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I have a old slow server I use for hosting preview sites and other non resource intensive tasks. The other day the OS HDD started making a most unpleasing squealing noise. So I cloned the HDD as swapped them out. Then since I had the box on the bench I added more RAM and a new SATA controller.

Then when it booted I was greeted by a new dialog box that said there had been too many hardware changes and I needed to prove that I had a valid license. No big deal, just annoying.

How often can I make hardware changes to a Windows 2003 server with out tripping the re-validation?

By re-validation I mean the Windows licensing.

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I'm not aware of documentation re: the low-level details of the Windows Server 2003 Windows Product Activation, but it's similar enough to the Windows XP version that documentation like Technical Details on Microsoft Product Activation for Windows XP is likely to tell you what you want.

The section that's relevant to you, along with the table of the items being tracked, says:

Microsoft defines “substantially different” hardware differently for PCs that are configured to be dockable. Additionally, the network adapter is given a superior “weighting.” If the PC is not dockable and a network adapter exists and is not changed, 6 or more of the other above values would have to change before reactivation was required.

It puzzles me a bit that your changing of the hard disk drive, RAM size, and SATA controller would trigger WPA to demand a re-activation. Obviously, being a closed-source piece of software we have only the documentation to go on re: the intended behaviour.

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SPECULATION: Is it possible that some things may have been counted twice? For example changing your SATA controller is removing one item and adding another and the same with the hard drive. So those 3 things (or 5 changes) plus one other at some point in the past could have tripped the rule. –  Chris Nava Jul 6 '10 at 20:04

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