I have many Windows XP disks that I have from my school and I've reinstalled windows many time and have never had a problem. What is happening now is that when I try to reinstall from inside windows it says the product key is invalid. It is not. Nor is it expired, but that wouldn't matter because even if it was it would still be accepted at this stage in the install. So idk what's going on there. I decided to boot from CD next and did and started the process but then it said it couldn't locate my hard drive and had to stop. I've never had problems like these before and I could really use some guidance.
Unless you are using the exact same version of XP and it is a Dell disk then the key would be valid. If not then you would need to use the key that came with the non dell disk. Dell s key are OEM and cannot be used with non Dell disks.
As for not booting, boot into the bios check the setting for your sata mode/operation. you want to change it to Raid Autodetect/ATA or you will need to slipstream the SATA drivers into the install disk .
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I'm not using a dell disk, I don't have the dell OS XP disk or disks, I have have the windows XP 2005 from my school, 4 copies and non of the keys work. But they should work. The keys CAN be used interchangeably with the disks I have. But for some reason it says product key invaild. It's not invaild. None of the product keys I'm using are so I want to know why it's say that.
I will change the bio setting and see if it will detect the harddrive. Also I read there is a partition that holds dell OS or something, would deleting that do anything?
Dell OEM CD's act exactly as a Retail CD (except for a batch of very few disks that, by mistake, did not come with the normal recovery options - even then they can install without wiping anything out). There are two types of recovery options with XP:
Repair install. Sounds like this is what you are trying to do ... you basically install XP over itself, leaving user data intact. This method requires the product key as you are reinstalling all the XP files to a default state.
Recovery Console. This is a command-line utility where you can repair many things that go wrong with XP, such as fixing the MBR, boot sector, file system errors, etc. This does not require a product key.
When you purchase a computer with an operating system on it, you purchase that OEM version of the operating system at a substantial discount, and as such, the license/product key is tied strictly and finally to the computer on which it was first installed. It cannot be moved or used on another machine. As a safeguard against this OS being used where it shouldn't, the key is coded to work only with OEM installation media that matches it (in this case Dell). So, if you are using a Dell OEM CD, you must use a Dell OEM product key - specifically, the Dell OEM product key on the computer that contains that OS. Likewise, if you use a Retail CD, you must use a Retail product key to activate.
So, in short, if you used a Retail CD, you must use a Retail product key to finish ... and if you do, then the only way you can change it back to the original product key is to do a Repair Install (like you are doing) with a Dell OEM CD and using the Dell OEM key on the computer.
If I were you, I'd see if I could put that hard drive into another computer, and save the files you need from the drive. As for reinstalling, you will need to procure a replacement Dell CD in order to use the key on the side.