Windows XP activation algorithm cracked, keygen now works on Linux
The unkillable OS rises from the grave… Again
Over 21 years after it first came out, the Microsoft operating system that will not die is receiving another lease of life. It's possible to activate new Windows XP installations, safely and securely, without a crack, offline.
A blog post on tinyapps has revealed the hot news that nobody sane has been waiting for: the algorithm and methods Microsoft uses to validate Windows XP product keys have not only been defeated, it can be done so using Linux.
In all, it's possible to generate valid activation codes for Windows XP without an internet connection. This is useful because the OS shouldn't really be connected to the 'net, and as-is can no longer talk to Microsoft's servers to activate anyway.
From what we can tell, the product activation algorithm was cracked some time ago, and in 2019 an open-source key generator was released that could output "endless Windows XP keys." That program required external activation services to complete the validation and installation of the OS, though, which is tricky if those services are no longer usable or reachable.
Crucially, last year, someone shared a Windows executable that can generate the confirmation ID codes needed to complete the activation process entirely offline. So you take the product key generator and the ID-outputting .exe, use them together, and you get to activate Windows XP without the internet nor Microsoft's help and without having to use a crack.
This month, that aforementioned open-source key generator was forked, and fixed up to work on Linux. It still appears to need the ID-generating .exe, but hey, at least it's working. The mystery executable is also being reverse engineered to find out how it ticks, we're told.
And bear in mind, we're focusing today on the activation algorithm being defeated; Windows XP was cracked with tweaks, workarounds, and unofficial patches that thwarted its piracy protection as soon as it was launched at the turn of the millennium. Here we're talking about generating valid codes without having to alter the system.
This is not a recommendation
A word of caution and restraint. Please don't take this article as a recommendation to run Windows XP. It wasn't the most secure of operating systems back in 2001, and you really should not be running it in 2023 — especially not on anything that is connected to the internet.
However, saying that, the problem is that sometimes people need to. There is, for example, hardware out there that only works with Windows XP and won't work with anything newer… and some of it might be very expensive hardware, which is still perfectly functional — but which requires a long-obsolete version of Windows to operate it.
If you are lumbered with such a device, or you have got some single specific and very particular piece of software that you need to run and which doesn't work properly on any newer version of Windows, then you may be forced to use XP. If so, one of the problems is that Microsoft has turned off the activation servers, so even if you install clean fresh copy, you can no longer activate it over the internet.
As an FYI, we're told the telephone activation service for Win XP still works, so that may be an option for you. Some folks also provide alternative ways to perform online activation of Windows XP that continues to work.
We've tested the XP keygen tools in question on a fresh XP Mode VM in VirtualBox – the very handy add-in for Windows 7 which we wrote about nearly a decade back. (Obviously, that was quite a while ago now, and Microsoft has removed the downloads from its website — but there is a copy on the Internet Archive, as of course there is of the installation CD itself.)
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If you are absolutely determined to go online with XP in the 2020s, then you aren't going to get far with Internet Explorer 6.0. Even installing IE 8, the last version for XP, won't help very much – it can no longer open Microsoft.com, for example. Seamonkey version 2.49.5 is about the latest open source browser that we are aware of that still works on XP, but you could also try Opera version 36, which you will find low down on the company's downloads page.
Avast also offers a version of its free antivirus program which will still work on XP. We hope that we don't need to point this out, but we'd advise against going to random download sites that you find on Google to get hold of older versions. If it's legitimate, you can probably still get it directly from the vendor – unless that vendor is Microsoft, in which case you're on your own. For once, we can't entirely blame it.
The same tinyapps.org site itself is a treasure trove of minimalist applications for this long obsolete OS. We are told that there is an active community of XP fans on the internet helping each other out with advice on keeping this geriatric code running today, but really, seriously, please don't unless you have absolutely no alternative. If it's an option, run it in a VM, and keep it isolated from the internet. ®
Editor's note: This article was revised to include more information about the changes to and development of the open-source keygen program.