On a few occasions I have needed to retrieve data and information from a Windows XP hard disk drive when I do not have the actual computer to work with. When that copy of Windows XP is an OEM version or other version that requires re-activation due to hardware change, I am caught in this endless “You must activate” loop that does not allow me to logon or even get past the activation screen. Often I only need to run a few tools in order to recover passwords, recently opened documents, internet history, cache, or access to the disk drive.
A very easy, and only minimally annoying, work around to this activation is achieved by simply following the below steps;
- Boot into Windows,
- Choose the user you wish to logon as,
- You will get a message that you need to activate, click “OK:,
- When you see the next screen, “Activate Windows”, Press the “Windows Key + U”,
- At this point you will see the “Narrator” screen, In the title bar of the Narrator screen click the little icon of a computer and choose “About Narrator”,
- In the text of the next screen you will see a web link called “Microsoft Web site”, click that link and IE will open,
- In the navigation bar, type “C:\” and you will get an error message, however, at this point you can access the start menu and everything in it.
You will have a short time that you can access the c drive and other drives, along with applications, CD\DVD, thumb drives, and you can execute programs. After some time you may encounter an error and be brought back to IE, simply type “C:\” back into the navigation bar and start over again.
John "Mike" Wright