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Adventures in re-activating Windows XP Pro after motherboard failure

Published to Blog on 11 Sep 2006

A couple of weeks ago my workstation wouldn’t turn on. First I swapped out power supplies, but that only proved to be part of the problem. Turns out my motherboard in my 2-1/2 year-old Dell Dimension 4200 had blown up, too. I went off to MicroCenter to buy a new motherboard, which turned out to be quite tough since it seems that socket 478 motherboards just are not that common any more. MicroCenter only had one in stock and it only had two slots for memory - BOOO! I could have sprung for a newer board/socket/CPU combination, but I wanted to keep my old CPU and memory.

Turns out that the new motherboard didn’t have the same chipset (it had a VIA chipset and I guess the Dell MB had Intel) so the upgrade didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. The PC just blue-screened after it started boot-up. After doing some reading I found that this is fairly normal when chipsets are different. The solution is to do a repair installation of XP over the existing one. If things go well then all your programs and data will stay in place. However, you probably will have to re-activate XP.

So, I finally got a chance to sit down to do the re-activation today, hooked the PC up to my network and as luck would have it - it couldn’t connect to Microsoft to do the activiation via the internet. Probably hosed my network settings doing the repair install. No big deal - I just have to call Microsoft to activate it.

So I called the number shown on the activation screen: 1-877-xxx-xxxx. I get a nice friendly automated voice, “We can help you activate… Please read the first set of numbers…” There is a 54 digit generated installation ID, 9 sets of 6 digits, that you must read into the phone a set at a time. Then they check to see if it matches the one you registered before. Mine does not match, of course, because I replaced my motherboard. After not matching I am transferred to a human to activate my copy and give me a confirmation number.  Turns out this tech’s system is not working - they are doing system maintenance. He asks that I call back 30 minutes later. Nice.

Call #2 - I go through the automated process again and reading all the numbers again because apparently you can’t just go directly to a tech.   I hear “we are now transferring you to a tech”. I get put on hold, elevator music and all that jazz. Then a couple of clicks, some switches getting switched, a line starts ringing and then I get a busy signal. Then the line dies. Great.

Call #3 - Of course I have to go through the automated process again and reading all the numbers again because there JUST DOESN’T SEEM TO BE A WAY TO BYPASS IT!!!  Finally I get a real person and he activates my copy of Windows XP Pro. Life is good again, but I’m in definite need of a beer after work.

Dan Hounshell
Web geek, nerd, amateur maker. Likes: apis, node, motorcycles, sports, chickens, watches, food, Nashville, Savannah, Cincinnati and family.
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  • On 11 Sep 2006 "Joe Wirtley"" said:
    Just remember, it could be worse. You could be still be trying to get commerce server working like a former coworker of yours.