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Windows XP Service Pack 2


Windows XP Service Pack 2

Windows XP
Part of the Microsoft Windows family
Screenshot of Windows XP
Microsoft Corporation
Initial release August 24, 2001; 12 years ago (2001-08-24) [availability October 25, 2001; 12 years ago (2001-10-25) [release 5.1 (Build 2600: Service Pack 3) (April 21, 2008; 6 years ago (2008-04-21)) [info]
Source model Closed source, Shared source[1]
License Proprietary commercial software
Kernel type Hybrid
Update method Windows Update
Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)
System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)
Platform support IA-32, x86-64 and Itanium
Preceded by Windows 2000 (2000)
Windows ME (2000)
Succeeded by Windows Vista (2007)
Support status
Mainstream support Ended on April 14, 2009[2]
Extended support Extended Support until April 8, 2014 for Windows XP with Service Pack 3[3] and Windows XP x64 Edition with Service Pack 2. Extended support for Windows XP Embedded ends on January 12, 2016.[2]
Downgrade support Available until end of Windows 7 lifecycle[4]

Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops and media centers. First released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001,[5] it is the second most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base.[6] The name "XP" is short for "eXPerience",[7] highlighting the enhanced user experience.[8]

Windows XP, the successor to Windows 2000 and Windows ME, was the first consumer-oriented operating system produced by Microsoft to be built on the Windows NT kernel. Windows XP was released worldwide for retail sale on October 25, 2001, and over 400 million copies were in use in January 2006.[9] It was succeeded by Windows Vista in January 2007. Direct OEM and retail sales of Windows XP ceased on June 30, 2008. Microsoft continued to sell Windows XP through their System Builders (smaller OEMs who sell assembled computers) program until January 31, 2009.[10][11] On April 10, 2012, Microsoft reaffirmed that extended support for Windows XP and Office 2003 would end on April 8, 2014 and suggested that administrators begin preparing to migrate to a newer OS.[12][13][14]

The NT-based versions of Windows, which are programmed in C, C++, and assembly,[15] are known for their improved stability and efficiency over the 9x versions of Microsoft Windows.[16][17] Windows XP presented a significantly redesigned graphical user interface, a change Microsoft promoted as more user-friendly than previous versions of Windows. In an attempt to further ameliorate the "DLL hell" that plagued the past versions of Windows, improved side-by-side assembly technology in Windows XP allows side-by-side installation, registration and servicing of multiple versions of globally shared software components in full isolation.[18][19] It is also the first version of Windows to use product activation to combat illegal copying.

During Windows XP's development, the project was codenamed "Whistler", after Whistler, British Columbia, as many Microsoft employees skiied at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort.[20]

According to web analytics data generated by Net Applications, Windows XP was the most widely used operating system until August 2012, when Windows 7 overtook it.[21] As of August 2013, Windows XP market share is at 33.66%, having decreased almost every month since at least November 2007, the first month for which statistics are publicly available from Net Applications.[22]

New and updated features

User interface

User interface elements
145px 145px
Default theme Classic user interface
145px 145px
"Royale" theme of Media Center edition Updated start menu, now featuring two columns
The "task grouping" feature introduced in Windows XP showing both grouped and individual items

Windows XP featured a new task-based GUI (Graphical user interface). The Start menu and taskbar were updated and many visual effects were added, including:

  • A translucent blue selection rectangle in Windows Explorer
  • Drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop
  • Task-based sidebars in Explorer windows ("common tasks")
  • The ability to group the taskbar buttons of the windows of one application into one button, with a popup menu listing the window titles
  • The ability to lock the taskbar to prevent accidental changes (Windows 2000 with Internet Explorer 6 installed had the ability to lock Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer toolbars, but not the taskbar)
  • The highlighting of recently added programs on the Start menu
  • Shadows under menus (Windows 2000 had shadows under mouse pointers, but not menus)

Windows XP analyzes the performance impact of visual effects and uses this to determine whether to enable them, so as to prevent the new functionality from consuming excessive additional processing overhead. Users can further customize these settings.[23] Some effects, such as alpha compositing (transparency and fading), are handled entirely by many newer video cards. However, if the video card is not capable of hardware alpha blending, performance can be substantially degraded, and Microsoft recommends the feature should be turned off manually.[24] Windows XP added the ability for Windows to use "Visual Styles" to change the appearance of the user interface. However, visual styles must be cryptographically signed by Microsoft to run. Luna is the name of the new visual style that is provided with Windows XP, and is enabled by default for machines with more than 64 MiB of RAM. Luna refers only to one particular visual style, not to all of the new user interface features of Windows XP as a whole. Some users "patch" the uxtheme.dll file that restricts the ability to use visual styles, created by the general public or the user, on Windows XP.[25]

In addition to the included Windows XP themes, there is one previously unreleased theme with a dark blue taskbar and window bars similar to Windows Vista titled "Royale Noir" available as unofficial download.[26] Microsoft officially released a modified version of this theme as the "Zune" theme, to celebrate the launch of its Zune portable media player in November 2006. The differences are only visual with a new glassy look along with a black taskbar instead of dark blue and an orange start button instead of green.[27] Additionally, the Media Center "Royale" theme, which was included in the Media Center editions, is also available to download for use on all Windows XP editions.[28]

The default wallpaper, Bliss, is a photo of a landscape in the Napa Valley outside Napa, California,[29] with rolling green hills and a blue sky with stratocumulus and cirrus clouds.

The "classic" interface from Windows 9x and 2000 can be used instead if preferred. Several third party utilities exist that provide hundreds of different visual styles.

Other features

Users in British schools observed the improved ease of use and advanced capabilities – comparing the former to RISC OS and Mac OS, and the latter to Unix.[41]

Removed features

Main article: List of features removed in Windows XP

Some of the programs and features that were part of the previous versions of Windows did not make it to Windows XP. CD Player, DVD Player and Imaging for Windows are removed as Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, Windows Media Player and Windows shell take over their duties. NetBEUI and NetDDE are deprecated and are not installed by default. DLC and AppleTalk network protocols are removed. Plug-and-play–incompatible communication devices (like modems and network interface cards) are no longer supported.

Service Pack 2 and Service Pack 3 also remove features from Windows XP but to a less noticeable extent. For instance, Program Manager and support for TCP half-open connections are removed in Service Pack 2. Energy Star logo and the address bar on taskbar are removed in Service Pack 3.


Main article: Windows XP editions

The two major editions are Windows XP Home Edition, designed for home users, and Windows XP Professional, designed for business and power users. XP Professional contains advanced features that the average home user would not use. However, these features are not necessarily missing from XP Home. They are simply disabled, but are there and can become functional. These releases were made available at retail outlets that sell computer software, and were preinstalled on computers sold by major computer manufacturers. A third edition, called Windows XP Media Center Edition, was introduced in 2002 and was updated every year until 2006 to incorporate new digital media, broadcast television and Media Center Extender capabilities. Unlike the Home and Professional edition, it was never made available for retail purchase, and was typically either sold through OEM channels, or was preinstalled on computers that were typically marketed as "media center PCs".

Two different 64-bit editions were made available. One, designed specifically for Itanium-based workstations, was introduced in 2001 at around the same time as the Home and Professional editions, but was discontinued a few years later when vendors of Itanium hardware stopped selling workstation-class machines due to low sales. The other, called Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, supports the x86-64 extension. x86-64 was implemented first by AMD as "AMD64", found in AMD's Opteron and Athlon 64 chips, and later implemented by Intel as "Intel 64" (formerly known as IA-32e and EM64T), found in some of Intel's Pentium 4 and later chips.

Windows XP Tablet PC Edition was produced for a class of specially designed notebook/laptop computers called tablet PCs. It is compatible with a pen-sensitive screen, supporting handwritten notes and portrait-oriented screens.

Microsoft also released Windows XP Embedded, an edition for specific consumer electronics, set-top boxes, kiosks/ATMs, medical devices, arcade video games, point-of-sale terminals, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) components. In July 2006, Microsoft released Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, a thin client version of Windows XP Embedded which targets older machines (as early as the original Pentium). It is only available to Software Assurance customers. It is intended for corporate customers who may wish to upgrade to Windows XP so they can take advantage of its security and management capabilities, but cannot afford to purchase new hardware.

Editions for specific markets

Windows XP Starter Edition is a lower-cost edition of Windows XP available in Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, India, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Uruguay, Pakistan and Venezuela. It is similar to Windows XP Home, but is limited to low-end hardware, can only run three programs at a time, and has some other features either removed or disabled by default. Each country's edition is also customized for that country, including desktop backgrounds of popular locations, localized help features for those who may not speak English, and other default settings designed for easier use than typical Windows XP installations. The Malaysian version, for example, contains a desktop background of the Kuala Lumpur skyline.[42]

In March 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft €497 million (US$603 million) and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. The Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players". After unsuccessful appeals in 2004 and 2005, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Commission where it would release a court-compliant version, Windows XP Edition N. This version does not include the company's Windows Media Player but instead encourages users to pick and download their own media player. Microsoft wanted to call this version Reduced Media Edition, but EU regulators objected and suggested the Edition N name, with the N signifying "not with Media Player" for both Home and Professional editions of Windows XP. Because it is sold at the same price as the version with Windows Media Player included, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens have chosen not to stock the product. However, Dell did offer the operating system for a short time. Consumer interest has been low, with roughly 1,500 units shipped to OEMs, and no reported sales to consumers.[43][44][45][46]

In December 2005, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ordered Microsoft to make available editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that do not contain Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger.[47] Like the European Commission decision, this decision was based on the grounds that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market to push other products onto consumers. Unlike that decision, however, Microsoft was also forced to withdraw the non-compliant versions of Windows from the South Korean market. This decision resulted in Microsoft's releasing "K" and "KN" variants of the Home and Professional editions in August 2006.

That same year, Microsoft also released two additional editions of Windows XP Home Edition directed towards subscription-based and pay-as-you-go pricing models. These editions, released as part of Microsoft's FlexGo initiative, are used in conjunction with a hardware component to enforce time limitations on the usage of Windows. Its target market is emerging economies such as Brazil and Vietnam.[48]


Windows XP was available in many languages.[49] In addition, MUI packs and Language Interface Packs translating the user interface were also available for certain languages.[50][51]

ATMs and Vendors

Automated teller machine (ATM) vendors Wincor Nixdorf, NCR Corporation and Diebold Incorporated have all adopted Microsoft Windows XP as their migration path from OS/2. Wincor Nixdorf, which has been pushing for standardization for many years, began shipping ATMs with Windows when they first arrived on the scene.

Diebold initially shipped XP Home Edition exclusively, but following extensive pressure from customer banks to support a common operating system, it switched to support XP Professional to match its primary competitors, NCR Corporation and Wincor Nixdorf.

Redbox DVD Vending machines run a modified version of XP designed for the fullscreen User Interface of the Vending Touchscreen and the DVD vending itself.

Service packs

Microsoft occasionally releases service packs for its Windows operating systems to fix problems and add features. Each service pack is a superset of all previous service packs and patches so that only the latest service pack needs to be installed, and also includes new revisions.[52] However if you still have the earliest version of Windows XP on Retail CD (without any service packs included), you will need to install SP1 or SP2, before SP3 can be installed. Older service packs need not be manually removed before application of the most recent one. Windows Update "normally" takes care of automatically removing unnecessary files.

Windows XP was criticized by some users for security vulnerabilities, tight integration of applications such as Internet Explorer 6 and Windows Media Player, and for aspects of its default user interface.[53][54] Service Pack 2, Service Pack 3, and Internet Explorer 8 addressed some of these concerns.

The service pack details below only apply to the 32-bit editions. Windows XP Professional x64 Edition was based on Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 and claimed to be "SP1" in system properties from the initial release. It is updated by the same service packs and hotfixes as the x64 edition of Windows Server 2003.

Service Pack 1

Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows XP was released on September 9, 2002. It contains post-RTM security fixes and hot-fixes, compatibility updates, optional .NET Framework support, enabling technologies for new devices such as Tablet PCs, and a new Windows Messenger 4.7 version. The most notable new features were USB 2.0 support and a Set Program Access and Defaults utility that aimed at hiding various middleware products. Users can control the default application for activities such as web browsing and instant messaging, as well as hide access to some of Microsoft's bundled programs. This utility was first brought into the older Windows 2000 operating system with its Service Pack 3. This Service Pack supported SATA and hard drives that were larger than 137 GB (48-bit LBA support) by default. The Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, which was not in the RTM version, appeared in this Service Pack.[55] It also removed the Energy Star logo from the ScreenSaver tab of the Display properties, leaving a very noticeable blank space next to the link to enter the Power Management control panel. Support for IPv6 was also introduced in this Service Pack.

On February 3, 2003, Microsoft released Service Pack 1a (SP1a). This release removed Microsoft's Java virtual machine as a result of a lawsuit with Sun Microsystems.[56]

Service Pack 2

Service Pack 2 (SP2) was released on August 25, 2004,[57] with an emphasis on security. Unlike the previous service pack, SP2 added new functionality to Windows XP, such as WPA encryption compatibility and improved Wi-Fi support (with a wizard utility), a pop-up ad blocker for Internet Explorer 6, and partial Bluetooth support. The new welcome screen during the kernel boot removes the subtitles "Professional", "Home Edition" and "Embedded" since Microsoft introduced new Windows XP editions prior to the release of SP2. The green loading bar in Home Edition and the yellow one in Embedded were replaced with the blue bar, seen in Professional and other versions of Windows XP, making the boot-screen of operating systems resemble each other. Colors in other areas, such as Control Panel and the Help and Support tool, remained as before.

Service Pack 2 also added new security enhancements (codenamed "Springboard"),[58] which included a major revision to the included firewall that was renamed to Windows Firewall and became enabled by default, Data Execution Prevention, which can be weakly emulated, gains hardware support in the NX bit that can stop some forms of buffer overflow attacks. Also raw socket support is removed (which supposedly limits the damage done by zombie machines). Additionally, security-related improvements were made to e-mail and web browsing. Windows XP Service Pack 2 includes the Windows Security Center, which provides a general overview of security on the system, including the state of antivirus software, Windows Update, and the new Windows Firewall. Third-party anti-virus and firewall applications can interface with the new Security Center.[59]

Service Pack 2b

In August 2006, Microsoft released updated installation media for Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003 SP1 to contain a patch[60] that requires ActiveX controls to require manual activation in accordance with a patent held by Eolas.[61] Since then, the technology was licensed by Microsoft, and Service Pack 3 and later versions do not include this update.

Service Pack 2c

On August 10, 2007, Microsoft announced a minor update to Service Pack 2, called Service Pack 2c (SP2c).[62] The update fixes the issue of the diminishing number of available product keys for Windows XP. This update was only available to system builders from their distributors in Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Professional N operating systems. SP2c was released in September 2007.[63]

Service Pack 3

Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) was released to manufacturing on April 21, 2008, and to the public via both the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update on May 6, 2008.[64][65][66][67]

It began being automatically pushed out to Automatic Update users on July 10, 2008.[68] A feature set overview which details new features available separately as stand-alone updates to Windows XP, as well as backported features from Windows Vista, has been posted by Microsoft.[69] A total of 1,174 fixes have been included in SP3.[70] Service Pack 3 can be installed on systems with Internet Explorer versions 6, 7, or 8.[71] Internet Explorer 7 and 8 are not included as part of SP3.[72] Service Pack 3 is not available for the 64 bit version of Windows XP.

New features in Service Pack 3

Previously released updates

Service Pack 3 also incorporated several previously released key updates for Windows XP, which were not included up to SP2, including:

Slipstreamed retail and OEM versions of Windows XP with SP3 can be installed and run with full functionality for 30 days without a product key, after which time the user will be prompted to enter a valid key and activate the installation. Volume license key (VLK) versions still require entering a product key before beginning installation.[80]

Windows XP Service Pack 3 is a cumulative update of all previous service packs for XP. The service pack installer checks HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Windows\CSDVersion registry key to see if has a value greater than or equal to 0x100, and if it does it will allow the update to proceed. Otherwise it will prompt to install either XP SP1 or SP2. Since SP1 is no longer available for full download, it would need to be downloaded using Windows Update. The other option is to manually change the registry key, in essence fooling the installer into thinking SP1 is already installed.[81]

However, it is possible to slipstream SP3 into the Windows XP setup files at any service pack level, including the original RTM version, without any errors or issues.[82] Microsoft has confirmed that this is supported, but also that slipstreaming SP3 into a volume license copy of XP using Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008 causes the product key to be rejected during installation.[83] Slipstreaming SP3 into Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is not supported.[84]

Service Pack 3 contains updates to the operating system components of Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and security updates for .NET Framework version 1.0, which is included in these editions. However, it does not include update rollups for the Windows Media Center application in Windows XP MCE 2005.[85] SP3 also omits security updates for Windows Media Player 10, although the player is included in Windows XP MCE 2005.[85] The Address Bar DeskBand on the Taskbar is no longer included due to legal restrictions.[86]

System requirements

System requirements for Windows XP Home Edition and Professional are as follows:[87][88]

Minimum Recommended
Processor 233 MHz[1] At least 300 MHz
Memory 64 MB of RAM[2] At least 128 MB of RAM
Video adapter and monitor Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher resolution
Hard drive disk free space[89][90] 1.5 GB or higher
additional 661 MB for Service Pack 1 and 1a[91]
additional 1.8 GB for Service Pack 2[92]
and additional 900 MB for Service Pack 3[81][93]
Optical drive CD-ROM drive[94] (Only to install from CD-ROM media)
Input devices Keyboard, Microsoft Mouse or a compatible pointing device
Sound Sound card and Speakers or headphones
  • ^1 Even though this is Microsoft's stated minimum processor speed for Windows XP, it is possible to install and run the operating system on early IA-32 processors such as a P5 Pentium without MMX instructions. Windows XP is not compatible with processors older than Pentium (such as 486) because it requires CMPXCHG8B instructions.[95]
  • ^2 A Microsoft TechNet paper from Summer 2001 (before Windows XP's actual release), states that: "A computer with 64 MB of RAM will have sufficient resources to run Windows XP and a few applications with moderate memory requirements." (Emphasis added.) These were said to be office productivity applications, e-mail programs, and web browsers (of the time). With such a configuration, user interface enhancements and fast user switching are turned off by default.
    For comparable workloads, 64 MB of RAM was then regarded as providing an equal or better user experience on Windows XP with similar settings than it would with Windows ME on the same hardware. In a later section of the paper, superior performance over Windows ME was noted with 128 MB of RAM or more, and with computers that exceed the minimum hardware requirements.[96]

System requirements for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition are as follows:[97]

  • Processor: x86-64 processor;
  • Memory: At least 256 MB of RAM;
  • Video adapter and monitor: Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher resolution;
  • Hard drive disk free space: At least 1.5 GB;[89]
  • Optical drive: CD-ROM drive;[94]
  • Input devices: Keyboard; Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device;
  • Sound: Sound card; Speakers or headphones;
  • Drivers for sound card, GPU of video card, wired LAN card, etc. must be designed for Windows XP Professional x64 Edition.

System requirements for Windows XP 64-Bit Edition are as follows:[98][99]

  • Processor: Intel Itanium 733 MHz (Recommended: Intel Itanium 800 MHz or better);
  • Memory: At least 1 GB of RAM;
  • Video adapter and monitor: Super VGA (800 x 600) or higher resolution;
  • Hard drive disk free space: At least 6 GB;
  • Optical drive: CD-ROM drive;[94]
  • Input devices: Keyboard; Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device;
  • Sound: Sound card; Speakers or headphones;
  • Drivers for sound card, GPU of video card, wired LAN card, etc. must be designed for Windows XP 64-Bit Edition.

Physical memory limits

Maximum limits on physical memory (RAM) that Windows XP can address vary depending on both the Windows version and between 32-bit and 64-bit versions.[100][101] The following table specifies the maximum physical memory limits supported:

Physical memory limits in each Windows XP edition [100][101]
Version Maximum RAM supported
Windows XP Professional 4 GB
Windows XP Home Edition
Windows XP Media Center Edition
Windows XP Tablet PC Edition
Windows XP Starter Edition 512 MB
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition 128 GB

Processor limits

The maximum total number of logical processors[102] in a PC that Windows XP supports is: 32 for 32-bit;[103][104] 64 for 64-bit.[105][106]

The maximum number of physical processors in a PC that Windows XP supports is: 2 for Professional;[107] and 1 for the Home Edition.[108]

Support lifecycle

Support for Windows XP Home edition and Professional edition without a service pack ended on September 30, 2005.[2] Windows XP Service Pack 1 and 1a were retired on October 10, 2006[2] and Windows XP Service Pack 2 reached end of support on July 13, 2010, almost six years after its general availability.[2]

The company stopped general licensing of Windows XP to OEMs and terminated retail sales of the operating system on June 30, 2008, 17 months after the release of Windows Vista.[109][110] However, an exception was announced on April 3, 2008, for OEMs installing to ultra low-cost PCs (ULCPCs) until one year after the availability of Windows 7 (that is, until October 22, 2010).[111][112][113]

On April 14, 2009, Windows XP and its family of operating systems reached the end of their mainstream support period and entered the extended support phase as it marks the progression of the legacy operating system through the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy. During the extended support phase, Microsoft continues to provide security updates every month for Windows XP; however, free technical support, warranty claims, and design changes are no longer being offered. Extended support will end on April 8, 2014—after which no more security patches or new support information will be provided for free. However, according to Gregg Keizer from Computerworld, "critical patches" will still be created, and made available only to customers subscribing to a paid "Custom Support".[114] While many organizations did not upgrade from XP due to the poor reception of Vista, Microsoft has since recommended that they migrate to newer versions of Windows due to the impending end of support.[2][115] Normally Microsoft products have a support life cycle of 10 years.[116]

Customers licensed for use of Windows 8 Enterprise are generally licensed for Windows 8 Pro, which may be downgraded to Windows XP Professional. End users of licenses of Windows 7 acquired through OEM or volume licensing may downgrade to the equivalent edition of Windows XP.[117] End users of licenses of Windows Vista Business or Ultimate acquired through OEM have rights to downgrade to Windows XP Professional.[118] Customers licensed for use of Windows Vista Enterprise are licensed for Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Business can be downgraded to Windows XP Professional.[119]

Microsoft is warning users that, after it would discontinue support, users running Windows XP will take risk of 'zero day forever' because of reverse engineered security patches for newer Windows versions.[120][121]

Market share

According to web analytics data generated by Net Applications, Windows XP is currently the second most-used OS with a market share of 33.66%.[21] It has held the number two spot since July 2012.

According to web analytics data generated by StatOwl, Windows XP has a 27.82% market share as of November 2012, having dropped to second place in October 2011.[122]

According to web analytics data generated by W3Schools, from September 2003 to July 2011, Windows XP was the most widely used operating system for accessing the w3schools website, which they claim is consistent with statistics from other websites. As of September 2013, Windows XP market share is at 13.5% after having peaked at 76.1% in January 2007.[6]

License and media types

There are three main types of licenses for Windows XP Professional and Professional x64: Retail, Volume (VLK), and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Windows XP Home Edition is limited to Retail and OEM licenses, whereas Windows XP Media Center Edition and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition are exclusively available through VLK and OEM channels.

Each type of license has a different installation CD. For customized or retail media, there is a small difference on each type of disc that will allow that installation disc to accept only one type of product key.

Only retail and volume licenses include support for end-user installation scenarios from Microsoft. OEM software is preinstalled on systems and is supported by the system manufacturer rather than Microsoft. The price of such software is lower. There are two important restrictions on OEM licenses: Microsoft does not offer technical support, and the license cannot be transferred to another computer. The cost of OEM software products bundled with systems is not disclosed by Microsoft nor by its partners, as each system manufacturer will define its own bundling price.

Microsoft recommends that system manufacturers have their systems tested, for a fee, as part of the Windows Quality Online Services (Winqual) which includes extensive testing so that no component will cause instability in the Windows operating system due to incompatibility with the Windows operating system or with other system components or their respective drivers. Having a system tested and approved will allow the manufacturer to bear the "Certified for Windows" logo sticker on the exterior of the system, and there are additional benefits for having a tested product. This includes the products being listed on the Windows Marketplace. Because of the fees and extensive requirements, Microsoft acknowledges that smaller system manufacturers may not opt into the program until they produce computer systems at a modest rate and on recurring designs.


Retail licenses, those purchased from a retail store in complete packaging, are of two sub-types: "Upgrade" and "Full Purchase Product", often abbreviated by Microsoft as FPP. FPP licenses are transferable from one computer to another, provided the previous installation is removed from the old computer. Although upgrade licenses are also transferable, a user must have a previous version of Windows even on the new computer to which they are moving the installation. Retail licenses include installation support for end-users, provided directly by Microsoft.

Volume License

A Volume License is the license given to a software version sold to businesses under a direct purchase agreement with Microsoft, and is sold as an upgrade license only, meaning that a previous license must be available for each new volume license. Volume license versions of Windows XP use a Volume License Key (VLK), which is a product key that does not require product activation. The term "Volume License Key" refers to the ability to use one product key for multiple systems, depending on the type of agreement. Since Windows XP Volume License versions do not require product activation, this led to leaked copies of VLK media and product keys from businesses leading to piracy of Windows XP quickly spreading across the Internet upon early release. Beginning with Service Pack 1, Microsoft's active attempts to search out and blacklist known pirated VLK product keys became well known due to the inability to install the service pack on a system with one of the blacklisted keys. Later, this led to the Windows Genuine Advantage program.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) licenses are preinstalled on, and sold with, pre-assembled computers from system manufacturers. There are two types of OEM product types — those used for "direct OEMs" (major name brands that buy through a direct contract with Microsoft and produce and brand their own media from a Microsoft "Gold Master Copy" by using an authorized Microsoft duplication partner), and those used for "system builders" (local computer shops that buy generic, unbranded kits through authorized Microsoft distributors). Direct OEM product keys will often not activate with system builder installation media because direct OEMs are now required by Microsoft to pre-activate their copies in the factory using their own internal mechanism before delivery to the customer. It is recommended that system builders also pre-activate their systems before delivery, but this is not mandatory.

OEM installations can be customized using the Microsoft OEM Preinstallation Kit with branding, logos, additional applications, optional services, alternate applications for certain Windows components, Internet Explorer links, and various other customizations. All OEM customers must include support and contact information for the initial installation of Windows because it is the responsibility for the OEM to support the Windows installation, and is not provided by Microsoft to the end-user. Direct OEMs must create their own media, but have the option of creating their own custom recovery solution, which may or may not be similar to a generic installation. Direct OEMs may provide a recovery partition on the hard drive as the custom recovery solution rather than providing disc-based media with the computer.

Some end-users have found this to be a troublesome option, because in the event of an out-of-warranty hard drive failure, they may not have access to any installation media in order to reinstall Windows onto a new hard drive. System builders are not allowed the option to create a custom recovery CD/DVD media. The only deliverable media available for a system builder to give to the end-user is the unbranded OEM system builder hologram media kit. Because of this, when end-users reformat their hard drives and re-install from the installation media, they lose all the custom branding and support information that the system builder would have included.

As a supplemental recovery method to a CD/DVD-based installation, a system builder may employ a fully customized recovery solution on the hard drive. Whether utilizing a recovery partition or not, a system builder must still include the original generic OEM system builder hologram CD/DVD media kit. OEM licenses are not transferable from one computer to another. Every computer sold/resold with an OEM license must include all of the original installation media or recovery solution, documentation, Certificate of Authenticity, and product key sticker with the sale. Microsoft requires that all OEM system manufacturers include as part of the configuration the Windows Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE), which is the initial setup wizard encountered the first time Windows boots up. It is also required that value-added resellers (VAR's), retailers, and general resellers not tamper with the OEM's customized OOBE mechanism unless under permission by the OEM, and it is a recommended configuration for systems that are privately resold so that a customer will have a like-new computer experience upon first boot-up.

OEM licenses are to be installed by professional system manufacturers only. Under Microsoft's OEM License Agreement, they are not to be sold to end-users under any circumstance, and are to be preinstalled on a computer using the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) before shipment to the customer, and must include at the very least the manufacturer's support contact information. They are, therefore, designed for installation only on a single computer and are not transferable, even if the original computer is no longer in use. This is not usually an issue for users who purchase new computer systems, because most pre-assembled systems are shipped with a preinstalled operating system. There are few circumstances where Microsoft will allow the transfer of an OEM license from one non-functioning system to another, but the OEM System Builder License Agreement (SBLA), as well as the OEM End User License Agreement (EULA) do not contain any allowance for this, so it is entirely up to Microsoft's discretion, depending on the situation.[123]

Non-use by end user

In the event that end users decides that they do not wish to use a preinstalled version of Windows, Microsoft's software license agreement provides that the software may be returned to the OEM for a refund.[124] Despite refusal of some manufacturers to honor the entitlement, it has been enforced by courts in some countries.[125][126]

See also


Further reading

External links

External video
  • Windows XP Help & How-to
  • Microsoft Windows XP Reviewers Guide – August 2001 (PDF format)
  • Windows XP Memory Limits
  • Windows XP Service Pack 3 Network Installation Package for IT Professionals and Developers (Full Offline Installer)
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