The Grey Chronicles


Keeping Your Windows XP after 2009

Windows XPLast February, I wrote Why I’m Keeping My Windows XP, but did not specify how would I keep my Windows® XP running. I deliberately postponed writing the procedure because I wanted to be sure that what I write here can be done by a novice Administrator and the result would exactly be the same. Also, I tested the following steps myself on my other computer, a desktop PC, while using this laptop to create this post.

Purpose: Windows® XP became publicly available on December 31, 2001, Microsoft announced on 03 April 2008 that for Windows XP Professional, Direct OEM and Retail License Availability ended 30 June 2008 and System Builder License Availability ended 31 January 2009. This means that re-activation of a Licensed Windows XP might not be available after this time. For Windows XP Home Edition, however, Microsoft extended the availability for OEMs to install on Ultra Low-Cost PCs. The new OEM end date will be the later of either June 30, 2010, or one year after the general availability of the next version of Windows.

The aim is to keep your Windows XP even after 2009, especially if it cannot be restored by doing a System Restore thus it might involve a fresh install or a reformat after a malware attack. After 31 January 2009, Windows XP Professional might not be able to be reactivated normally through its Windows Product Activation [WPA] facility. Even in 2004, there were issues that Windows XP prompts the user to re-activate after running Repair (Q302740)or Restore (Q305356).

Assumption: The procedure herein assumes that as Administrator, you definitely have some inkling on the basic computer operations. Thus, the steps will not go much deeper than the usual. If you are not comfortable doing the steps described herein, ask a knowledgeable friend-computer technician to do it for you. It is also assumed that you are reinstalling Windows XP on the same computer, i.e., no new hardware changes: BIOS, CPU, RAM, etc.

Base Scenario: Licensed Windows XP—Professional and Home—with Service Pack 3 released 06 May 2008 applied and Office 2003 Professional suite with Service Pack 3 installed. For location such as %systemroot%\, this is normally C:\ or where the system files of Windows XP is installed.

Resources Needed: Windows XP OEM CD installer, Office 2003 OEM installer, Security (anti-virus, anti-spyware, etc.) installer; and a CD writer or a high-density USB Flash Drive.

Step 1. Backup personal data files.

Primarily back up your hard-to-part data, usually found in C:\Documents and Settings\Username. Remember Username is your User Name, or whatever you elected to be with Administrator rights. You could either use a CD-ROM or a high-density, preferably 5GB, USB Flash Drive to backup your personal data. This would be called your Data Backup Disk. If there are other folders you wish to save for latter, you should make other backup copies as well.

Step 2. Backup your Activation files

WPA FilesBackup your Activation files for both Windows XP and Office 2003. For Windows XP, go to C:\Windows\system32 and copy WPA.DBL and WPA.BAK to your Data Backup Disk. When you activate Windows XP, Microsoft stores the data in WPA database files WPA.DBL and WPA.BAK in %systemroot%\system32 folder. If you change the motherboard or make significant hardware changes, XP will require you to reactive. But if you plan to reinstall XP on the same hardware, you can back up the activation status to your Data Backup Disk and then restore it after you reinstall and avoid the activation process (WindowsNetworking, 2004).

MSO FilesSimilarly, for Office 2003, copy MSO.DLL and MSO.BAK from C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\Office 11 to your Data Backup Disk. When you activate Office 2003, Microsoft changes the installed MSO.DLL with a file of similar name. If you significantly change the installation, i.e., added new features after activation, this file becomes MSO.BAK in C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\Office 11 folder.

Step 3. Reformat Hard Disk.

Say goodbye to your other installed programs and data files and reformat your hard disk.

Step 4. Reinstall Windows XP

Reinstall Windows XP using its Installer CDs. WindowsNetworking (2004) instructs to restore the Windows Product Activation database files:
(a) Start XP to Minimal Safe mode. (b) Change directory to the \%systemroot%\system32 folder. (c) Rename the newly created WPA.DBL to WPA.nonactivated and WPA.BAK, if it exists, to WPA.BAK.nonactivated. (d) Copy your backed up WPA.DBL and WPA.bak files to the \%systemroot%\system32 folder and (e) Reboot.

This should work if you want to avoid activating XP after a reinstall or restore on the same or very similar hardware. It will not work if the hardware is significantly different from that in place when the Windows Product Activation database files were created. This is NOT a hack to avoid activating installations. (WindowsNetworking, 2004)

Step 5. Reinstall Windows XP Service Pack 1 and 2.

Service Pack 1 is normally installed using later versions of Windows XP CD installer; but Service Pack 2 [SP2] is separately contained in a free CD from Microsoft when it was released. Some enterprising individual might have slip-streamed Windows XP with SP2 CD Installer, and this could also be used for Steps 4 and 5. With Windows XP SP2 installed, activate the built-in Firewall. Connect to the Internet then download and reinstall all those security updates and hotfixes released after SP2. Delay installation of Service Pack 3. Never mind installing Internet Explorer 7.0 or its updates, just install those applicable to Internet Explorer 6.0, which is initially installed during Windows XP installation. Anyway, Windows Update could still be used with Internet Explorer 6.0. You might instead opt for Firefox, and manually download and install these updates.

Step 6. Reinstall Office 2003.

Reinstall Office 2003. Delay Activation. Reboot. (a) Start XP to Minimal Safe mode. (b) Change directory to the C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\Office 11 folder. (c) Rename the newly created MSO.DLL to MSO.nonactivated and MSO.bak, if it exists, to MSO.bak.nonactivated. (d) Copy your backed up MSO.DLL and MSO.BAK files to the C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\Office 11 folder and (e) Reboot. After rebooting, install Office 2003 Service Pack 3. Try opening an Office Document, if it asks you to reactivate, close the Office application and copy the MSO files from your backup to your C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\Office 11 folder.

Step 6. Reinstall Windows XP Service Pack 3 [SP3].

It is advisable to reinstall Windows XP SP3 when all pre-SP3 updates have been installed. Microsoft announced during the release of SP3 that the newest service pack does not necessarily contain all those security updates and hotfixes released after SP2.

Step 7. Reinstall Security software.

Install only one [1] anti-virus software, preferably Avira; at least two [2] anti-spyware software, such as Spybot-Search&Destroy or MalwareBytes. After installing these software, be sure that their respective definition database files are up-to-date.

Step 8. Install these FREE necessary PC maintenance tools.

Install a cleaner, disk defragmenter, and deleted file recoverer. I recommend the following from Piriform: CCleaner, Defraggler, and Recuva, respectively. These three tools can perform your weekly PC maintenance. CCleanerCCleaner can remove files that are otherwise difficult to get rid of, such as the backups of security patches that are created each time you run Microsoft Update. It can clean much more than Windows’ built-in Disk Cleanup can, thus should be used carefully as it can also remove things such as browser cookies that you may not want to be removed. DefragglerDefraggler does more than what the built-in Windows defragmenter can do. Aside from defragmenting the whole hard disk which Windows always do and requires at least 15% free disk space, Defraggler can selectively defrag a file, a group of files or a folder at a time, which Windows cannot do and even if the free disk space is smaller than 5%. Most tech experts recommend that Defrag should be done weekly. RecuvaRecuva can recover deleted files more than what the built-in Windows Recycle Bin can restore. Recuva also features a user-friendly GUI showing the state of the deleted files: recoverable or not. For Windows XP Home Edition, encryption is not built-in, thus it is recommended that TrueCrypt is installed.

Step 9. Vista-flavored eye-candy for your Windows XP.

If you want Vista-flavored eye-candy, such as Sidebar and Gadgets, Windows Flip, Interface Tweaks, Desktop Search, Network Management, or Start-up Screens for your newly re-installed Windows XP, try Preston Gralla and Dave Methvin’s Computerworld article.

Step 10. Tweak your Windows XP installation.

If you’re after performance rather than eye-candy, so many sites offer tips to tweak the Windows XP system for faster performance. Several of these recommend to loose the eye-candy, optimize Internet connection, limit the Windows’ junk-file caches or by simply altering some system registry parameters. Here’s some of the recommended sites: PC World, Doug Knox Tweaks and Fixes for Windows® XP, Kelly’s Korner Registry Edits for Windows XP, PCStats Beginner’s Guide 104 Great Tech Tips for Windows XP, and the Elder Geek’s Registry Edits.


WindowsNetworking (2004). Backup / Restore XP Activation. Online: Windows Networking. back to text: 1 | 2 | 3

Gralla, Preston &Dave Methvin (2007). How to make Windows XP last for the next seven years. Online: Computerworld. 18 July 2007. back to text

Important Notice: Although great care was done in writing these steps, as well as actually doing them on a desktop PC, the information contained in these procedures had been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, the author of this post does not make any representation, warranty, or guarantee as to the information contained herein or as to third-party sites referenced in this post, including without limitation regarding their accuracy, correctness, timeliness, reliability, usefulness or completeness, or the results that may be obtained from the use of this post, and disclaim all express, implied or statutory warranties, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness or suitability for a particular purpose, title and noninfringement.

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.

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