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Help, I need to make my Windows XP system legit again

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / February 13, 2009 2:47 AM PST

Help, I need to make my Windows XP system legit again

I purchased a PC about 1 year ago from a guy off of Craigslist, and he did not tell me that the Windows XP version he loaded on the computer was not legal. Currently I cannot receive plug-ins, updates, and many other things do not work properly now.

Is there any recourse on this, as I would like make my system legitimate? What are my options? Can I buy a legal version of XP and have it installed, or purchase Vista and install it? What?s involved if I install a legit version of Windows, are particular process? I have 2GB of RAM on this machine. Also, if I buy the XP software to install, does it have to be the same as the existing version on the computer? The version I have is XP Pro and I have no disk. Thanks!

--Submitted by Gary H.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read up on all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this member's question.

Options to obtain a legal Windows licence --Submitted by kaveets

Welcome to the wonderful world of piracy.... --Submitted by Watzman

Illegitimate XP system --Submitted by Zouch

Windows XP NOT GENUINE --Submitted by waytron

The right solution is the ONLY solution --Submitted by bobusingbol

If you have any additional solution or recommendations for Gary, click on the reply link and submit your answer. Please be as detailed as possible when providing your answer. Oh and please keep the answers legal... Thanks!
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Microsoft may give you a genuine version free
by Slikkster / February 13, 2009 7:29 AM PST

Microsoft has a very aggressive anti-piracy program. They know many people have been victimized by fraudulent copies of Windows products.

They do have a program whereby you can turn in a counterfeit disc, with a report, and obtain a legitimate license. Normally they do require an actual disc, but they will also make exceptions for those who were swindled with pre-installed versions.

Read the FAQ here:

It has all the info about the program. The answer for you with your pre-installed bogus copy can be found in the "Requirements and limitations of the genuine Windows offer" section.

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If you have to buy your own version
by Slikkster / February 13, 2009 7:51 AM PST
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by puma / February 20, 2009 9:59 AM PST

according to the eula (end user license agreement), when you transfer a computer to another party, the person is expected to purchase a new copy of windows. microsoft must do this as their business model is starting to retract and they are concerned about their shrinking market share...

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Beware of eBay vendors
by kidizi / February 20, 2009 5:24 PM PST

Beware of eBay vendors selling laptops with "legal" XP pre-installed. I purchased a laptop from a vendor on eBay - he sells lots of them. I did not have time to do anything with the laptop until it was too late to take action against the vendor - the laptop had been purchased from a business and required a key to update XP. Not having a key, I took a closer look - no COA, either.

I contacted eBay, but the time to take action had elapsed; the vendor basically told me to go screw myself - there was nothing I could do.

I did contact Microsoft with all of the specifics, but this guy is still happily selling his merchandise.

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by nutroxx / February 13, 2009 9:28 AM PST


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Bought XP Thru Amazon
by Shirley97128 / February 20, 2009 5:28 PM PST

I bought mine thru Amazon, have the disc, have the seal, have the key code, then 2 years later, all of a sudden I get the message on my screen that I dont have a legitimate copy of windows xp. I have heard this from others too, what a headache.

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Just call Microsoft
by tinman1275 / February 13, 2009 9:29 AM PST

In my past experience I have had great luck just calling them and explaining the situation. I have done it for many clients and have always found them quite helpful, sometimes they have charged a small fee for a legitimate key code, sometimes just given me one.

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I hope the other suggestions work
by clamenza / February 13, 2009 9:36 AM PST

because I suspect if you have to buy a legit copy of the OS, it'll approach the cost of a nice albeit low-end PC with factory-installed XP/Vista.

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You can install XP atop itself, usually
by Ngallendou / February 13, 2009 9:50 AM PST

Friends and I who have used XP since its appearance have had occasion to install it again and again. So doing conserves one's installed software and data files by over-writing only XP's own system files. To do so, insert an XP installation CD-ROM, log to it and execute Setup.exe. Unless the installer detects some serious hard drive problems, everything should go well. Afterwards, XP will seek to update itself and download security patches from then Microsoft site. If the installer objects to the existing installation, it will say so. If it offers to partition and format your HD and you allow it to do so, then it will destroy all your files, forever.

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Making XP Legal
by swreynolds / February 13, 2009 9:55 AM PST

If you have a brand name PC (HP, Dell, Gateway, etc) you may be able to get a recovery disk from the manufacturer (for a small fee). This will give you a legal version.

If not, you can get a CD (or just a Product Key) from Microsoft. The last time I checked it was $149.

You can upgrade to Vista, but not many people like it. You say you have 2GB of RAM, Vista will run, but will not be speedy with only 2GB. The only time I was happy with Vista's speed was when I gave it a Quad core and 4GB RAM.

With Windows 7 just around the corner, you might want to wait it out.

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2Gb is fine
by darrenforster99 / February 20, 2009 4:23 PM PST
In reply to: Making XP Legal

[quote]You can upgrade to Vista, but not many people like it. You say you have 2GB of RAM, Vista will run, but will not be speedy with only 2GB.[/quote]

Vista will run fine with 2Gb of memory, the speed of Vista depends on a lot of things, a lot more than just memory.

I currently run Vista 64-bit and it runs far more faster than XP ever did. I only have 2Gb of memory, the most important thing is to try and unload a lot of the processors work onto other specialized processors that are designed to do that type of work.

Possibly the biggest hindrance for a processor is graphics and sound work, in my computer I have an ATI Radeon HD4550 which takes most of the 3D work away from the processor and uses it's own dedicated 3D chipset, if you are using onboard graphics you are likely to get severe degraded performance from Vista as most onboard graphics don't come with any type of 3D accelerator (or a very basic one that shares system RAM - again another major hindrance, my graphics card has 512Mb DDR3 RAM that is dedicated 100% to video, no sharing), so all the 3D work for the Aero interface is left to the main CPU.

For sound I have a Creative Labs Soundblaster X-Fi, again this has a dedicated sound controller that takes all the sound work off the CPU, and because the processor is designed primarly for sound it does it really fast. This is the same thing that made things like the Amiga and the Mac really fast, they also have dedicated chipsets specifically for sound and graphics, taking quite a lot of load off the CPU. My main CPU is an AMD 64 x2 5000 and only has 2Gb of RAM and runs so fast.

I currently run Windows Vista Home Premium.

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It was never legit to begin with.

Okay, now that you "busted", what are your options?

1. Do nothing and suffer.
2. Buy a copy of XP in either a Microsoft shrink-wrap or an OEM package and re-install / repair.
3. Go to Circuit City, a computer store or a business entity that is having a "Fire-Sale" and buy one there. (Look for the hologram)
4. Go to your bookstore at college and see if they have a copy for sale.
5. Call Microsoft sales and buy a license over the telephone.

I strongly recommend option 2. Think about all of the time you've wasted, screwing around and monetize it. People deserve to get paid for the work they do. Pay the costs for the license.

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by gestault / February 20, 2009 10:26 AM PST

Be careful about pricing-do some legwork(surfwork)...if buying from a site that doesn't have a brick and mortar presence out there-try Microcenter or' OEM XP Home disk is only $99-shipping is more if you don't live near one...cheapest I've seen for a real store...I'd love to hear about any lower prices!!

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XP Pro Prices
by TominMass / February 20, 2009 10:36 AM PST
In reply to: Yep...

... and don't forget to check out Circuit City for a possible deal.

I was in my local store today and I believe XP Pro was around $120. That price should drop when they increase discounts this Sunday.

Also, if you need Office 2007, I saw that for $100 or $120, and the Student/Teacher edition was $75. (I'm holding out for $50. I have Office S&T 2003, but would like to upgrade, inexpensively, of course)

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Gary you need to relax!
by Jose_327 / February 13, 2009 10:02 AM PST

Sure you can still buy Win XP but that means you will have to reinstall XP and all of your other programs. Your best bet at this point is to just cave in to M$ and pay the ransom, that way you will not have to do much except punch in a new CD key that M$ gives you and for a few dollars more you can have them mail you a new Win XP install CD. Cheers...

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windows xp
by Ms Mac / February 13, 2009 10:04 AM PST

it's very easy to install windows xp, I did back when they said you could nolonger get updates on the other windows 98, just go buy it and after you install it, put the disk back in the package and put in a safe place where no one can see it, it has you regesteration number on the back,once you load it, it will be in your name.
just follow the promps and you wont have any trouble, and it will take a little while to do it ok.


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Installing XP over 2000?
by lenallaire / March 14, 2009 7:45 AM PDT
In reply to: windows xp

It was easy and you had no problems with your data or existing applications?

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XP over 2000
by Good-PC.Guy! / March 15, 2009 6:05 PM PDT

Yes, it's easy BUT, XP will take much more space on your drive, thus you'll need lots of drive space (that's never been written on), if there's any chance of doing the job without loosing any other data (besides the W.2000 data - on C-drive)!
Even if your C-drive does indeed happen to have enough virgin space to accept all of a fresh install of XP, you'd be well advised to back-up any data which you don't wish to risk loosing!

You can buy usb 16GB jump-drives on eBay for under $20, to your important data to.
After doing that, I recommend that you use your XP installation disk to install XP on another partition, so that you can retain your W.2000 as well, and then have a DUAL-BOOT PC!

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Needs to be XP Pro
by waytron / March 15, 2009 8:04 PM PDT
In reply to: XP over 2000

If I recall correctly, to upgrade from Windows 2000, I believe you have to use Windows XP Pro. XP home will not work. In the end regardless of whether or not your current OS can be upgraded or not, it is always best to start fresh and perform a full, CLEAN install. Backup your data, reformat, install the new version of Windows, install the drivers, install Security software, install your applications, install printers and then restore your backup data.

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DUAL-BOOT preferred over 'UPGRADING'!
by Good-PC.Guy! / March 16, 2009 1:25 AM PDT
In reply to: Needs to be XP Pro

It likely could be that XP-Home doesn't allow the installation-options of XP-Pro - (which is prefrred in any case).

If your PC's main-drive has plenty enough space (over 10GB), then ya should choose to install XP on another partition of that drive, rather than 'UPGRADE' & thus waste your W.2000 OS !
If it seems that your PC won't have enough space leftover after having both OSs installed, your PC will still be better-off that way (dual-boot) because, you can & should have external memory connected to your PC.

Even if your PC already has more than enough space for both OSs and everything else you have, it's still a good idea to keep all your personal-data on external-drives anyhow.
With USB jump-drive sticks being what they are these days, there's really no excuse to not make use of such external memory.
I always have at least one such storage drive plugged-in to a USB port, at all times!
Keeping all your important data on an external drive always keeps it safe, (for when something may break-down your PC)!
That's even more advantagous than having a dual-boot PC.

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The simplest thing to do is buy a licensed copy
by sjulty / February 13, 2009 10:04 AM PST

If it's a branded box such as a Dell or HP, then you might be able to obtain a "system recovery disk" from the manufacturer. Otherwise you should probably consider buying a fully licensed & legal copy of Win' XP from a place like and then do a clean reinstall. Note: be wary of Ebay sellers offering XP disks for sale as you may end up buying another pirated copy and wind up in the same boat your in now all over again It's kind of a bummer that you may have to incur some additional expense to go legit, especially considering that "the clock has been ticking" on Win' XP for quite some time and it only has a limited life span left. But as both of these sayings go..."if the deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is" and... "you get what you pay for" Those things being said, I sure hope you didn't pay a lot for it on Craig's!

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XP fix
by flattop900 / February 13, 2009 10:07 AM PST

Take your computer to a small local shop...get them to reload xp onto your drive and STOP DOWNLOADING updates.Especially from sites that don't even tell you what you're downloading anymore!

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Making XP legit
by geofbrewer / February 13, 2009 10:07 AM PST

Bad news (?) you'll have to pay, whether you go to the Microsoft's web site to get a certificate or go down to your local software outlet. I'd go the local route. You can get XP Pro with SP1 for a reasonable price (not cheap), have the disk for recovery, and have less to download from Microsoft Windows Update. It will take awhile.

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Help, I need to make my Windows XP system legit again
by stoney439 / February 13, 2009 10:08 AM PST

You have one of the thousands of pirate copies of Windows that are getting harder to use. The easiest way to get legal and get important Microsoft updates if to validate your copy online. This website "" will provide the information you need. After you read the FAQ's click on Validate and follow the steps. I think a license for XP Pro is $199.

You still will not have an installation CD. I would advise making an image of your Windows Partition that you can restore in case of a hard drive failure.

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by doshie2007 / February 13, 2009 10:15 AM PST

You can make your windows legal, format your computer, buy a legal copy of Windows, the version depends on the specs of your computer. check out Windows 7 beta. I love it, my computer works like new. software that did not work with vista works great with windows 7. I think this is great because you get to use it until August 1,2009.
the updates are great, saves a lot of work.

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Legitimate Windows operating system.
by busybluestar / February 13, 2009 10:15 AM PST

When you go on line, be it broadband, DSL or dial-up, and you have been on the internet your computer ID number and the serial key number of windows operating system are read from cookies sent to your computer by a centralized computer windows watch system, I'm not sure what it's true name is but you get the idea. Your only salution is to purchase a new windows operating system. I hope this answers your question.

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Re: Help, I need to make my Windows XP system legit again
by MM_Midnite / February 13, 2009 10:21 AM PST

The solution is simple. You can call Microsoft for a product key to activate your version of Windows XP Pro. The only thing is that it may cost almost as much as the upgrade for Vista. Plus you won't have a CD for future use. So I would up grade Vista. Now if you plan to buy a copy of Windows XP then I would buy the pro and use the key. That is unless you want to format the drive and do a clean install of everything. In that case you could install any version of any operating system you like. Hope this helps.

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windows xp not legit
by cool luke 25 / February 13, 2009 10:23 AM PST

I 2 have the problem with a not legit ops xp windows my computers turns on but It says files are missing won"t open windows can "t use the cd rom to load a disc my machine is dellopti plex gx158 series

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There is hope and options
by Ray43_Halifax / February 13, 2009 10:25 AM PST

There should be no reason at all that you cannot purchase a copy of Windows XP or vista. You do not have to match the type you currently have though for sake of ease you may wish to do so.

Also, you could download a copy of Linux for free. Before going with any option though backup any thing you don't want to lose. Good luck and good health.

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Re: Legitimize XP
by GamerJ5 / February 13, 2009 10:26 AM PST

There are a few different ways to do this but it all depends on how good you are with computers. If you know how to safely edit your registry then I would suggest purchasing another copy of XP Pro and simply replacing the illegal key with the new one. However, if you feel more comfortable with formatting (and hopefully have windows on a separate partition than the rest of your data) then it might be easier to simply buy a new copy of windows (whatever version you desire) and start fresh.

I did some research for you and found these instructions for changing the key without formatting:

Secret option C: Start fresh with Linux! Long live the open-source community!

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