Backup or Restore Windows XP without new activation

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 18, 2006
Updated • May 8, 2013
Backup, Windows

You have thirty days to activate a new installation of Microsoft Windows XP before it stops working until you fully activate the operating system. Activation works over the Internet or phone. In both cases, an activation code needs to be entered to make the system fully functional. If you change hardware or install the operating system again, you may have to activate the product again as well which can be a big nuisance if you regularly do that. This does not make sense in my opinion but hey, they surely have an important reason for this procedure.

Now as I said earlier there is a way to reinstall Windows XP without having to activate the product again. Windows XP creates two files when the activation process has successfully completed: wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak - those two files are normally located in your system32 folder of your windows installation. You need to back them up because they hold the information that Windows is already activated.

Install Windows XP again or use a backup. After you have finished that process, and you see that Windows is not activated, start Windows in safe mode. Navigate to the system32 directory and rename the files wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak to something else, for example wpa2.dbl and Wpa2.bak.

Now copy your backed up files wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak into the folder, reboot windows and you will notice that Windows is again activated. This only works of course if you do not change relevant hardware like the motherboard for instance. If that is the case you will have to activate Windows again and there is nothing that you can do about that. source

If you prefer a software solution for the process, try Windows Reactivator. It is a free program that can backup and restore Windows XP activation information, making the whole process comfortable and less of a nuisance. Note that the program is only compatible with Windows XP and no other Microsoft operating system.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Brian said on May 3, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Might work with similar hard drives if the Volume Serial ID and file system (NTFS) format is identical. In other words, use tools to duplicate the partition to new drive, or build similar partition, install XP, then modify the Serial ID with the correct tools… this is not the Volume name, but the Volume Serial Number like 843C-3D55 displayed in a command prompt “dir” listing. With a similar partition and VSN, the backup activation should not detect a change of hardware, unless XP looks deeper into the hard disk architecture.

  2. glm said on August 7, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    The tip described in the last two paragraphs seems doesn’t work if I install or restore xp to a different hard disk (even if they are on the same machine).

  3. thunder7 said on July 19, 2006 at 8:51 pm

    You are a genious If I said it once I will say it again :)
    Thank You for the tip.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.