If you know a LOT about WPA, need some help here

By Vigilante · 59 replies
Dec 27, 2005
  1. I have some info to ask of you. You may not even know it unless you are an OEM system builder from Dell or HP or some place. But anyhow, here is the short question:

    I want to create an XP CD with an unattended answer file and keycode, preactivated. So the end user can use the CD I make, to reload Windows, having the keycode and activation already done.

    So far I have created my answer file and slipstreamed all the files I need. But preactivation is getting me stumped.

    Here is a couple paragraphs quoted from Microsoft:
    Here is the link: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/winxppro/evaluate/xpactiv.mspx

    From reading this, it would seem all I have to do is create this "SLP" data and put it on my setup CD somewhere. But I can't find anywhere that explains how to create the SLP data or how to do it. Is this some sort of OEM only super secret stuff?
    Seems to me I should be able to take my system and setup CD, create the SLP data, put it on the disk or part of the answer file, and bingo, have no activation for this PC when using this CD only. Which would be really nice.

    They say "At boot, Windows XP compares the PC's BIOS to the SLP information. If it matches, no activation is required."

    So it seems it would be extremely easy to just give the SLP data for Windows to see? But I can't find any program or utility to create this SLP data or how to implement it.

    If I could figure this out, I could create custom reload CDs for my PCs or PCs I sell.
    Mind you, there is nothing illegal about this procedure, doing this, in no way, promotes anything illegal. As the setup CD with SLP data only matches that one PC. And this would give customers a way to reload without hassle.

    Has anybody done this or knows how?
  2. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    If I am not mistaken the process requires a specialized bios, whichis precisely what outfits like Dell use. their bios's are not standard.
  3. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    hey that was quick.

    I'll have to keep looking into it. It wouldn't make sense if it was that way. I mean, Microsoft tells OEMs they need a jacked up BIOS to support preactivation? Wouldn't that, in turn, limit OEMs to certain mobos as well?
    Or do you think we're talking just like some special codes programmed into a certain place in the BIOS? Which would be nothing more then writting some extra data into the BIOS ROM.
    But that wouldn't make sense either because if Windows was looking for just a certain code, that wouldn't make every PC (and BIOS) different would it? Because they could manufacture 5000 PCs with an identical BIOS.

    I don't know, but it bugs me for sure. MS just says it compares the SLP data to the real BIOS. To me, this just means create an SLP file with the data Windows will find in the actual BIOS. In that way, the two will match. But this would require some sort of tool to read the BIOS and create the SLP to begin with.
  4. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    no because mobo makers are more than happy to provide specialized bios''s to major purchasers motherboards like Dell, HP and gateway.

    look at how long dell and some other used mobo's with the power supply connection reversed from the standard motherboard connections which meant you couldnt attache a regular power supplky to them.

    what you are overlooking is that if there were not a specialized component in the bios that the slp looks for then the reinstall disk would work on ANY bios by the same manufacturer and obviously that is no t the case.
  5. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    Actually I think that IS the case. After reading about it, because the SLP data is matched to the BIOS, you could change ANY peice of hardware in the system and you still wouldn't have to activate. But MS says even if you change the motherboard itself, as long as the new motherboard has the "same" BIOS, it will still work.
    In other words, if you had 5 of the same HP side by side, the reinstall disks would work on any of them without activation.
    Meaning that the motherboard makers don't put custom, unique data into EVERY motherboard mass produced. They are identical BIOS.

    Also it's not the SLP that "looks for" anything. It's Windows that just compares the SLP data to the actual BIOS. I don't think (from what I'm reading) that Windows really cares at ALL what is in your BIOS, just as long as it matches what it finds in the SLP data. But I could be wrong on that point. MS never says that this system requires any special data to be in the BIOS.

    However there is one thing I'm not yet sure about, and that is if there is also a special product key that is used when using SLP preactivation. Because if you notice on OEM PCs, say you use Jellybean Keyfinder to read your keycode, it will be a different code then what is on your OEM sticker. This is because the OEMs can use the same key to image all these PCs, and preactivate, as long as they have a valid license slapped on the box. Cause we all know there are different keys, OEM, Retail, Volume. I'm wondering if there is also a special key when imaging with preactivation?
    By the way, the SLP data is stored in 4 files that look like this: "OEMBIOS.xx_"


    Now an update for you all:

    I managed to find a couple scripts that extract your OEMBIOS files, and keycode, and creates an answer file with the data.
    I made an ISO of my XP Home CD, and copied into that, the OEMBIOS files and answer file of the PC I'm trying this on. Then I burned the ISO and reloaded the PC. The answer file worked, but alas, it still needed activation, even though I had, on the disk, the very OEMBIOS files that Windows itself created on this same machine. So obviously it is not that simple.

  6. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    I wouldnt be suprised if there was a special key code for those parts one way to find out would be to check a recent dell machine that uses this system. I do know that reinstallation CD from dell carry a special volume label name.

  7. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    What really irks me is the fact that OEMs don't give you a dang CD anymore to reload with. They expect everybody to create their own images or use the built-in partition they slap you with. Well what happens if the HDD crashes? duh! Or you do a full format to save yourself the 5gb they put on those partitions.
    I'll tell you: One is that you are forced to use "somebody's" XP disk, which means you have to take it or copy it. Second is that the disk will likely NOT be matched to your own OEM keycode. Which means, if it even works at all, you won't be able to activate without calling MS.

    Which is why I really really really want to figure this out. Occasionally I come across these Dells and HPs and Compaqs and so forth, that I want to rebuilt for resell. Often all I may do is add some ram, a bigger HDD or cpu etc... But in all cases, I have the hardest stinkin time trying to activate them.
    First I try to activate, which fails, then I call MS and talk to the computer lady, I spend 5 minutes typing the 50 digit code in, that fails, some forein guy picks up and makes me repeat the code, then says it didn't work, sends me to the tech department, who is apparently just a rep, because I tell him my problem (after being on hold for 15 minutes), and he says "oh, I'll send you to the tech department for that", so I wait on hold indefinitely and then hang up.

    This would be worlds easier if I could figure out how to get that OEMBIOS file working and have these pcs preactivated like they were originally. Or if I could get my hands on an OEM(hp,dell,compaq,gateway etc) XP CD to use for these systems so activation will work.

    I tell you what, this is enough to make me want to just load illegal copies of XP on all these systems, I understand why so many do it, cause it's just so much friggin easier!
  8. iss

    iss TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,994

    I know several people that buy legit copies of XP for every machine they have then stick them in a drawer and then load corp veersions on their machines.
  9. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    That begs the questions, then:

    Because this particular system has a perfectly legal XP Home OEM HP sticker on the case, and I load it with XP Pro Corp, is that still ok? I mean, we are talking Home versus Pro, the fact is they have a legal key, it just isn't the exact XP that's installed.

    I wouldn't mind buying a full retail XP if I thought I could get the money back. But the fact is, I'm selling these PCs sometimes for LESS then what a single XP license would cost me. Buying XP for resell of old PCs is just simply not cost effective. That really is a shame. But luckily the PCs I rebuilt already have a code I can use. Though I'm sure people who build these from scratch, and don't have a key, are force to load Windows illegally. I don't see how else they can do it and be cost effective?
  10. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    You know - and I say this with no support for piracy - the difference between an annoying OEM windows CD and a good "copy" of a windows CD is purely that a good copy isn't tied to the BIOS.

    You pay for the license on a computer - not the actual software, and while I don't know what implications this may have for which product key you may have to use, as far as I see it if you have a legitimate license to use a particular version of Windows XP on a machine, it doesn't really matter where the installation files themselves come from as long as you're happy with it and it's the same version (bearing security in mind of course). I may be wrong though. If I am, no doubt someone will tell me.

    I have read on the MSFN forums that unattended activation through the "backup" method hasn't workied since the introduction of service packs to XP. The answerfile method *should* work over the internet if M$ have nothing against activating it, but it's done over the intenet.
  11. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    I think it was in March, or thereabouts, MS announced they would no longer let OEM XPs activate, but you would have to call them.

    I've had XPs right out of the box that wouldn't even activate, had to call them.

    But you are right that IF you have a valid XP license, you can install from anywhere. But it isn't an OEM CD that is "tied" to the BIOS, the CD simple comes with the necessary OEMBIOS files in the I386 folder. THOSE files ARE tied to the BIOS. But as for having an "OEM" CD, that is nothing more then changing a value in the "setupp.ini" file. Yes that is two "p"s in setupp. You can change one value in there to make your CD accept retail keys, oem and volume keys. You can make the CD act as a retail CD or upgrade CD, all in this one file. Which is what I have to do when loading these OEM product keys, you have to change that file on a retail CD to make it an OEM CD.

    Anyway, it's all madness. If MS charged $40 bucks for Windows, nobody would be stealing it, they'd sell more copies, and thus regain the profit loss from people stealing. It's that simple.

    In my case, however, I have a valid XP Home, but loaded an XP Pro. So I don't think that is the right way to do it. But hey, Microsoft just refuses to let the dang thing activate. What's a guy to do?
  12. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    No arguement from me there Vigilante :)
  13. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    lol, ya well what's done is done. And if the future owner of this PC wants to reload, they can deal with the product key and activation.

    I haven't given up though. I mean, if every OEM vendor out there, has access to preactivating their PCs, surely I can find out how they do it. And I don't think it is due to custom code in the BIOS, as a lot of OEMs, thankfully, put out regular retail mobos these days.
    Matter of fact, there is a script out there that specifically extracts your OEMBIOS files from your existing Windows. It is not a myth!
    I also saw an actual MS web site that TELLS YOU the XP keycodes to use for preactivation! I thought that was pretty interresting, only they didn't have an XP Home code, only Pro and 64bit and MC I think. But I lost the site. Dang it all. I may as well give up...
  14. Mictlantecuhtli

    Mictlantecuhtli TS Evangelist Posts: 4,345   +11

  15. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    Ah yes that is the site. And I DO have the OPK disks, but unfortunately, not for Home, but for Pro and Server 2003.

    If I ever do figure this out, I'll be sure to let ya'll know how to do it!
  16. cozofdeath

    cozofdeath TS Rookie Posts: 19

  17. cozofdeath

    cozofdeath TS Rookie Posts: 19

    I think im going to try to figure it out, I just found out some other useful info. well im off to play UT2004, ill figure it out later tonight or tomarro hopefully and I'll post what I find...later

    drinking and unreal kick aspuke:
  18. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    Excellent guys, the more working on this, the better. Here is a recap of what I want to do.


    1) I have a PC with a freshly formatted partitoin. There is no OEM, factory restore partition. It can be an OEM PC or custom PC.

    2) I have a perfectly legal, regular XP license sticker for the Product Key

    3) The system can Activate perfectly well, (after talking to an MS rep of course)


    Once the system is in this working state, I want to build a "restore", or just a custom OS install disk, which allows for preactivation and Product Key handling. So if I reload the PC, onto a new HDD for example, using my custom OS CD, it will automatically enter the Product Key, and preactivate XP.

    I'm not trying to do something illegal like make an XP disk that loads onto any PC without needing to activate or anything. I just want to make a special disk for my OWN PC so I don't HAVE to activate it anymore.

    In the particular example that sparked this thread, I wanted to build the preactivation into my CD, BEFORE I actually had activated for real. And thus circumvent the need to Activate, because MS was being dumb and wouldn't let me activate because it was an OEM PC, long story.

    So if anybody figures out how to create an OS disk that can preactivate you, I'm all ears.
  19. cozofdeath

    cozofdeath TS Rookie Posts: 19

    This has to do with the pre-activation, and yes it is from MS.

    So does this link.

    They go on to state in the first link that WPA works by associating a machine's PID (which is derived from the product key) to the hardware configuration. It does this by creating an installation ID. The installation ID comprises the PID and a "hardware hash," which is derived from a number of elements that characterize the machine. It also includes a random component that is generated each time it is requested.


    Unattended Activation (Setup) – WPA supports the use of unattended answer files to set product keys, set temporary proxy settings, and to auto-activate during setup.

    Sorry I never looked up much about the whole activation process before so if I'm way of track let me know and thanks for posting back. I was actually trying to fix my control panel when I ran across this and now look what I'm into. I swear if I could take the time to fix one thing, I could actually maybe fix something. Anyway I think I'm going to try burning it to a dvd tonight and trying it if I can figure out the whole answer file thing. Let me know if any of this can help you. If it does and you figure it out I might need some help with the answer file :confused:
  20. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    The option no longer really works all that well after SP2. All it is anyway is an option to activate over an internet connection, and so is susceptable to the same failures normal activation is susceptable to. In short, it doesn't work.

    Anything you need to know about that answer file of yours, just ask.

    I'm wondering to be honest if it would be easier to crack the activation mechanisms in XP rather than doing it in a legitimate way. (not that I'm suggesting that you should, this being a piracy free site ;) ). In theory, all it is is data and process, and so all it takes is time to understand bit for bit how it works and then time to work out how to either pass genuine data to it, or fool it into thinking that false data is genuine. Well there's that or the Volume liscence key issue - VLKM's require no activation, and I'm somewhat interested as to why. I'm sure there must be a means of simply turning the activation off - it's not like the activation in this scenario (IE, vigilantes) is really going to stop piracy (copies were activated before hand), and anybody wanting to illegitimately copy windows xp must surely realise there are easier ways of doing it.
  21. cozofdeath

    cozofdeath TS Rookie Posts: 19

    I think I only want to try it this way. But yeah I have wondered why they do allow volume licenses do go with out activation? I have also tried the cracked way a while ago just for um *cough *cough test purposes. But since I have a legitimate key and a ****ty oem cd I figured why not give it a try so I can have a nice automated backup, if this works how im thinking, probley not though. So can I extract my cd to a image and add the needed answer/unettend file with all the config info then burn a new copy for myself? Will that work? If so what if I use the oem installed key, like the one Vigilante was talking about, instead of my key?
  22. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    The OEM key won't wrok - just to let you know :) Not if your machine is non-oem.

    To create an unattended install, you need to create a file in the %cddrive%/I386 directory called winnt.sif The easiest way for you to do this is to use the appropriate deployment tools (sp2 I would assume?) search the microsoft for them, , or go to this link... http://www.tacktech.com/display.cfm?ttid=214 ...and select the one for your languaghe. The download links all point to microsofts site.

    use the file setupmgr.exe in these tools to create an unattent file, and save it as winnt.sif instead of the default unattend.txt

    from there, it's just a matter of knowing the switches to use if you choose to edit the file and refine it a little, and so here's a small reference for it... http://unattended.msfn.org/unattended.xp/view/web/19/

    and it seems Overclockers also have an unattended guide... http://www.overclockers.com/tips1167/
  23. cozofdeath

    cozofdeath TS Rookie Posts: 19

    Yeah I got a oem machine to try it on. Thank you for posting back! I was just about to burn the disk when I seen you said to put the winnt.sif file in the 386 dir, and I totally forgot to do that. I'm gona try it now...thanks ill post back if it works or not
  24. Vigilante

    Vigilante TechSpot Paladin Topic Starter Posts: 1,666

    Are we positive about this? It is my understanding that only the media is linked to the key, regardless of PC.
    To use an OEM key you need an OEM CD. For a retail key you need a retail CD. Volume key with volume CD. Upgrade key with upgrade CD. Otherwise, irregardless of PC, if these are matched, it should work.

    What say you?
  25. Spike

    Spike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,168

    I'm not entirely sure about that Vigilante. For instance, you can use a VLK with a normal retail professional edition, or with an OEM edition - I've never tried with is the Home version (oem or otherwise), You may be correct though - I've never tried the OEM keys with a non OEM copy of XP. Better still, you can convert the cd you have to any other type if you know how to do it, so it's a bit of a null issue in that respect I guess...

    No, I was saying that it won't work in the case of activation. I suspect the key would be fine for a simple install, but I doubt very much it would be possible to legitimately activate such a copy unless it were an OEM machine that came with an OEM version of XP. If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it by now :)

    Of course, MS knew this, which is what WGA is all about - even with a VLK, XP support is restricted by WGA (that is, unless you crack the DLL, but the less said about that the better). However, even with that done, MS can re-write the DLL and render the old crack useless, and so not making it a very good option, certainly not for a professional piece of work.

    This to my mind only leave the option of finding out how VLKs result in no need to activate the copy, and somehow using that knowledge to bypass completely the need to activate with OEM keys. Easier said than done I guess (else again, everybody would be doing it), but theoretically possible.
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