I backup some of my windows servers about 3 times a day because of the large amount of data that changes on it.

I had a hardware failure that killed one of my machines, and now I have a problem. I can restore that server to a virtual machine no problem, using Acronis, and get it booting up, but it asked me to activate it. I click to activate online, yet it fails. I have the key, and it's a valid windows instance, but I fear I will not be able to get this system back online anytime soon. Microsoft are being no help either.

Is it possible to change the key to a VLK that we have, that we just didn't use on this server, because it came with windows 2003 on it already?

  • I just had an idea, I can swap out the defective piece of hardware temporarily, and THEN change the key to VL key, run another backup - am I correct in thinking, that the re activation will not kick in this time, and I can recover my broken server? Aug 23 '10 at 10:41
  • I managed to fix this issue, and virtualise an OEM box! :) I took all your comments, and decided to use a combiation of the info i found on the links, and comments I used acronis to make a virtual image of the system. Then I fired up the virtual image, with a live rescue cd to change the local admin password to blank. Then fired up my windows 2003 msdn disk, and did a repair, it went through the motions, i put the key in reboot, and bamb! Virtualised OEM instance of windows 2003, no probs! (except it now runs twice as fast hehe!) Aug 28 '10 at 11:11

The only way I know of to change the product key from OEM to VLK is to do a repair install. This is a risky thing to do on a production server though and I don't recommend it. I have had success in the past running a repair install from volume license media and then using a volume license key.

  • I can test the repair install. I got an old system that I can test it on, I'll report back here, and let you know :) Aug 23 '10 at 15:29
  • I did this on the virtual image, instead of the production server itself. I isolated from the rest of my network, and it was pretty smooth, once i realised that there was issue when there was a password set But i got there in the end Aug 28 '10 at 11:14

You can't use a VL key on a retail/OEM product.

Their licensing is completely different, and they even have different install media. This is not only a licensing restriction, it's actually impossible to do from a technical standpoint (unless you want to manually replace DLLs and so on).

  • I don't want to rain on your parade, but it seemed to work for me. I was so impressed i did it with another box too. Aug 28 '10 at 11:12
  • The repair install overwrites all system files, so it definitely falls in the "replace DLLs" scenario :-)
    – Massimo
    Aug 28 '10 at 16:10

According to this site: http://wiki.lunarsoft.net/wiki/Product_IDs the difference is the PID of the product.. Perhaps the only way to do it is to change the PID after windows is installed which can be accomplished using this guide http://www.tek-tips.com/faqs.cfm?fid=4300

I would advice to do some backup before trying this

  • 2
    That guide will not allow you to change from OEM to VLK. It will only allow you to enter a different key of the same type.
    – Jason Berg
    Aug 23 '10 at 14:00

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