You love windows 7, I love windows 7, we all do. So to help you hold on as long as possible, here’s a way to save your activation for when you reinstall.
This method works on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. If it works on any other versions let me know in the comments!
The big cheese
At some point, with just about any OS, you may feel the need to simply reinstall your OS to restart from scratch. Maybe you’re going from a mechanical drive to an SSD and you’d rather work with a fresh install of Windows than a transferred one, or perhaps you just need to go for the nuclear option to eliminate some malware that won’t go away. Whatever the case, for us windows users, there is always one thing that holds us back, ‘What if i run out of activations on my current key and I have to get a new one?‘
Microsoft has a limit on the number of times you can activate your copy of Windows with any one given key. This means that, given enough activations, your key eventually becomes useless and you have to call them up and go through the process of getting a new key. All this, despite the fact that you already bought a key that, technically, would still be just as valid today if only you hadn’t reinstalled windows so many times.
The way I see it, you paid for that key, and that key allows you to install your copy of Windows on one PC. I find it hard to justify have to go through the hassle of re acquiring a new product key just to prove you aren’t stealing when you’d already purchased a product key that would still be serving you had you not fallen for that email scam with the malware in it.
What this workaround does, is simply allows you to transfer over the activation from your old installation, over to a new installation. Keep in mind this will only work when used on the same PC. If you try to use this method to install windows onto a different PC or the same PC with new hardware, the activation will pop up and you will need to re-activate your key.
For users of a brand new computer, be it a desktop or a laptop, Step 2 might prove a very good idea. New computers ship with a factory, or OEM installation of Windows. The product key used by the manufacture allows for an unlimited number of installation (provided the hardware stays exactly the same). This key is different from the one you may find printed on the side of your computer on a Microsoft sticker, that key functions as a consumer version and allows for only a limited number of re-installations.
Reformating and reinstalling Windows on a new computer is a great way to get rid of all the adware PC manufacture’s place on new computers, and by reusing the OEM key you needn’t shed concern over being denied Activation.
There are easier ways to do this, such as using a simple program that does most of this for you. However, in keeping with my goals here on this site, I’m referring you to a more extensive tutorial.
This is because I believe that not only should your technology work for you, but that the more you understand your technology, the more empowered you will become.
Get an external storage unit to store a couple of small files on, be it a thumb drive or whatever you have
Back up the following two files;
I’m going to backup my files to the folder: G:Backup with subfolders /32bit/ and /64bit/
64-bit: Backup both the one above AND the one below;
Let’s make this easier. Open an elevated command prompt and type in the following.
copy %SystemDrive%WindowsServiceProfilesNetWorkServiceAppDataRoamingMicrosoftSoftwarePlatformTokens.dat G:Backup
32-bit users run:
copy %SystemDrive%WindowsSystem32spptokenspkeyconfigpkeyconfig.xrm-ms G:Backup
64-bit users run:
copy %SystemDrive%WindowsSystem32spptokenspkeyconfigpkeyconfig.xrm-ms G:Backup32bit copy %SystemDrive%WindowsSysWOW64spptokenspkeyconfigpkeyconfig.xrm-ms G:Backup64bit
Write down the original Activation key used to activate the current installation. If you can’t find it, you can use a program like System Information for Windows (SIW) to find it.
Reinstall your Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 OS. Do not enter a product key when asked; instead just leave it blank.
It’s probably not necessary, but I recommend you do all of the following off-line, without being on the internet.
In your new installation, stop the Software Protection Service by running the following command from an elevated cmd prompt;
net stop sppsvc
Replace the current pkeyconfig.xrm-ms file with the one you backed up earlier;
Note: You will need to take ownership of the new pkeyconfig.xrm-ms file in order to be able to replace it with the old one.
Note: Anytime the prompt asks if you want to overwrite, type Yes and hit Enter.
Open an elevated command prompt and enter in the following four commands.
cd %SystemDrive%WindowsSystem32spptokenspkeyconfig takeown /f pkeyconfig.xrm-ms icacls pkeyconfig.xrm-ms /grant administrators:F
Then 64-bit users repeat the exact same process for the next folder; %SystemDrive%WindowsSysWOW64spptokenspkeyconfig
cd %SystemDrive%WindowsSysWOW64spptokenspkeyconfig takeown /f pkeyconfig.xrm-ms icacls pkeyconfig.xrm-ms /grant administrators:F
Just to help things go smoothly we’ll take control of the folder as well.
takeown /f %SystemDrive%WindowsSystem32spptokenspkeyconfig /r /d y icacls %SystemDrive%WindowsSystem32spptokenspkeyconfig /grant administrators:F /t
Now we’ll copy the file via command line.
32-bit users run:
copy G:Backup32bitpkeyconfig.xrm-ms %SystemDrive%WindowsSystem32spptokenspkeyconfig
64-bit users run:
copy G:Backup32bitpkeyconfig.xrm-ms %SystemDrive%WindowsSystem32spptokenspkeyconfig copy G:Backup64bitpkeyconfig.xrm-ms %SystemDrive%WindowsSysWOW64spptokenspkeyconfig
Now we need to replace the new tokens.dat file with the backup copy under the folder %SystemDrive%WindowsServiceProfilesNetWorkService AppDataRoamingMicrosoftSoftwarePlatform
First we’ll need to take control of the original file;
cd %SystemDrive%WindowsServiceProfilesNetWorkServiceAppDataRoamingMicrosoftSoftwarePlatform takeown /f pkeyconfig.xrm-ms icacls pkeyconfig.xrm-ms /grant administrators:F
And just to be safe, the folder as well.
takeown /f %SystemDrive%WindowsServiceProfilesNetWorkServiceAppDataRoamingMicrosoftSoftwarePlatform /r /d y icacls %SystemDrive%WindowsServiceProfilesNetWorkServiceAppDataRoamingMicrosoftSoftwarePlatform /grant administrators:F /t
Now we’ll copy from the command line.
copy G:Backuptokens.dat %SystemDrive%WindowsServiceProfilesNetWorkService AppDataRoamingMicrosoftSoftwarePlatform
Run the following command to restart the Software Protection Service.
net start sppsvc
Now register the key with (Replace xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx with your Product Key);
slmgr.vbs -ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
To check and make sure the process worked, run;
That’s all! Thanks for reading. Please let me know if my instructions were clear & helpful enough for you to follow by writing in the comments section below. Lastly, don’t forget to share the article!