HomeNewsTechnologyHow a tiny program cracked Windows XP activation after 21 years

    How a tiny program cracked Windows XP activation after 21 years

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    Windows XP may be long gone, but it still has some die-hard fans who refuse to let it go. For those who want to install and activate the ancient operating system offline, there is now a solution: a program called xp_activate32.exe that can generate a valid activation key using the code from the phone activation option.

    This is the first time that the Windows XP activation algorithm has been fully cracked offline, after 21 years of its debut and nine years after its end of life. The algorithm, which uses encryption to validate product keys, has been a source of frustration for many users who had to deal with activation errors, phone calls, and online checks.

    The program was discovered by Reddit user retroreviewyt and detailed in a blog post by, which provides minimalist utilities for constrained Windows installations. The program is only 18,432 bytes in size and works entirely offline. It is persistent across system wipes and re-installs. It is not a crack or a hack, but a legitimate key generator that mimics what Microsoft would provide for your computer.

    Microsoft building, Cologne, Germany, 3 November 2015

    The program was created by an anonymous developer who reverse-engineered the activation algorithm and reimplemented it in C++. The developer also fixed some bugs and made it compatible with non-Microsoft operating systems, such as Linux. The source code is available on GitHub for anyone who wants to verify or modify it.

    The developer explained the motivation behind the project in a comment on Reddit: “I did this because I wanted to learn more about cryptography and reverse engineering. I also wanted to preserve a piece of computing history that would otherwise be lost. I think Windows XP is a great operating system that deserves respect and recognition.”

    While this program may be useful for some people who need to run Windows XP on old hardware or virtual machines, it is not recommended to install XP on a device that’s connected to the modern internet. The operating system is highly vulnerable to malware and cyberattacks, and Microsoft no longer provides security updates or support for it.

    If you are curious about Windows XP and want to experience it without risking your security, you can try some fully functional XP images that you can sandbox inside a virtual machine, such as Microsoft’s own Windows XP Mode for Windows 7. Or you can just enjoy this program as a rhetorical, mathematical victory that shows how far technology has come since 2001.

    Relevant articles:
    – Windows XP activation algorithm cracked, keygen now works on Linux, The Register, 5/26/2023 8:39:00 PM
    – Windows XP Offline Activation Enabled With This New Tool, MSN, 5/26/2023 2:47:52 PM
    – After 21 years, Windows XP’s activation algorithm is fully cracked, PCWorld, 5/26/2023 6:59:00 PM

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