Question Restore factory XP on wiped hard drive with no key

Aug 20, 2022
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Hello, I purchased a bunch of Dell 360s at a school auction, the hard drives are wiped clean and most of the key stickers are worn off. Is there a way to reload back to factory XP? I know I can load Linux but I kind of want to make some "retro game computers" you know, old school games like lemmings and commander keen running on XP. Just to show the kids what we played on.
 

USAFRet

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Mar 16, 2013
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Hello, I purchased a bunch of Dell 360s at a school auction, the hard drives are wiped clean and most of the key stickers are worn off. Is there a way to reload back to factory XP? I know I can load Linux but I kind of want to make some "retro game computers" you know, old school games like lemmings and commander keen running on XP. Just to show the kids what we played on.
No there is not.

The original factory software could only come from Dell.

And the "license key" for the old XP belongs to the school. Unless they included that with the sale (they didn't), all you bought was the hardware.
 

Aeacus

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Is there a way to reload back to factory XP?
No. Since even if you're able, you'd be restoring all their personal data with OS as well, and that would be theft.

Better make a clean Win install on the machine. Preferably Win10 or any GNU/Linux distro with good support (or emulator) for DOS/Win95 era games. Or you can always buy WinXP installation CD from Ebay.

and commander keen
Steam version of Commander Keen complete package (with 5 games) works perfectly fine on W10 (i have it),
store page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/9180/Commander_Keen/

Sure, there are more than just 5 Commander Keen games but getting the rest is difficult (i have them all, living on my old AMD machine, that i keep around for retro gaming, games pre-2005).
 

JeffreyP55

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Hello, I purchased a bunch of Dell 360s at a school auction, the hard drives are wiped clean and most of the key stickers are worn off. Is there a way to reload back to factory XP? I know I can load Linux but I kind of want to make some "retro game computers" you know, old school games like lemmings and commander keen running on XP. Just to show the kids what we played on.
Forgot how XP licensing went but before I do anything I use showkeyPlus then store the doc or print a copy and attached it to the PC. It might save you a few bucks down the road.
https://showkeyplus.en.lo4d.com/windows
 

punkncat

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Youch! Dual core Pentiums are going to be rough with todays requirements. IIRC those are going to only take IDE HDD as well. I cannot recall that you can even install an OS via USB that far back, but I may not be remembering correctly.
 
and that would be theft.

you can always buy WinXP installation CD from Ebay.
Yeah the CDs you are going to find on ebay are going to be theft as well.
Unless you are going to find some new old stock of never used retail CDs with keys. (not gonna happen)

You can play pretty much any old game directly on the internet archive via browser.
https://archive.org/details/lemmings_original_ms-dos_201705

For the old systems download recalbox and flash it to a usb drive, it creates a shared partition in windows format on the usb so you can easily copy over all your games from windows.
Dosbox pure is a core that runs dos games that are zipped up so you only have to copy one file per game, also much cleaner and easier to manage.

I cannot recall that you can even install an OS via USB that far back, but I may not be remembering correctly.
You could even with most bios but if your bios didn't support usb boot you could still use plopboot, but usb speeds where terrible back then so installing from a usb wasn't really a good thing, cd-rom speed was much faster.
 

punkncat

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Just curious, but does the "fair use" thing about unsupported hardware apply here?
I know there was something passed in regard to games but didn't know if it applies to other software. Seems like there was some clause about businesses being "closed".
 

USAFRet

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Just curious, but does the "fair use" thing about unsupported hardware apply here?
I know there was something passed in regard to games but didn't know if it applies to other software. Seems like there was some clause about businesses being "closed".
"fair use"?

He purchased the hardware.

The Windows license key was apparently not included.

I can't see how 'fair use' applies.
 

Aeacus

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I know there was something passed in regard to games but didn't know if it applies to other software. Seems like there was some clause about businesses being "closed".
It's abandonware.

Commercial software unsupported but still owned by a viable company
The availability of the software depends on the company's attitude toward the software. In many cases, the company which owns the software rights may not be that which originated it, or may not recognize their ownership. Some companies, such as Borland, make some software available online, in a form of freeware. Others, such as Microsoft, do not make old versions available for free use and do not permit people to copy the software.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abandonware

So, no luck getting to use the XP under the abandonware clause, if one hasn't bought the key in a legit way.
 
Others, such as Microsoft, do not make old versions available for free use and do not permit people to copy the software.
MS released the source code for MS dos and gw basic, so we just have to wait a few more decades and maybe we get XP.
 

JeffreyP55

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I can play some ancient games with windows 11 using compatibility mode. like Doom III, Serious Sam and GTR2 with full Logitech G25 support just to name a few. Those games are from the early 2000's.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Aug 20, 2022
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Wow, You are all AWESOME! I didn't expect all the answers and more so fast! Thank you everyone! Looks like I'm loading Linux and trying to figure out how to load some of my old games.

Thanks again!
 
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BFG-9000

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This is XP we are talking about here. If you get a genuine Dell installation disc, it will look for a particular text string in the BIOS and install XP with a generic key (note NOT the key on the sticker) which doesn't require activation. This is how XP was factory installed on those Dells and why they all had the same CD-Key (making those key recovery utilities like the mentioned showkeyplus rather useless here). A bonus is this kind of installation never asks to be reactivated no matter how much hardware you change (except the motherboard, obviously) which could be a really big problem now, given how XP's online activation wizard only supports SMB 1.0. In my eyes, this is the primary reason an OEM PC makes a better retro PC than even an overclockable custom motherboard one.

You only need one genuine Dell XP disc from eBay to install on any number of Dell machines--the trick being you need one of similar vintage to the machines or only slightly newer.

Or you could use Windows 2000 which had no activation system at all, and looks even more retro.
 

ex_bubblehead

Polypheme
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....it will look for a particular text string in the BIOS and install XP with a generic key....
This only works for the same edition that was preinstalled. You cannot use a Pro disk on a machine that originally shipped with Home. There are different keys for each edition. And, each release of those discs only worked on particular model lines. They aren't as universal as you may think.
 

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