The Windows XP activation algorithm has been cracked

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 installations, safely and securely, without a crack, off line.

A blog post on tinyapps has revealed the hot news that nobody sane has been waiting for: the algorithm that Microsoft uses to validate Windows XP product keys has been cracked and reimplemented. As a result it's now possible to generate valid activation codes for Windows XP, without an internet connection, even though Microsoft has turned off all the activation servers.

This is not a recommendation

But first, 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. (Allegedly, the telephone activation service still works, if that's an option for you.)

We've tested the tool 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.)

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, 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 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. ®

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