I bought a new motherboard last week. Windows 7 is running well, so now it's time to get my Windows XP running.

I can't install direct from the original Windows XP Home CD (retail version) because it crashes, possibly because it's only SP1, also because of problems with AHCI. So I made a slipstream Windows XP disk using nlite version (most recent version - I've checked now).

The basis of the slipstream disk is the Windows XP Home SP1 retail disk. The only changes I applied using nlite were to change it to SP3 and to include the AHCI/RAID drivers for the motherboard. This resolved the crashing issues, and the install now progresses as far as entering the product key. But it rejects the product key, saying it's not valid.

Motherboard is an Asus M5A97 Evo R2.0, and the AHCI/RAID driver was on the CD (though the easiest way to find it was to create a RAID driver "floppy disk" using an IMDISK virtual drive - the hassles of using legacy stuff on modern machines).

Note - this is based on an original Windows XP Home retail CD, and using the valid Windows XP Home retail product key supplied with that CD. The key is valid, I have re-entered several times, and I have double-checked with the yellow "sticker" on the original cardboard folder with the documentation. I've installed from the original CD many times before without problem, and I'm sure this isn't the first time I've made a slipstream disk from it. And I'm definitely using a retail XP home product key with what should be a retail XP home slipstream disk.

In case nlite had somehow converted a retail CD into an OEM cd, though, I also checked with two valid Windows XP Home OEM licenses - and they were both rejected too.

Finally, this is during the installation of Windows XP. The machine has all network connectivity turned off. Even if I've upset Microsoft by using this XP license on too many different PCs over the years, the installer should have no way of contacting Microsoft to know that - that should be a problem for activation, not for the initial entry of the product key during installation.

So - can anyone suggest a reason why Windows XP would reject a valid product key and what I might try to resolve the problem?


I've made a slipstream CD from an OEM Windows XP Home SP2 disk, with SP3 and the AHCI/RAID drivers integrated as before, and using a valid OEM product key. That worked fine. I have backup disk images so I don't need to go through all this again next time.

I'm still curious, so I may experiment with a slipstream of the retail disk with AHCI/RAID but left as SP1, or integrating SP2 rather than SP3. I haven't found a way to check whether my product key has been blacklisted, but I'll try that again too.

I won't be finished with this for probably a few days.

4 Answers 4


I have seen multiple cases where a key was used "too many times" back closer to release, and the key was blacklisted with one of the service packs when integrated. I've always been under the impression that the new service pack came with an updated blacklisted key database built right in. Unfortunately for you, this seems to be what may have happened.

  • I have doubts about that because I'm using the same SP3 download that I've used for years, pretty much since SP3 was first released. And I've certainly applied SP3 to previous installs of the same XP home retail without problems. Still, doesn't hurt to ask Microsoft I guess. And if that's all it is, I can also make a slipstream from one of my OEM disks so I can use another product key.
    – user31438
    Jan 27, 2014 at 18:36
  • 1
    It sounds like you're on the right track. The installs I've seen were issues with slipstreaming and being blocked, not updating and being blocked, so I think our experience coincides. One thing to try is setting Hard Drives to IDE (Legacy) in the bios, installing, then using this answer to set back to achi without blue screen. Assuming you can install SP0 or 1 with that key of yours...superuser.com/questions/427340/…
    – RobLaw0304
    Jan 27, 2014 at 18:44
  • Unfortunately, I tried installing from the original disk with the BIOS settings tweaked already - it's a different crash (during device detection - IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL I think) but the install still fails. That's why I integrated SP3 as well as the AHCI/RAID driver in the slipstream CD.
    – user31438
    Jan 27, 2014 at 18:53

I think Windows changed it's CD key algorithom between RTM and the SP's.

I don't know when it happened or if it happened more than once, however I think the act of slipstreaming SP3 on to the CD may be changing the key check algorithm and that is why it is failing.

The only reference I could find to back this up was was from this guide for slipstreaming SP3 on to a SP2 CD:

Step 6: Test, install it properly, add updates


Do not enter your product key during Setup: I've heard from readers and have read separately online that there is a problem in some cases where Setup will not accept a valid Windows XP Product Key on an integrated XP with SP3 install. For this reason, you should choose not to enter the Product Key until after XP is installed. Obviously, I can't test every possible permutation, but I have successful activated XP integrated with SP3 on my own systems repeatedly in this fashion.

  • I didn't even realise I could install without providing the product key. Thanks - I'll give it a try a bit later.
    – user31438
    Jan 27, 2014 at 18:56
  • @Steve314 Before reading that paragraph neither did I. Jan 27, 2014 at 18:58
  • I can't install without providing the product key. The installer simply doesn't allow it. Click "Next" without providing a product key and it says you've provided an invalid product key. The only other button is "Back". Reset and (after entering language settings again) you end up back at the same product key screen. Maybe it's possible in XP Pro but not XP Home? Or for OEM but not retail?
    – user31438
    Jan 27, 2014 at 19:26

Create a slipstreamed installation CD/DVD from the original CD WITHOUT slipstreaming SP3 into it. Then try again. If it works then you'll know that SP3 being slipstreamed into the installation is the problem. You can download and install SP3 after the initial install is completed.


If you are slipstreaming WinXP SP3 while running Vista or newer OS, the product key check will fail. You have to be running XP to perform the slipstream. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/950722

  • +1 for interesting, but this doesn't look like the issue I had. One thing is that I wasn't using this "/integrate" feature to do the slipstreaming, I was using a free third-party program (I forget the name). That's not conclusive, of course - that program could be using the "/integrate" option. The other point, though, is that under "How to reproduce" your link says "When you are prompted for the product key, your Volume License product key will not be accepted. However, a retail key will be accepted". I was using the retail key for a Windows CD bought as the retail box - not a volume license.
    – user31438
    Aug 13, 2015 at 16:24

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