Finding out how Windows product activation works

This content is 18 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Most of the work I do with Microsoft software is carried out for clients who have a volume license agreement, so working with OEM copies of Windows Server 2003 R2 over the last week or so has been my first exposure to Windows product activation. After having built and activated a server, then wondering whether blowing it away and starting again would affect the activation status I found Alex Nichol’s description of Windows product activation on Windows XP (it’s basically he same for Windows Server 2003 R2). I decided not to rebuild the server in the end but Alex’s article was a certainly a useful description of how the activation process works and the hardware changes that can affect the validity of the software.

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