Can I install one copy of Windows on multiple computers with COA stickers?

By orlan9940 ยท 7 replies
Sep 12, 2010
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  1. Here's the situation. I own a little computer store and we get computers in from various businesses where the hard drives are completely erased. All of these computers have Windows XP COA stickers on them. I have one copy of Windows XP on CD. Can I use this one CD on all the other computers to reinstall Windows XP? Since these other computers already had Windows XP paid for and installed on them before, I'm basically just restoring the software. My question is not whether it will work or not, my question is that if Microsoft will allow this. Thanks.
  2. EDO219

    EDO219 TS Rookie Posts: 212

    hm ... I'm not sure. In the past, I have used one XP disk and different product keys for a variety of computers, but I did run into some issues.

    For example, using an XP Home product key with an XP Professional installation disk might not install.
  3. LookinAround

    LookinAround Ex Tech Spotter Posts: 6,491   +184

    I agree with Pygmus.

    It basically comes down to having the correct product key for each machine (i.e. what you find on the COA sticker is the product key) and the prod key must be a correct match for the install CD...

    So.... you can't use an XP Home prod key with XP Pro

    Nor could you use a prod key that came with a Dell XP Pro machine for a XP Pro install CD purchased direct from MS

    But if all machines install with the same CD have a correct prod key that matches the CD, MS doesn't care 'cuz they're getting their $$ based on the prod key
  4. mike1959

    mike1959 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,034   +55

    XP installing

    It's the product key that you , or the original buyer paid for, the cd has no real value.
    All XP home cd's are the same, all XP pro are the same if bought retail. As long as the type of windows is the same as was installed that's ok, you have the product key on the case to enter into the installer sequence. You will need to activate it on line with Microsoft. One area where you will run into trouble, is the OEM drivers for all the non standard hardware. As the hard drives have been erased, you have lost them. You will need to install the drivers from the maker of the PC, or from a third party scanning program. You won't get the drivers from Microsoft updates.
  5. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    Most manufacturers have the drivers on there websites anyway, so that isn't really much of an issue.

    The issue I see is the vast amount of Discs required, for example (XP Pro) you'd need:

    1. Corporate CD (I don't know if this is available in x64 also)
    2. Retail x64 CD
    3. Retail CD
    4. OEM x64 CD
    5. OEM CD
    6. Manufacturer specific (that means a disc for each manufacturer e.g. 1 for Dell, 1 for Acer etc) CD
    7. Manufacturer specific x64 (to cover 64 bit installs) CD

    Thats just for Professional (32/64bit as they're all different), and you'd need the same again for standard pro 32bit versions.

    On the up side I have had great success using Dell supplied OS restore discs in other Dell models. I can't speak for other manufacturers I don't know, but every Dell disc I've used in a Dell has worked.

    That said, I've never been able to use an OEM/retail disc alongside a Dell product key, or a product key for another type of Windows install - They've all failed activation via phone and online.
  6. EDO219

    EDO219 TS Rookie Posts: 212

    Does any one know if this would work:

    1.) Use the same installation disk and key for all computers.
    2.) Before connecting to Microsoft's Windows validation server, change the key you installed Windows with to the key on the computer's COA sticker.
    3.) Restart to be sure the registry is updated to the new key.
    4.) Would this then pass Microsoft's genuine Window's online evaluation/ activation?
  7. Leeky

    Leeky TS Evangelist Posts: 3,797   +117

    No to all of them as far as I am aware. (Others are welcome to correct me if I'm wrong though).

    The new install will most likely reject the product key if you change it to something not paired with the installation media. I tried the same thing before, using a OEM XP Pro disc to install Windows XP Pro on my Dell laptop. It simply refused to accept my Dell key when trying to change it, siting Windows XP product key as invalid.

    Comment 1 is especially wrong, unless you have volume licensing, but I'm fairly sure even with volume licensing you should have different product keys.
  8. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    Leeky - A volume license I believe is the same as 'corporate' for XP (although maybe its all corporates were VLK but not all VLK are corporate). So he could install all with the same key and still have that part be legal, if the VLK was still under the amount of licenses bought.. But he was going to change it before activation anyway...

    But to answer whether you can change it after using a VLK, you were right, it won't work. It is still dependent on the original disk type used to install. So the OEM install keys that are on the COA sticker are only going to work with the OEM disk.

    Fortunately, if the OP is really set on doing this, you could obtain XP OEM install disks from various manufacturers from places like piratebay. Of course doing this involves risks of getting something nasty included. And it may be of questionable legality actually downloading them..

    I'm pretty sure the only 100% legal AND ethical way to do this would be to call the manufacturers and pay for them to ship you out their OEM install/restore disk. That is not something I'd want to do though,

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