Windows XPWindows XP stores the hardware configuration information of the computer at the time of activation, product activation state status, expiration info of the XP installation, and the current hardware specification in WPA.DBL file which located in %SystemRoot%\System32 folder. To secure the WPA.DBL file, Microsoft encrypts the file with RC4 algorithm. However, WPA.DBL file is not protected, and if user deletes it, user will have to re-activate Windows XP again. User won’t be able to restore WPA.DBL in System Restore as it’s not included in the backup mechanism.

Since all activation confirmation is saved in WPA.DBL file, users can backup and transfer the existing activated WPA.DBL file to automatic activate Windows to activated state if users choose to reload or reinstall Windows XP in fresh clean state. By replacing the new WPA.DBL in new XP installation and rolling back to the activated WPA.DBL, users can skip and do not need to perform online activation process again or have to call Microsoft activation hotline and type activation code consists of extra long number of characters.

Note that the trick only works if users does not make significant hardware change. On each system boot, Windows analyzes system current hardware and compares it to the stored hardware configuration information. If there is any hardware change, Windows makes a note of the changes in the WPA file, but also keeps the original configuration for reference. If the change is too significant, or there have been already too many changes, Windows XP will reset the WPA.DBL file back to its original non-activated (file about only 2K in size) state, and users have to reactivate.

If users plan to make any hardware configuration change, it’s also recommended to back up the WPA.DBL file so that users can easily roll back to already activated state without contacting Microsoft again whenever the hardware change is removed due to incompatibility.

How to backup or transfer out the Windows XP activation information

  • Open My Computer or Windows Explorer.
  • Navigate to the %SystemRoot%\System32 folder (normally C:\Windows\System32). You may have to click on the Show the contents of this folder link to display the files.
  • Copy WPA.DBL and WPA.BAK to a floppy disk, USB key flash drive, portable external hard disk or burn the files to a CD or DVD.
  • Go ahead to reformat hard disk drive and reinstall Windows XP on the same computer.
  • After the installation is completed and the Windows XP Out of Box Experience (OOBE) window appear, click on No button when asked if user want to activate to skip and decline going through the activation process.
  • Restart the computer and press F8 on boot up and then select to start in Minimal Safe Mode in “Advanced Boot Options” menu.
  • Open My Computer or Windows Explorer.
  • Navigate to the %SystemRoot%\System32 folder (normally C:\Windows\System32). You may have to click on the Show the contents of this folder link to display the files.
  • Rename the WPA.DBL and WPA.BAK (if exists) that currently reside in the directory.
  • Copy the original WPA.DBL and WPA.BAK previously backed up to the %SystemRoot%\System32 folder.
  • Restart the computer. Windows XP should be activated instantly and automatically.

The hack above won’t work for transferring activation information from one computer to another, thus don’t expect to be able to crack and bypass XP activation by copying the files from other PC.

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