Your XP questions answered--straight from the horse's mouth

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1. I work in corporate IS. How does activation affect me? Do I need a separate install disk for each computer?

Mark Croft: No. Beginning with a minimum of five PCs, corporate customers may take advantage of Microsoft's volume licensing programs. For these customers, Microsoft will provide a Volume License Product Key that allows users to bypass product activation. Customers can then use Microsoft's documented deployment tools such as Custom Installation Wizard (CIW) in Office XP and unattended setup in Windows XP to automate product key entry into network and custom CD install images so that end users are never prompted to enter a product key during product installation.

2. I like to rebuild my computer occasionally--wipe the hard drive and reinstall the OS. Will I have to call Microsoft for an activation code each time?

Croft: No. If the hardware remains the same then Product Activation will generate the same key that will map exactly to the existing key held at the clearinghouse--so users can just use the Web-based activation. No call required.

Also, if the PC came with XP pre-installed (via an OEM), then activation only inspects part of the BIOS--so the user can wipe-and-load and change all the hardware (except the BIOS) without needing to call.

If the PC has been upgraded using retail media and hardware gets changed, then the technical market bulletin located here documents the hardware changes that may be made before triggering the need to reactivate.

To summarize, if the PC is not dockable and a network adapter exists and is not changed, six or more of the 10 components (see the link above for the 10 components) must be changed before reactivation is required. If a network adapter existed but is changed (or never existed at all), modifying 4 or more of the 10 components will result in a need to reactivate.

Microsoft has also recognized that certain users may wish to change components frequently. As a result, Microsoft recently implemented time-based reactivation. Every 120 days, the current configuration of a user's PC will "reset to zero," so to speak. Starting from that 120th day, users may swap out hardware components as described above. After another 120 days passes, the PC "sets to zero" again, and users once again may swap out hardware components. This time-based reactivation is designed to provide users with greater flexibility to change their systems

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I guess the rumor that I had heard is full of bull about having to buy 250+ copies of the software to be able to bypass the product activation...

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