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O/S Deployment Thread, Imaging and Windows VLK in Technical; AS mentioned in previous threads, I'm almost through re-imaging all the desktops at school. Having setup a fog server and ...
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    rocknrollstar's Avatar
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    Imaging and Windows VLK

    AS mentioned in previous threads, I'm almost through re-imaging all the desktops at school. Having setup a fog server and sysprep'd all the machines, I've got 1 final issue (that I know of, anyway!).

    The desktops I am rebuilding are all from the same company, and the same batch- same spec, same hardware and installed at the same time. They have a VLK, which I have used keyfinder.exe to get.

    All the machines have worked fine, apart from one. Sysprep has automatically entered the VLK, and they don't appear to have needed to be activated (at least Windows Activation doesn't show up on the desktop).

    Apart from one! A machine has had the same image put onto it, but doesn't seem to be activated. It goes through sysprep ok, and has the key put in automatically, but when booting into windows, it then starts the activation wizard (both the keys icon in the taskbar, and the newer Windows Activation stamp/star).

    Other machines were imaged after this pc, so it can't be that the number of machines that can be activeated with this VLK has been exceeded, if that can ever happen.

    I've also phoned the activation phone number, typed in the numbers, but it gives an error and asks me to reinput the VLK (a cyclic process starts!).

    Any thoughts? Baffles me that this is the only problem pc, same as the others, but has this problem. Only solution I can see is to reimage every 29 days!

    Thanks in advance.

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    Batman's Avatar
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    My first recommendation would be to blank the hard drive (using dban or killdisk, they're on the Ultimate Boot CD) to get rid of any oddities on the drive (just let it run up to 2% if you're in a hurry, that'll suffice for what we're doing) and then reimage, see if it does it again.

    Now, when you say "VLK", we all think you mean "Volume License Key" but if you have a volume license you should have it written down somewhere already, so are you sure you're not just using an OEM key? The other reason I'm doubting it's volume is that I've never, ever seen a system installed with volume media & key ask for activation, it's just not how the thing works. Do the machines have license stickers on them?

    I think what you've done (I am prepared to be corrected, mind you) is pull the OEM license key out of one machine and used it to deploy to all the others, if this is the case you're actually violating the license agreement.

    The other possibility I can think of is that most manufacturers are allowed to use some kind of pre-activation product key which locks into something in the bios of the machine and means you don't have to activate; you can find out what the key is for a particular sort of machine if you run something like winkey finder on the preinstalled OS, much like you did to get the keys off your machines. I'm not sure of the legality of using it but it does work in sysprep, in the way you've described, and sometimes they don't work first time either. So maybe what you've done is use that?

    Whichever way it is, it sounds like you're using an OEM installation not volume. I hope this helps you figure things out, sorry it's more problems than answers!

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    Thanks Batman for your help and ideas. I'm not sure really if it's an OEM or VLK, however I do know that there aren't any license stickers on the side or back, and that all the pcs purchased at that time share the same key (I checked on several before I imaged them).

    Forgot to mention that I also tried putting in the Microsoft VLK key for XP Professional 32bit (although I can't remember it's exact name), but that didn't work either.

    Thanks for any continuing ideas!

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    Why did you sysprep all your machines? you only supposed to do your image.

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    Sorry, no I only sysprep'd the imaged machine.

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    This might help, if you sysprep OEM machines, you'll need to keep the pre-activated state of the machine.

    Try these link

    Preserving OEM Pre-Activation when Re-installing Windows XP

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    Batman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rocknrollstar View Post
    Forgot to mention that I also tried putting in the Microsoft VLK key for XP Professional 32bit (although I can't remember it's exact name), but that didn't work either.
    If that's the case then what you have probably isn't volume. If you want to find out, find a laptop or something else with OEM xp pro, type in the code from the sticker and if it accepts it you're using OEM.

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    So I take it an OEM key doesn't rely on the actual copy of windows being installed (i.e. they aren't tightly paired), but it's more the fact that the OEM key is registered with MS, and can effectively be used with any OEM installation of Windows XP Pro, but only a certain number of times before MS get suspicious.

    I'll try stick in an OEM XP Pro Key- We have several HP Laptops that I am pretty sure are OEM.

    Thanks again for your help.

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    Batman's Avatar
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    Well, that's not exactly it.

    To sum up

    OEM Licensed software is intended to be supplied by the manufacturer with the machine. The license is denoted by the COA (certificate of authenticity) sticker on the computer. It should only be used on the computer it is supplied with, the license does not permit you to use it on more than one computer, you're not supposed to transfer it to another computer either. The only exception to this rule is in the case of a Vista downgrade. MS say you can use any product key you like.

    RETAIL is similar to OEM, each license has its own product key, it can only be installed and used on one machine. Only difference is, it isn't manufacturer supplied, anyone can buy it off the shelf.

    VOLUME licensed software still requires you to buy a license for each individual copy of the software but they supply you with one key, it works on trust basically. That's why you don't have to activate it.


    You need to realise the importance of this - there are legal ramifications to installing this software. You need to know how those computers are licensed and where the licenses are, it's not GPL!! If you don't know how those machines are licensed, it's a problem.

    What make are the computers?

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    Thanks Batman for the really useful summary. Nice to have things in plain English! Certianly need to be careful not to violate any agreement/law as far as licensing goes. Thanks for the reminder.

    The desktop PCs are made (badged) by Centerprise. They are several years old, but aren't giving up yet. They were all ordered before I arrived at the school, and we haven't got any support contracts with them anymore.

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    I believe that you can tell whether your XP installation is VLK or OEM if you right click on My Computer and select Properties.

    Then go on General Tab, and under “Registered to:” you can see a product ID (divided into 4 seperated groups of characters).

    On an OEM installation, the 2nd group of characters is always OEM whereas on a VLK and maybe Retail as well, you will see numbers (such as 623).


    Also by looking at the file "setupp.ini" in the I386 directory of your XP CD, you can tell what kind of license key you have. An OEM version has the word “OEM” included in the line that says “Pid=XXXXXOEM” and a VLK versionI(possibly Retail as well) has just numbers.

  17. 4 Thanks to dtakias:

    Batman (27th May 2009), dalsoth (5th June 2009), Ignatius (4th June 2009), rocknrollstar (27th May 2009)

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    Thanks dtakias, that's useful to know. I've found out it's not a VLK, but an OEM.

    What I don't understand is why it makes a difference when I try and activate it. I've got 24 pcs that have activated fine with the OEM key, and one that hasn't! They are all imaged from the same image, with sysprep filling in the same OEM key in each one.

    Any thoughts?

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    That sometimes happens. When I've done Vista downgrades in the past I've used the same key several times without any problems but it's not supposed to work like that, I don't know what Microsoft are up to!

    When you activate an OEM key you're not supposed to be able to activate again using that key for several months, unless you phone them. This is to stop people doing what you just did and using the same key on several machines So the reason you can't activate the last one is that the system is (finally!) doing its job.

    I suspect that Microsoft allow a greater amount than this now because they got fed up of people phoning them to activate legitimate Vista downgrades. It makes it easier to copy XP now, though.

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    sparkeh's Avatar
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    I think that you are breaking the EULA by using OEM licenses to image. OEM licenses so not have re-imaging rights.
    Re-imaging requires you to use volume licence media available when you have a volume licence.

    Quote Originally Posted by Batman View Post
    VOLUME licensed software still requires you to buy a license for each individual copy of the software but they supply you with one key, it works on trust basically. That's why you don't have to activate it.
    After looking into VLKs myself recently I am not sure that this is true

    After reading this briefing document and particularly the paragraph below, I believe that as long as the machine is licensed (through whatever method) you can use your VLK.

    Quote from Microsoft reimaging rules
    Benefits
    One key benefit of licensing Microsoft software under a Microsoft Volume Licensing program is that customers can use Volume Licensing media to deploy the same standard image of software across multiple licensed devices. It does not matter whether those devices are licensed under that particular Volume Licensing program or through OEM or FPP. Using standard images can help with:

    More timely software deployment.
    Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) through easier deployment.
    Standardization of software on multiple devices and streamlined product activation.

    Reimaging Eligibility
    Reimaging is permitted if the copies made from the Volume Licensing media are identical to the originally licensed product. Volume Licensing customers who have licensed Microsoft software products from an OEM, through a retail source, or under any agreement other than their Microsoft Volume Licensing agreement may use copies made from Microsoft Volume Licensing media. Customers can use these copies from Microsoft media only if they are the same product and version, contain the same components, and are in the same language.

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    Batman's Avatar
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    Where I used to work one of our customers were buying OEM licenses and installing all their software using their VLK. They got stung pretty bad on a Microsoft audit... had to pay a fine and everything. They tried to drag us into it too, because we were rolling out the images they supplied to us so they said we were "helping" them do it wrong. Fact of the matter was it was their mistake.

    But anyway... judging by the bit you quoted, it does look like you can do it now... although it might not be that helpful in this instance, what he's trying to do is kind of the opposite!



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