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Published on 07.19.06 by Brent Trahan

Backing Up and Restoring Your Windows XP Activation Files

Learn how to backup your Windows XP Activation files.

For many computers a reinstall of Windows XP (even on the same PC) requires a re-activation with Microsoft. Some versions of XP require you to actually call Microsoft after a certain number of activations have already been performed to get it activated again. This guide shows you how to bypass all of this by backing up your activation database files.

Backup Your Activation Files

You need to make a copy of and save on CD two files in your \%systemroot%\system32 folder. The files are wpa.dbl and wpa.bak.

\%systemroot%\ is either WINDOWS or WINNT in your C:\ drive.

You might have to search your computer for the files using the search feature of Windows XP.

Restore Your Activation Files

If you need to restore your activation files after a fresh install boot your computer in Safe Mode by pressing F8 on your keyboard repeatedly while the computer is booting up. A screen will show up that ask you how you want to boot Windows. Select Safe Mode.

Once your computer is booted in safe mode, rename the current wpa.dbl to wpa.nonactivated and wpa.bak to wpabak.nonactivated in the \%systemroot%\system32 directory.

Please Note: In order to change a file’s file extension (.dbl) you might need to open My Documents, click Tools, select Folder Options, click the View Tab, uncheck Hide Extensions For Known File Types.

Copy you backed up activation files in the \%systemroot%\system32 folder.

Restart your computer in its regular mode.

Please note: This might not work depending on the type of licensing you have on your copy of Windows XP.  This will most likely work on copies of Windows XP that were purchased in a store.  It might not work on copies installed by a computer manufacturer like Dell or HP (OEM).

Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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4 Responses to “Backing Up and Restoring Your Windows XP Activation Files”

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  1. Bender says:

    why to rename the current wpa.dbl to wpa.nonactivated and wpa.bat to wpabak.nonactivated? wouldnt it be more logical to replace wpa.dbl with wpa.bak and oki doki?

  2. Brent Trahan says:

    There was a type-o in this guide. Sorry about that.


    The two files you are working with are wpa.dbl and wpa.bak. Wpa.dbl is the file Windows looks at to see if it has been activated. Wpa.bak is a backup of that file.


    I decided to rename both files with .nonactivated because I wanted to keep it less confusing when working with the files by making the files that are not activated easily distinguishable if they needed to be brought back for some reason.


    Keep in mind that this site is used by many people who don’t have a clue when it comes to technical stuff like this.

  3. Gerri says:

    Question: No files were saved in HP windows XP back-up and F10 was pressed by mistake. Now all the files are gone because windows is right back to square one. Is there any way to retrieve the files safely?

  4. Brent Trahan says:

    If you performed a system restore, chances are the hard drive was formatted. There’s probably little chance the files can be recovered.

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