windows XP when the original media is lost.
Unfortunately, the answer is, "It depends." It sounds like, in your case, the answer is probably going to be "No."
Here's the problem: not all installation CDs are the same. The most obvious difference that we run across all the time is OEM CDs (in other words, the CD that the computer manufacturer may have given you with the computer) versus retail CDs (in other words, copies of Windows that you may have purchased at a retail outlet or online.)
The key numbers, the actual product keys, for those two different versions are typically incompatible with each other. That actually extends to different manufacturers as well.
The product keys for say, an HP disc, might very well be different and not work on a disc that came from Dell - and they both probably won't work on a disc that came from a retail store. The only solution that I'm aware of is to use a product key that matches at least the type of disc that you have in your hand. If it's a retail disc, you need a retail key.
Now, in your case, technically this is illegal. But, using the product key for the disc you have on a second machine, probably feels at least ethical - because you have a product that you tried to install, you had installed on that machine for a long time and you simply lost the media.
The other thing to try of course would be to contact the manufacturer of that computer. Now since we're talking Windows XP, it may too late. You may not be able to get any help from them but that's another venue to go down.
Another venue is to see if you can find the correct installation CD from a reseller or eBay. Again, that can be kind of iffy and you may not find what you need.
The final solution of course is to install and purchase a copy of the most recent version of Windows - Windows 7 or Windows 8 if your hardware is sufficiently powerful to run it.
Finally, the last solution, the "throw your hands up in the air and give up" solution is to actually install something like Ubuntu Linux, which you can download for free. There is no product key. It just works. It's a different operating system and it will take some getting used to. But depending on what you're doing and how use your computer, it's possible that it's a viable solution.
So, ultimately, it sounds like, for the situation that you're in; you are
stuck in trying to do exactly what you want to do. Hopefully, one of the
workarounds that I mentioned will at least get you further.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)
Next from Answercast 94- How long should I keep my backups?
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