From: XP Guy on
Chuck Lavin wrote:

> I replaced the hard drive on a Windows XP Pro SP3 computer. The
> hard drive was cloned with Symantec Ghost, and the new drive was
> installed in place of the old one.
> When the PC rebooted and I attempted to log in, I was informed that
> "This copy of Windows must be activated with Microsoft before you
> can log in."

I've cloned many XP installations using Ghost (Ghost 2003 - where you
boot from a floppy and do a drive-to-drive clone).

Ok, here's the scoop. XP looks at the following when you install it:

- video card
- CPU type
- installed RAM
- motherboard
- CD drive
- ethernet MAC address
- Hard drive model
- Hard drive volume serial number

I think that's it. Each item gets one "vote" (except for MAC address,
which gets 3). So when you install XP on a new system for the first
time, and perform the initial on-line validation, all those items are
voting "yes" every time your system starts. That's 10 votes.

If you change any component, you will lose that vote. Changing RAM
sticks doesn't matter unless you end up with a different amount of RAM.
Also, changing the CPU from one Intel CPU to another Intel CPU might not
matter either (I'm not sure exactly what needs to change before you lose
the CPU vote). Changing the CD/DVD drive or video card with an *exact*
same type also won't matter (but flashing the bios of your video card or
DVD drive will frequently end up messing with their vote and you will
lose it). Naturally if you change your ethernet card (or disable the
on-board card and install a PCI ethernet card) you will lose 3 votes.

So over time, there are lots of hardware that can change and lead to
vote-loss. XP needs 5 votes to keep running without thinking it needs
to re-validate itself.

When you clone a drive using ghost, it will maintain the volume serial
number, but unless the clone drive is the same make and model as the
original, you will lose the "hard drive model" vote.

I run a program called "xpinfo.exe" that tells me which votes I've lost
and which ones I still have for any given system (it also tells me the
first 3 segments of the product key used by that system).

My guess is that you were on the edge with your system. You had 5
votes, but when you cloned and started the system with the clone, you
lost the hard-drive model vote, which brought you down to 4 votes, which
pooched your clone.

I don't know if you still have your original drive (with XP still on it
- untouched) but if you do, it should still boot and run ok if you
re-install it. If you do that, and then get xpinfo.exe, you will know
which hardware components are causing your clone to fail the validation
test. You might then hunt down / replace the components and try them
and see if you get their vote back.

Warning: Once a system fails validation, you can't get it back by
substituting the hardware.

I keep a supply of matching hard drives so I can clone drives and try
various things. When I lose the validation on a drive, it's no problem
because I always have a master drive I can re-clone.

And yes, I've been in that place where a drive refuses to revalidate
itself. Try the telephone technique instead of on-line. They will
usually just give you a new code to enter and it will work.

Normally, on-line revalidation works ok (any system can be revlidated,
but not more often than 120 days).

Your product key might be the problem - is it OEM, Retail, or
System-Builder version of XP?
From: XP Guy on
Jitesh Biswas wrote:

> Try to use the change Product Key option:

The product-key change tool has never worked for me.

I think that the various ways to change the product key are for systems
that haven't yet been validated.

In other words, when an OEM or system builder has installed XP using the
installation method designed / created by Microsoft, then the product
key can be changed before the system is shipped and used by the owner
for the first time (at which point system validation happens).

I've never been able to change the product key on a system that is
already up and running and validated. That would be nice, because I
create a single master copy of XP, which is validated, and which I
customize and keep updated via Windows Updates, and which I clone when I
need to ship the next PC to someone.

Because I can't change the product key on the clone, I have to make sure
that the master drive never downloads any WGA updates.