How to Find Out If an XP Key Is OEM or Retail

Written by david somerset
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How to Find Out If an XP Key Is OEM or Retail
Your key may be printed on a sticker attached to your computer. (computer repair image by UBE from

Your Windows XP key defines the license that you have to install and use the operating system. Without a valid Windows XP key, you will be unable to receive Windows updates and other important system files from Microsoft. Two common types of Windows XP keys are original equipment manufacturer (OEM) licenses and retail licenses. There are a few ways to determine what type of XP license key you have.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Locate the license sticker with your Windows XP certificate of authenticity. Check the case of your computer. A license sticker attached to the computer case usually indicates an OEM key.

  2. 2

    Find the envelope that your Windows XP CD came in if there is no license sticker on the computer. A license sticker on the envelope the CD-ROM came in is a sign of a retail key.

  3. 3

    Check the wording on the certificate of authenticity. If the license sticker or certificate of authenticity has the name of a computer manufacturer or the words "OEM Software" on it, then your CD key is an OEM key. If the certificate does not say "OEM Software," you have a retail product key.

Tips and warnings

  • OEM CD keys will not work with retail installation discs, and retail keys will not work to install from an OEM disc.

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