How to Activate Windows XP in 5 Minutes or Less

Having rebuilt, tested, and reloaded hundreds of computers, I’ve become keenly aware of one of the unavoidable speedbumps during setup — Windows XP’s product activation. After one too many activations, Windows complains that your product key is no longer valid or you’ve exceeded the limit. To keep Windows on the up-and-up (and stay atop the seemingly endless flood of security patches), you’ll have to activate once more with Microsoft. Here are some time-tested tips that will get you through the mandatory process in five minutes or less.

Bring up Activation

If Windows isn’t already prompting you to activate your software, or if you’re unsure if you need to, you can easily bring up the activation wizard by going to Start, Run, and running oobe/msoobe /a. It’s okay to run this command if Windows is already activated, too, so don’t worry about it undoing what may already be complete.

Try Internet Activation First

If you have an internet connection when activating Windows, attempt to use the online route first. In the Windows Product Activation Wizard, choose “Yes, lets activate Windows over the internet now”, followed by “No, do not register with Microsoft”. You may receive a friendly “Thank you!” and your copy of Windows will be good to go.

If internet activation fails and the Wizard complains about “too many activations” or an “incorrect product key”, you still have the option of calling Microsoft’s toll free number to activate Windows. As long as the Wizard doesn’t report “invalid product key,” options are still open. An “invalid” (not “incorrect,” mind you) key is one reported or detected as pirated, so you’ll have to find some other way to make your software go.

Phone Activation

Activating Windows via phone is about as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist, but knowing exactly which buttons to push and the right words to say can help cut your time in half and get you the necessary code.

If your online activation from above failed, click the Telephone button to generate an Installation ID, which you’ll read off to a customer service representative shortly. Call the number for your appropriate country, and you’ll enter into a phone menu system which would like nothing more than for you to activate by reading the numbers onscreen. The software behind the menu, however, does the same checking as the online activation method — meaning if your online activation failed, so too will the automated phone activation. Press 0 on the phone keypad when asked if you are calling to activate Windows XP (the first opportunity you are prompted for input). Like many newer phone menus, it will respond “I see that you’d like to transfer to a customer service representative”, and subsequently try to convince you to go back to the automated system. Ignore the pre-recorded woman’s somewhat rude request to go back, and press 1 to to talk to a human.

After a short delay and the distinct possibility of listening to some poorly chosen music, a representative will ask for either the first six digits of your Installation ID, or the full set. (The first six digits of the Installation ID are the only real keys to generating a Confirmation ID, however the reps more often than not ask you to read off the rest of the group. The rest of the numbers are encoded values detailing some very basic hardware details about your computer.)

If asked “Is this the first time you’re activating Windows?”, say yes. If you say no, the representative will ask for an explanation as to why you’re re-activating Windows.

If asked “Did you purchase the software from a retail store?”, say “It came pre-installed with my computer.”

As a final time-kill (their system sometimes takes a minute to generate Confirmation IDs on days with a particularly heavy load), you may be asked for your Product Key (Windows serial number).

After you’ve given them the necessary information, the representative will read the Confirmation ID to you, which you can simply type into the provided fields. Using these methods, it takes about 4 minutes to activate Windows on average.

How to Activate Windows XP in 5 Minutes or Less

115 thoughts on “How to Activate Windows XP in 5 Minutes or Less

  1. Jim says:

    Thanks for the Activation help. Called the number 1-888-571-2048 and was easily walked through the automated process. Hint: If you had to replace a failed motherboard in an OEM unit (E-Machine, Dell, Gateway, etc.) make sure to use the product key on the COA sticker on the case. The activation screen will give you the option to put in different product key from what the OEM vendors preload. If you do this first, you will sail through the automated process in about 5 minutes. It does require the reading all 6 digits in all 9 sections.


  2. jessica says:

    ugh! okay, so i had a virus that i just got rid of. but when i restarted my computer a window popped up that windows needs to be registered. i tried everything, entering tons of product keys, calling customer service, even running my computer in safe mode. i just dont know what to do. im really sad about it too! someone haylppp


  3. Smokey Locz says:

    i did a windows clean install and installed WINDOWS XP which was the original OS that came with my laptop. i did not get a recovery cd when i bought it and tried to make the recovery cd with the recovery wizard but that failed, had to use a cd a friend had to reload XP. went online to activate and activation failed saying it was being used on another computer. i called again and luckily spoke with someone, they told me the same thing. i was told to take a picture of the COA(on bottom of laptop)and fax it to them and in 72hours a technician would be contacting me. regardless, even if i had to use another cd to install, i should get approval cause i already paid for the OS once. fax was sent and now im waiting…


  4. Richard Brown says:



  5. Jetendra says:

    guys thers an idea that everyone could survive on installing a perfect copy of win xp– what ever windows key may be for which you are activating, everyone does’nt get a chance thro phone to activate, so just type in your product key, installation id and confirmation id that whud help others to enter the same confirmation id for the installation id if suppose matches
    i tried out this and it worked
    SERVER 2003 STANDARD:installation id:
    119844 651933 194334 703350 576912 386570 287074 212240 020602
    conf id:011565 050944 461452 299103 828776 488915 473354


  6. rob says:

    I reinstalled xp pro that came on my toshiba, used the code off the bottom of the machine said it was incorrect although it was installed with the same disks that came with the unit in the first place .. I used the automated system and it choked stating that it was an invalid code .. /boggle/


  7. qwerty108109 says:

    I tried to activate windows by phone, but the random activation key will not generate a number to give to the phone support person. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this?


  8. lunatik says:

    For people that are using Windows Server 2008 R2 and installating for the second time (or more), here’s what I needed to do in order to activate.

    1)If you get the error 0x8007232B when you try to activate Windows 7 (or windows server 2008 R2), then you need to run this commands in order to continue :
    slmgr.vbs -ipk [your product key]

    2)Now it will say that “I don’t remeber what” can’t continue because its limit has been exceeded. That’s when the fun start.
    Press okay, then disconnect the internet, and try to activate Windows again. Now that there’s no Internet Connection, it will tell you that you can call Microsoft for product activation. Select your country from the list above, and follow the simple steps on the phone. Voila, your windows is activated!


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