Summary: After spending 4+ hours on phone ‘support’ with Microsoft (I know because I tried to help him communicate the problem to no avail), a friend recently discovered the trick to moving his laptop Windows XP Pro (an OEM version provided by the laptop maker) over to a Parallels virtual machine — WITH all applications, settings, data intact. IMO it’s simple, fast, and clever. I should stress that as he and I understand the license rules, he was required to buy a second, new, “full” (non-OEM) version of XP, which he did.

He bought a new Macbook Pro, and since he had a considerable investment in Windows versions of applications like Adobe CS2, he did not want to have to buy new versions (Adobe doesn’t offer upgrades from CS2 to the current CS). And he didn’t want to have to re-install several dozen applications, not to mention hundreds of PC settings, on a fresh install of Windows XP. So he also bought Parallels ($80) and Parallels Transporter ($10) for his Mac.

And since he was pretty sure it violates the Microsoft terms to “move” an OEM copy of Windows (such as supplied by Dell, Toshiba, etc. when you buy a PC from them) to a second PC without buying a new license he also bought a fresh, legit, “full” Windows XP Pro with activation key, so he could use that “full” key to activate his migrated copy of Windows.

  1. On his PC, he downloaded the Parallels Transporter Agent for Windows (free), hooked an external hard drive to his PC, and used Transporter Agent to copy his entire Windows hard disk to an image on the external hard drive. Then he ejected the hard drive and removed the USB cable. (BTW using a hard drive was much faster than using the networked transport, plus gave his an extra backup image copy “just in case”.)

  2. On his Mac, he ran Parallels Transporter on his Mac, connected his external hard drive when prompted, and migrated his PC apps/data to a folder on his Mac.

  3. On his Mac, then he installed Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac.

  4. He ran Parallels Desktop on his Mac, and started the Windows XP virtual machine.

  5. As expected, Windows said it needed to be re-activated.

  6. Activation failed. Windows kept reporting “Incorrect Product Key”. Long story short… The Microsoft activation team (on six different calls, insisting on talking to a supervisor three times) (a) confirmed the key WAS perfectly valid (being fresh, legit copy of XP) so it was a “support” issue related to the disk image coming from an OEM machine. The support department, after a 70 minute wait for the “legacy XP support team”, claimed they “don’t do activation, period” and transferred him back to activation team. Who transferred him to support, this time in Australia since US support was closed, but Australia support listened politely and said they don’t support US customers, tried to connect him to US support, then hung up.

To recap the situation: he was sitting there with all his Windows apps and data moved over to, and running on his Mac, and had a new, verified-legit copy of Windows XP Pro and activation key, and no one at Microsoft could or would help him activate his “new” PC with his “new” key.

  1. The secret turned out to be as follows:
  • On Parallels, “shut down” the virtual PC (but leave Parallels Desktop running)
  • On the real PC, run Start > Run > cmd, then run ‘getmac’
  • On the real PC, write down one of the MAC addresses (he chose the unused actual ethernet adapter, as opposed to the wireless one, under the theory THAT was the one Microsoft had “tied” to his Windows activation on the PC.
  • On Parallels Desktop, he opened the Configure menu for the virtual machine, selected Hardware, and changed the network adapter from “Shared” to “Bridged:Default adapter” then entered the real-PC’s MAC address.
  • He restarted the virtual machine, logged in, and when windows asked for his product key he entered the one from the sticker on the bottom of his PC (and stuck his unused “new/full” disk and key in a drawer with documentation of how Microsoft failed multiple times to let him use the second key to activate his second PC.).
  1. With his applications and data migrated to his Mac, he then did a factory-restore of his PC (removing Adobe CS, MS Office, etc.) so he could donate or sell the old PC.