Access Internet and Files on an expired Windows installation

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 14, 2006
Updated • Nov 6, 2017

You got 30 days to activate your Windows operating system, once the time period is over you can't log into Windows anymore and most users feel a little desperate. What can they do to access their important files, where can they find help about this problem?

Note: Microsoft changed how the system works in newer versions of Windows. Users don't get locked out completely anymore.

Steve discovered a clever way to access the internet and file folders from the login screen of an expired Windows installation.

Once you try to log in an error message is displayed that explains that Windows can't be started before it is activated. Click Yes on that screen which opens up a Lets activate window. Press Windows + U and click on the computer icon on the left corner of the new window. Select About Narrator in the drop down menu which opens some information about this function and a link that is called Microsoft Web Site.

Clicking that link opens the Internet Explorer browser and you can browse the web as usual to find information about the problem.

Instead of opening an URL you can also use Internet Explorer to display folders on your operating system; et voila, you can access the internet and your files on a locked Windows system.

This is of course only a temporary solution, you will need to find a way to activate your windows system. A better way for situations like these would be to have a Linux live CD at hand so that you can use it to access the Internet and browse your local files.

You can alternatively try the rearm command to extend the activation period. Check out Extend the Vista activation period for instance to find out how to do that under Windows Vista. Similar options are available for users running Windows 7 or even newer operating systems than that.

The method basically resets the activation timer so that you start again at day 0 of registration. You cannot repeat the process indefinitely though, but it may be sufficient to resolve issues that you experience.

Article Name
Access Internet and Files on an expired Windows installation
Find out how to access the Internet and files on the local system on Windows devices that are not activated and expired.
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  1. tash said on December 15, 2006 at 4:05 am

    usually you can just press CTRL+ALT+DEL and goto file > new task and run explorer.exe
    I used this for a few weeks when i hadn’t activated windows yet

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