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we used the tool from MS here to create a .VHD of an old XP laptop that has some important software on it. We intend to retire the laptop and use the VM exclusively so we can back it up, and keep it portable and secure on the server.

Anyways, when we load it into VirtualBox it says the Product Key is invalid. My guess is the original hardware configuration is so different from the VM it reckons it's a new machine.. (which I guess it is?).

Has anyone found a way round this problem in the past?

EDIT: Just to confirm, we do have the original keys etc. I'm just wondering if it's a setup issue that's causing this in the first place.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

What you're seeing is Windows Product Activation (WPA) detecting the hardware change in the "machine".

If the Windows XP license is a retail license you can just use telephone activation to get it re-activated (since a retail full packaged product (FPP) license permits you to reinstall the software on other computers). If you've done this with an OEM license of Windows XP (sticker attached to the hardware by the OEM prior to purchase, labeled "OEM" on the sticker) then you'll need to reinstall Windows with a retail or volume license. There is no "supported" method for operating an OEM version of Windows XP in a VM. Anything you do to make it work could potentially "break" down the road (or could "break" checks like "Windows Genuine Advantage").

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Thank you. This is unfortunate that we have such limited scope to make this work (our usual vendors don't offer XP licenses anymore!). I'm certain, as you say it will be an OEM licensed laptop. Shame, as it would've been a great setup. – pierre May 17 '11 at 8:32
Isn't it possible to downgrade a windows7?… – 3molo May 17 '11 at 8:41
@3molo: How the OP licenses it doesn't change the fact that, if it was originally an OEM install, he'll have to reinstall Windows (to be a "supported" method for changing the product key type). – Evan Anderson May 17 '11 at 12:53
Yes thanks all. I think we're just going to have to look into alternatives. Thanks for your input. – pierre May 18 '11 at 9:18

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