If you're preparing to reinstall Windows XP then you'll need to locate your copy of the Windows XP product key - also known as the CD key. Normally this product key is on a sticker on your computer or located with the manual that came with Windows XP.
If you've lost your hard copy of the product key, don't worry - it's located in the registry but it's encrypted and not readable, making finding it difficult.
Follow the steps below to locate your Windows XP product key:
Important: Please read my Windows Product Keys FAQ for more information.
Manually locating the Windows XP product key from the registry is nearly impossible due to the fact that it's encrypted.
Note: The manual techniques used to locate the product key for operating systems like Windows 95 and Windows 98 will not work in Windows XP. Those manual procedures will only locate the product ID number, not the actual product key used for installation. Lucky for us, several free programs exist to help find product keys.
Choose a free product key finder program that supports Windows XP.
Note: Any product key finder that locates Windows XP product keys will locate a Windows XP Professional product key as well as a Windows XP Home product key.
Download and run the key finder program. Follow any instructions provided by the software.
The numbers and letters displayed by the key finder program represent the Windows XP product key. The product key should be formatted like xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx - five sets of five letters and numbers.
Write this product key code down exactly as the program displays it to you for use when reinstalling Windows XP.
Note: If even one character is written down incorrectly, the installation of Windows XP that you attempt with this product key will fail. Be sure to transcribe the key exactly.
If you need to install Windows XP but you still can't find your Windows XP product key, even with an XP key finder, you have two choices.
Requesting a replacement XP product key is going to be cheaper but if that doesn't work out, you may in fact have to buy a new copy of Windows.