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Windows XP Service Pack 3

At home I have a single Windows box which I use for Quicken. Quicken is sooo much better on Windows than on the Mac. Yes, I could move it all to a VMWare instance on my Mac, but why bother when I do all my finances either at the desk that includes this PC? (The things that aren't done at my desk can be done from any web browser.)

So today I get a prompt asking if I should install "Windows XP Service Pack 3". Whaa? That was released a million years ago! Could I really not be running it? Well, surprise surprise! I've been at SP2 forever.

I was about to install it when I realized that this computer is so old that I have no clue whether or not I'd be able to find the license key for the disk I used. According to the PDF file, I'll be able to run SP3 for 30 days before it asks for the license key. It doesn't say what happens after that.

What happens after 30 days?

What should I do?

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I've installed SP3 on several computers and not once have I been asked for the license key afterwards. Perhaps that's only if you download and install directly, instead of through Windows Update.

What PDF are you looking at?

Edit: I notice that the Wikipedia entry has a similar comment, and what they mean is that if you merge SP3 into your install media, you have 30 days to enter your license key -- which is consistent with what Microsoft has always done for XP. They are talking about fresh installs, though, not updates.

Edited at 2009-04-05 12:52 pm (UTC)

Weird, I haven't gotten re-prompted for the license with SP3.

you should be able to find the license key somewhere *on* the computer. Is it perhaps under Start->Control Panel->System under "Registered to"? That's where mine is I think (I'm looking at it right now and it's got a 5 digit number followed by OEM followed by a 7 digit number, followed by another 5-digit number.

(Kinda like Microsoft's own little haiku).

If that's not it, I'd try googling for "how do I find my Windows license key?"

You should obviously install Linux....

The only way you would be asked for your license key is if Microsoft's tattle software (Windows Genuine Advantage Notification (a/k/a KB905474)) detected a pirated copy of Windows on your computer.

Or, if you installed three new pieces of base hardware (i.e., processor, hard drive, video card) and Windows wasn't able to call home and verify that the license key you entered is valid -- after three hardware changes, Windows will check to be sure you haven't replicated your copy of Windows to another machine. Tricky, eh?

Just installing a service pack or update shouldn't cause Windows to ask for your license key -- unless, again, WGA thinks something isn't right.

If you want to be sure WGA is okay with that machine, you can "Validate" your copy before you install SP3:

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