OEM licenses for XP are nontransferable

By Scott Dunn

My Mar. 6 article on buying systems with XP preinstalled stated that your XP license lets you remove the operating system from one machine and install it on another.

But that’s only true if you bought a retail copy of Windows XP, not a version that came preinstalled on your PC.

Not all copies of XP are licensed equally

Regarding the transfer of Windows XP to a different machine, reader Elin H. Flashman made the same point as many readers:

  • “I just wanted to correct the error in your article. Most people have preinstalled versions of XP (OEM), and those are legally tied to the motherboard. Only retail editions allow you to transfer from one PC to another. This is explained in a Microsoft document (a Word .doc file), which provides more details.”
Thanks for clarifying that distinction, Elin.

Note that if you have any difficulty activating a retail copy of XP on another machine, you can call Microsoft at the number on the screen and explain the situation. This is likely to get you the activation code you need, regardless of how you bought XP.

Include the world in your driver search

When looking for XP-compatible drivers for newer hardware, Randy Curtin has this suggestion:

  • “Another tip you may give your readers is to check the manufacturer’s European sites (for example, English-speaking sites, such as the United Kingdom). They may be offering XP drivers for machines sold in that country. I found three drivers for my Acer notebook that weren’t available on their USA site because of Vista’s stranglehold here.

    “I actually bought a copy of XP Professional for this notebook (which came with Vista), because it was such a dog. The machine runs great with XP.”

Thanks, Randy. Many large companies have region-specific Web sites with different content for each. Some ask you to specify a country when you go to the main site. Others require you to select a country from a drop-down list or link. But with a little looking around, you can usually find your way to one of these regional versions.

Naturally, you should take care to ensure the drivers you download and install were intended for your specific hardware.

Another shopping alternative for XP systems

My Mar. 6 article pointed out some PC makers that still sell computer systems with Windows XP preinstalled or with XP downgrade discs. But reader David Yancey has another suggestion for last-minute shopping before the June 2008 deadline:

  • “Your article ignored a major option for those who are trying to avoid the Vista morass as long as possible. With a bit of search work, it is still possible to find refurbished Windows XP desktop computers from reputable online sellers.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2008-03-13: