Win XP Pro OEM with new Motherboard?

Hi All,

My 6 year old Alienware started throwing off BSODs this past week and after much testing, I'm pretty sure I have a motherboard failure. I was thinking about upgrading for a while anyway, and now it looks like I'm being forced into it :) Of course, I have a whole lot to figure out now and one small part of that is the Operating System.

I've been running a dual boot of Win XP Pro (32bit) and Ubuntu Linux. I figure with the heavily upgraded system I'm about to build, I should probably install Win 7 Pro (64bit). However, I use some old programs and especially games that I'm worried will not work under Win 7 64. So, I'd like to setup a triple boot with Win 7 Pro (64), Win XP Pro (32), and some flavor of Linux.

I have the Alienware-branded Win XP install disk (and I checked the setupp.ini file in the disk's i386 dir and see OEM), so pretty certain I have the OEM XP license. Now, supposedly, a changed motherboard means a "new PC" to Microsoft, so my OEM license should no longer work. Except: MS makes an exception for a defective board (which I have). They go on about how it must be replaced with the same model or it's equivalent, but I'm certainly not going to go out and find some old used board from 6 years ago.

My main question to anyone that can help here is: If I use this OEM XP install disk to put XP on this machine, do you think MS will allow the activation? I've seen in various searches that they may do that, but many of those posts are from a few years ago. Also, I really am just upgrading the same old machine (Yes, it will mean there won't be very many original parts left, since they're all so outdated, but the board is broken :) ).

I'm not trying to skirt the licensing requirements, but from what I read, MS should allow this. It isn't like MS is still selling XP, so it seems odd to force someone to try their luck in the used market when they (I) already have a valid licensed copy that's on a machine I now need to get working again.

Anyway, I'd really appreciate any info or advice on how to approach this.


For reference, here's what MS' licensing FAQ says:
" Q. Can a PC with an OEM Windows operating system have its motherboard upgraded and keep the same license? What if it was replaced because it was defective?
A. Generally, an end user can upgrade or replace all of the hardware components on a computer—except the motherboard—and still retain the license for the original Microsoft OEM operating system software. If the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons other than a defect, then a new computer has been created. Microsoft OEM operating system software cannot be transferred to the new computer, and the license of new operating system software is required. If the motherboard is replaced because it is defective, you do not need to acquire a new operating system license for the PC as long as the replacement motherboard is the same make/model or the same manufacturer's replacement/equivalent, as defined by the manufacturer's warranty.

The reason for this licensing rule primarily relates to the End User Software License Terms and the support of the software covered by that End User Software License Terms. The End User Software License Terms is a set of usage rights granted to the end user by the PC manufacturer and relates only to rights for that software as installed on that particular PC. The system builder is required to support the software on the original PC. Understanding that end users, over time, upgrade their PCs with different components, Microsoft needed to have one base component "left standing" that would still define the original PC. Since the motherboard contains the CPU and is the "heart and soul" of the PC, when the motherboard is replaced (for reasons other than defect) a new PC is essentially created. The original system builder did not manufacture this new PC, and therefore cannot be expected to support it.
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  1. A lot of 32 bit software runs on 64bit. Don't panic until you prove yours don't.
    The few games I play also run as well using PlayOnLinux/Wine as they do on XP.
    And today I was at a computer fair and OEM XP Pro was £20 - so I know it's annoying to pay twice, but it's not a lot.
  2. It likely won't install on a new board. If you buy an OEM license from Microsoft, it will install fine on a new MB but the disk alien-ware/Dell (or any other big OEM) provides will run some checks.

    One option would be to get some MS OEM media (which won't do the checks) and type in the license code that should be on the sticker on the computer or with the alienware disk. (Or pay Dell $500 for a $50 motherboard)
  3. all 32 bit software will run on 64 bit windows

    the PRO version of Win7 also has XP compatibility mode
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