Last month, I needed to install Windows XP (Pro Version 2002 SP3) from a Reinstallation CD a co-worker gave me, and with a product key the IT team told me to use.

Everything installed successfully and I have been using the XP machine for the last 30 days without any problems; however it kept reminding me to activate Windows, and of course, I never did (laziness).

It now has me locked out of my machine and won't let me log in until I activate it. So I proceed to the Activation Screen which asks me:

Do you want to activate Windows now?

I choose "Yes, let's activate Windows over the Internet now.", and click the Next button. It now asks me:

Do you want to register while you are activating Windows?

I choose "No, I don't want to register now; let's just activate Windows.", and click the Next button.

I now see the following screen:

enter image description here

Notice how the title reads "Unauthorized product key", and how there are only 3 buttons:

  • Telephone
  • Remind me later
  • Retry

Please note that the Retry button is disabled until I enter the full product key that IT gave me, then it enables. However, at no point in time do I see a Next button, indicating that the product key was valid/successful.

So instead, I just click the Retry button, and the screen refreshes, this time with a different title

Incorrect product key

enter image description here

Could something be wrong with the Windows XP reinstallation CD (do they "expire" after a certain amount of time, etc.)? Or is this the normal/typical workflow for what happens when you just have a bad product key? I ask because, after this happened I emailed IT and they supplied me whether several other product keys to try. But every time its the same result, same thing happening over again and again.

So I guess it's possible that IT has given me several bad keys, but it's more likely something else is going on here. Any thoughts or ways to troubleshoot? Thanks in advance!

  • 1
    I think this is a question for Microsoft. My gut feeling says that certain keys are only valid for certain types of installation media. For instance, an installation for a University where one disc is used on 1,000 PCs may not allow you to use a key that was created for a home user. I have nothing to back this, but I've seen similar issues with Windows keys. – UtahJarhead Oct 5 '12 at 15:05
  • 1
    The CDs do not expire, but there are different kinds of CDs for the different versions, and they aren't interchangable. OEM disks require OEM keys (you get these from manufacturers like Dell/HP, where they pre-install it and you have that little sticker on the side of the computer), Retail disks require retail keys (these you get when you buy Windows in a store), and Volume License disks require Volume License Keys (these are used by companies doing hundreds of installs). It looks like you have an OEM disk, but you might not have an OEM key. Check with IT. – Darth Android Oct 5 '12 at 15:08
  • When it says you mis-typed the key, either you did or the IT dept gave you a mis-typed key, double check your key, many letters can be easily misread, contact your IT dept to be sure they gave you the correct key. – Moab Oct 5 '12 at 15:32
  • As pointed by Dave M «Microsoft will de-authorize a key if it is used too often». The easiest way to fix this is to call MS. (They don't bite ;-) ) – climenole Oct 5 '12 at 15:44
  • It sounds like this is a simple case of the product key not being actually valid. – Ramhound Oct 5 '12 at 16:22

Microsoft will de-authorize a key if it is used too often. They are doing this with many key types and I know they announced MSDN and TechNet keys would be under more scrutiny. This may be teh case here and the key has been tried too often.

If the Key is for the wrong type of media, the error would be different.

As suggested, a call to Microsoft would address this. I have had a similar issue and a 10 minute call solved the issue.

If they feel the key is used for piracy, you are likely out of luck.

Do you have an XP COA on your computer?

As noted by @ Darth Android this looks like an OEM install disk and it is odd that IT would have OEM keys to randomly hand out.

BTW, how do you know the key is valid?

  • 1
    I am asking this question prior to escalating to IT management and insinuating they are repeatedly giving me bad keys. I am ruling out anything configuration- or installation-related on my end. The truth is, these probably are bad keys, or they are valid keys that (like has been proposed here) are somehow incompatible with the installation CD I was given. But I can only go by what IT gives me. – pnongrata Oct 5 '12 at 15:41

If I'm not mistaken the product key is highly specific to the the part number of the CD, which usually specific the release date, service pack, OS version, etc.

enter image description here

Make sure that IT isn't giving you something that doesn't match the part number.

  • How's it work then when I download media from the internet and use a key I already have? – Darth Android Oct 5 '12 at 15:13
  • Because you are using a valid key for the product you are using. Meaning, there are a set of keys that work for the given product. You just happen to be using one out of the set that works. – Chad Harrison Oct 5 '12 at 15:27
  • @hydroparadise - It doesn't exactly work like that. If he was using a valid key it would be working. Lets assume this is case of him using an OEM installer nstead of a Retail installer. Why would you randomly choose a Russian copy of Windows XP media? – Ramhound Oct 5 '12 at 16:25
  • @Ramhound Holy crap, that is a Russian copy I pulled from google images (thought it was just poor image quality). I was just trying to illustrate the product number as I've been on the phone with Microsoft on this very issue. OEM copies? I would think the same concept applies, but I wasn't 100% sure. – Chad Harrison Oct 5 '12 at 17:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.