I am upgrading my 8 year old dell desktop and am going to replace the hard drive, motherboard, CPU and RAM. I'd like to transfer the windows xp home edition that's on the old Dell to the new hard drive. I have the product code on the side of the machine, so what should my process be? Do I first install on the new hard drive with the Dell OS disk and then call Microsoft, or should I first ask Microsoft for an activation key? Before anyone asks, I prefer not to upgrade to Windows 7. Trying to save money here.
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You can't transfer the OEM version of Windows on your Dell computer to a new one. It violates the terms of the EULA.
The hard drive, CPU, and RAM are no problem. But the new motherboard makes it a new computer, so you won't be able to activate it.
But the good news is that it probably wouldn't have worked anyway. The Dell installation disk would only work with a Dell motherboard. (I am making the assumption here that you are buying a retail motherboard rather than trying to get a replacement Dell one.)
Actually, Windows will install, but without a valid non-Dell OEM product key, it won't activate. If you use the Dell key on a non-Dell motherboard, you'll get "Invalid product key". If you have an alternate, plain-Jane OEM key, it will work.