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Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs Forum • View topic - Upgrade pitfall?
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 Post subject: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:22 pm 
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Hi Scott,

I was wondering if there are any potential problems with upgrading OEM computers such as Dell, HP, etc. that have a version of Windows (either XP or Vista) preloaded on them. I'm planning on installing a new Intel motherboard, CPU and a couple gigs of RAM.
My question is, when the hard drive boots up to an extremely modified hardware environment, will this cause the OS's antipiracy/activation software to kick in and create problems for me?

Thanks,
-Randy


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 4:56 pm 
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There are two problems. One is that systems from large OEMs (i.e. Dell, HP, etc.) install Windows using a feature called SLP (System Locked Pre-installation). The other problem is that all OEM Windows licenses are non-transferable.

OEM systems from large vendors use SLP (System Locked Pre-installation), where the copy of Windows is locked to a special code used in that manufacturer's BIOS. SLP systems use custom files along with a special key (the same key is used on all SLP systems with the same OS from a given mfr.) that causes Windows to check for that code in the BIOS during boot, and if it is found, no activation is required. With SLP, any or all of the other hardware components in the system could change, and it wouldn't matter since the standard activation code is bypassed as long as a motherboard with the proper SLP code remained. See the section "Product Activation and new pre-loaded PCs" in the following document:

Technical Details on Microsoft Product Activation for Windows XP
http://tinyurl.com/ay57c

However, if the motherboard were changed to one from a different mfr., the SLP check would fail, and Windows would then require standard activation. In that case you could enter the key from the COA (Certificate of Authenticity) on the system, and activate Windows using that key. This will unfortunately require a call to the MS activation hotline since on Feb. 28 2005 internet based activation was disabled for COA keys from large OEM vendors: http://www.betanews.com/article/Microso ... 1109293194

But here's the problem. MS considers OEM licenses as non-transferable, that is they are forever locked to the first motherboard they are installed on. This means that if you change the motherboard in an OEM system, the existing license is not valid for the new board.

Consider an example scenario: You have a Dell with an SLP installation of Windows XP Pro. The system was installed using Dell's SLP key, which is the same on *all* Dell systems with XP Pro preinstalled. The system also has a COA with a printed key on the chassis, but that key was *not* used when the system was installed.

One day you decide to replace the motherboard with an aftermarket board (Intel, Gigabyte, Asus, etc.). Upon booting (assuming you get past potential problems with incompatible chipset drivers and SATA mode changes, which can cause the system to bluescreen on boot), Windows will check for the Dell SLP code in the BIOS, and since it won't be there, the pre-activation will fail. Windows will then boot up in an un-activated state, with a 30-day activation countdown started.

Or to avoid potential problems with drivers, you decide to do a fresh install instead. You can't use the Dell restore disc, since it also checks for the mfr. and won't install on a non-Dell motherboard. No problem, you have a copy of an OEM System Builder or Retail XP Pro disc handy, and install from that. When prompted for a key, you enter the key on the COA attached to the Dell chassis, which is accepted. However, upon finishing the installation, just as with the SLP install, Windows is in an un-activated state, with a 30-day activation countdown started.

At this point you decide to activate, and are initially given the option for internet or telephone activation. The internet based activation fails, so you decide to to the telephone activation instead. You explain to the MS rep that you upgraded the motherboard in your Dell, and wish to re-activate using the key from the COA on the Dell. Unfortunately since OEM licenses are deemed non-transferable, and Microsoft considers a new motherboard a new and different system, the activation is denied. You are offered the option to *purchase* a new license instead.

Now let's examine a slightly different scenario: Everything is the same as the first scenario, except that when talking to the MS rep, you inform them that the original motherboard in your Dell had *failed*, and a replacement had been installed in order to *repair* the machine. Since MS considers a replacement due to failure as NOT to be a transfer, the activation is authorized and you are given a new activation code.

Bottom line: OEM licenses are non-transferable from one motherboard to another, unless the change was made as part of a repair. Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:30 pm 
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Thanks Scott,
Boy, Microsoft sure doesn't make it easy to upgrade! You would think it would be to their advantage to not only allow, but encourage upgrades since it only serves to make their product look faster and more efficient to the end user. Well, you've given me alot to think about. Thanks again.

-Randy


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:53 pm 
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Say Scott,

Just as an afterthought, what if I built a system from scratch and installed a regular OEM Windows package. Would I still have to go through the same procedure (as outlined in your post above) later on if I changed the motherboard on my home built computer? Is the OEM versions of Windows that you or I could buy off the Internet different than that used by Dell & HP in their systems in regards to their upgrade limitations?

Thanks,
-Randy


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:35 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:59 am 
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Gee, I hope I don't forget to strap on my anti-static wristband when I start poking around my customer's motherboards. Does Microsoft put up a fuss if the replacement motherboard is more modern than the original or don't they ask?


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:11 am 
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I've replaced motherboards with "a defect" such as a missing or mis-placed jumper or a missing or dead CMOS battery. After replacement due to these defects, I was able to legally reinstall the existing copy of Windows.

Later, upon examining the boards, I was able to discover the causes of the defects and correct them, which in no way invalidated the original reason for replacement. Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:30 am 
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When you replaced the MB, was it the same brand or have the same BIOS as the original?


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:39 am 
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I've done it both ways, that is with boards from the same mfr. as well as different ones. If the system was from a royalty OEM that used SLP, and you replace the board with one from the same mfr. (i.e. replace an older Dell board with a newer one), then the system can remain pre-activated. Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:35 pm 
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Thanks Scott. That helps alot.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:35 pm 
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Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:30 pm 
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Scott, in the eyes of Microsoft, what would qualify as a "defective" motherboard when it comes to activating a Windows 7 installation? What if a certain motherboard runs Windows 7 very poorly? Would that motherboard qualify as "defective" in the eyes of Microsoft?


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:59 pm 
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Unfortunately I cannot speak for Microsoft on that account, I recommend you ask them directly. Please let us know what they tell you. Scott.


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