One problem that tech support guys face – especially third-party types who go to different homes or companies – is that of reinstalling Windows XP on computers with different types of licenses. Some people buy retail copies of Windows XP at Best Buy or Office Depot. Some people get Windows XP preloaded on a computer from Dell or HP. Still others have computers provided for them by their employer, and that employer uses a Volume Licensing copy of XP.
The problem with all these different versions is that the CD keys for each version don’t work with any other version. So a Windows XP retail CD won’t accept an OEM license key. Likewise, an OEM CD won’t accept volume license or retail keys. And a volume license CD won’t accept retail or OEM keys.
So – does this mean that us tech support folks have to buy multiple copies of Windows XP just to reinstall them on their client’s computers? Not at all! You can easily tweak the SETUPP.INI file found on the XP installation CD to do two things: change what type of installation media setup thinks you have, and change what type of key your media will accept.
1) Insert a Windows XP installation CD into your optical drive.
2) Look for the setupp.ini file in the \i386 directory on the disc; copy it to your desktop or some other temporary location.
3) Open the file with Notepad. You’ll see something like this:
4) The second line (“PID=”) is what we’re interested in. Here are the acceptable values for each type of media. The first group of numbers tell setup which type of media you have, and the last three digits tell setup which license keys to accept:
Retail = 51882 335
Volume License = 51883 270
OEM = 82503 OEM
So in the example above, the product ID “51882335″ indicates a retail version that will accept retail license keys. If you change this to “82503OEM” you can change your installation media to an OEM CD that accepts OEM keys. You can even change the media type and license key independently, so “51882OEM” would give you a retail version that accepts OEM keys, while “51883335″ would give you a volume license copy that accepts retail keys. Note that only volume license keys will allow you to skip product activation; if you were to change your media to a volume license edition that accepts retail keys, you will still need to activate the product.
So – what can you do with this information? Well, if you have software that can create and edit ISO images, you can create all types of disc images and burn them to CDs. That way, you can have all three versions ready to go when you arrive at a customer’s home. You can probably create some type of “Super Installation DVD” that has all versions of Windows XP on it, so you only need to bring along one DVD with you. If that’s something that interests you, contact me and let’s see if we can get something going with that. I know how to do such things with DOS, but not XP.