ABR (Activation Backup and Restore)

This is a utility that allows you to backup and restore Windows Vista activation for systems that are pre-installed from the factory by an OEM, allowing you to reinstall the system without having to call Microsoft. It saves the activation to a file and allows you to restore it once you've done a clean install. ABR works with Vista SP1, and on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Vista.

How to use it:

  1. Download and unzip
  2. Run "activation_backup.exe"
  3. Save the backup files somewhere safe
  4. Reinstall Vista
  5. Restore activation by running "activation_restore.exe"

ABR can only be used to install the same version of Vista you have the original OEM license for. For example, if your computer came pre-installed with Vista Home Premium, you can only reinstall with Home Premium. You can, however, switch between 32-bit and 64-bit.

For full instructions on the process, look at my full Clean Vista Install guide.


The .exe file is a self-extracting archive and the .zip version is a zipped version of that, for those who might run into a problem downloading .exe files.

NOTE: For Windows 7 activation, please use the BETA below

Md5sum and Download link:

82c86253a2d704f38c6b8efbd8606f43 ........ ABR-1.0.exe
decbcbc360944bb7140b173a0f8334fc ........ ABR-1.0.zip

Please do not link directly to this file. If you like this utility and want to tell people about it, please link to this web site, and not directly to the exe/zip files.

ABR Beta With Windows 7 Support

This is a beta (test release) of the next version of ABR with Windows 7 support. I have had reports that it is working with Windows 7, but I do not have access to OEM versions of Windows 7, so I cannot verify it myself.

If you are willing to try it out, please download here. Please let me know if this worked for you:

Test version with Windows 7 Support: ABRbeta.exe

Issues with Restore

Issues when running activation_restore are rare, but if you run into a problem, you can register your product key using the following steps:

  1. Open a command prompt As Administrator
  2. Type, replacing XXXX with the product key in the backup file:
    slmgr.vbs /ipk XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX...
  3. Type, replacing file with full path to file: slmgr.vbs /ilc

Well I suppose activating normally works too! Thanks for the help!

Thanks for sharing, was very helpful information for me as I switched over from XP to Vista a week ago and was considering backup options available.

[...] Vista with the retail disc. And use ABR to inject the Dell serial number back into Vista. ABR (Activation Backup and Restore) | directedge.us I used this on my Mom's Gateway laptop. There was a lot of bloat so I just did what I said above [...]

[...] Vista with the retail disc. And use ABR to inject the Dell serial number back into Vista. ABR (Activation Backup and Restore) | directedge.us I used this on my Mom's Gateway laptop. There was a lot of bloat so I just did what I said above [...]

[...] ???? ?, ?? ?? ???????? ????? ?? ??????? ? ??????????? ? Activation Backup and Restore. ?? ????? ?? ?????? ?????????? ?? ??????? ????, ? ???? [...]

Hi, I just wanted to thank you for this great utility. It certainly saves a lot of hassle when someone needs to re-install Vista. Used it both on my Desktop and laptop going from 32 to 64 bit versions. Thank you!

It gives me interest to read on this thread. Brian, I am planning to upgrade my laptop HP dv5 1153ei T5800 2ghz 800mhz, 2GB ddr2 RAM 800mhz, 250GB HDD, nvidia geforce 9600M GT 512MB which has a Vista Home Premium SP1 32bits ver. into Vista Ultimate 64bits ver. HP had all 64bits drivers available in their website and I already downloaded those files in preparatioin for the upgrade.

I also burned the 2-DVD Recovery disc for windows vista 32bits from my system in case something may happen. Can you pls. tell me the procedures on how to upgrade to Vista Ultimate 64bits by using ABR and my Recovery disc. I also downloaded already the ABR and vLite software but i have not install it yet. I asked the Tech support from HP if my PC can be upgradable to 64bits, they said yes. Appreciate your generousity of your service. Thanks

You cannot use the Recovery Discs to install Vista, as it will also include all of the other software. You will need to get a clean Vista install disc in order to do that.

The general install process is outlined in my guide, which also has info on the kinds of discs you need to do the installation: http://directedge.us/content/installing-vista-clean-with-no-crapware It applies equally to 32-bit or 64-bit.

1. I have another Vista Disc comes from my other DELL Inspiron laptop included in the box and it is called Re-installation disc, is this an OEM vista disc or a OEM Re-Installation disc? If yes, can I use this to upgrade to Ultimate 64bits in my HP Pavilion dv5-1153ei 32bits Home premium SP1.? and then I will perform the procedures acc. to what you posted for DELL disc, will this be correct?
"For Dell discs:
1. Copy the entire Dell DVD to a folder on your hard drive
In the "sources" folder, there is a folder called "$oem$". Delete it
2. In the "sources" folder, there is a file called "pid.txt". Delete it.
3. Open vLite and burn a new disc using those files
4. Install vista. It should now allow you to choose a version of Vista to install, and also will not install the dell product key and activation files "

2. I also have a clean vista install disc, but if I use this option will those HP logo's disappear?

The Dell "Reinstallation DVD" is a Dell-modified disc that has only Vista on it, so you can use it to do a reinstall. HOWEVER, the disc probably says on it "32BIT SP1", which means it is the 32-bit disc. You cannot install 64-bit from this disc, as it only has the 32-bit version. You will have to locate a 64-bit disc in order to install Vista 64-bit.

I guess I lost my clean vista disc. Can you give me the link where to get online as you said that we can get it by $10?

The mention of the $10 DVD is a little out of date, as Microsoft is no longer selling them. You might be able to find one on eBay. If not, any Vista disc will work, like if you can borrow one from someone else.

My situation is:
I have HP Pavilion dv6000 laptop and it had Windows Vista preinstalled and apparetnly it was too slow and with my knowledge i decided to install Windows XP on it but had some problems, now all i want is to get Windows Vista back running on my laptop from fresh install just like i got it from factory. All i have is Windows Vista Anytime Upgrade that came with my laptop. Will i be able to use just that CD to reinstall fresh copy of Vista and have it running on my original laptop? Or will i have to purchase something from Microsoft? My Harddrive was completely formatted while trying to install WIndows XP.

Yes, you can use the Anytime Upgrade disc and when you install you will need to type the license key on the bottom of your laptop (there is a Vista sticker). You will have to call Microsoft to activate. ABR will not work for you here, but you will have a clean installation.

when you say "any vista disc will work" that means a disc which contain ultimate vista 64bits right?

Yes. If you refer to my Vista install guide http://directedge.us/content/installing-vista-clean-with-no-crapware it goes over the discs. There are 2 different discs, 32-bit and 64-bit. If you want 64-bit you will need to have the 64-bit disc.

Hi Brian,
Can I backup my Vista Home Premium (32-bit) HP OEM key using ABR, and then do a clean install of Vista Ultimate 64-bit using a retail disc -AND- then activate the new ultimate install using this ABR key backup??
-OR- is the backed up key tied to a Vista Home Premium 64-bit installation?

You can only install the version of Vista you purchased. Since you have Home Premium, you can only reinstall with Home Premium using the backups from ABR. You can, however, change between 32-bit and 64-bit, as long as it is Home Premium.

Brian, your reply to the Anonymous dated Apr. 5, 2009 is contradicting to what you said to me. If you recall my chat dated Mar. 31, on Tue. above, I said "I am planning to upgrade my laptop HP dv5 1153ei T5800 2ghz 800mhz, 2GB ddr2 RAM 800mhz, 250GB HDD, nvidia geforce 9600M GT 512MB which has a Vista Home Premium SP1 32bits ver. into Vista Ultimate 64bits version.."

And you replied on the same date "You will need to get a clean Vista install disc in order to do that."

And then you also said "You might be able to find one on eBay. If not, any Vista disc will work, like if you can borrow one from someone else."

The words "any vista disc will work" means I can also install 64bits Ultimate using ABR to replace my Home premium 32bits on my HP laptop, correct?

I may have missed a few things in the previous post, but I have not contradicted myself. You have a different situation than what "normal" users of ABR would have.

As for the kind of disc you need, there are many different types of discs that can contain Vista. There is the "pure" Vista disc, which is the one that you would buy from Microsoft or an OEM. This is the type of disc I am referring to when I say "any Vista disc". There are other discs, such as "Recovery Discs" which are not pure Vista discs and you cannot use them to install a clean Vista disc. Of the "pure" discs, there are only 2, one with all of the 32-bit versions on it, and one with all the 64-bit versions on it. If you want to install 64-bit, you need to have the 64-bit disc.

For you, I recommend this procedure:

  1. Obtain the 64-bit disc
  2. Use ABR to backup your current 32-bit Home Premium license
  3. Backup all the rest of your data
  4. Use the 64-bit disc to install 64-bit Home Premium
  5. Use the upgrade license you purchased to upgrade Home Premium to Ultimate

You cannot install Ultimate without having a license for it, and ABR cannot help you get around that. Also, you cannot "upgrade" from any 32-bit Vista to any 64-bit Vista, you can only upgrade within the same 32/64-bit line.

A lot of this is outlined in the Clean Install Guide, which is something I recommend you take a look at.

Like most people here all I want to do is a clean install on my new laptop. I borrowed a DELL 32 bit Sp1 OEM Business reinstallation disk from a friend and ran through the process (delete $OEM$ directory and pid.txt file), created a new boot disk using VLite. However, I am not given the option of installing anything but Business Vista. I want to install Home Premium on my laptop. Any ideas?

It's hard to say what else is going on -- discs can be setup differently. You'll have to do some research to figure out how else the disc could have been modified.

[...] je nadien op activation-restore klikken om uw activatiecode terug te plaatsen. Het progje kan je hier terug vinden. Wees verstandig, neem na uw cleaninstall, en activering een image van uw c-schijf, [...]

Hallo, I have a preinstalled Windows Vista Home Premium on my computer. When I bought it I got two DVD's. One DVD is the application & support disc (with a ghost image to restore the computer to the situation as I bought it; I have used that DVD several times; not necessary to activate again). The second is called the Recovery Disk. I did not use that one but I think it will install a clean Vista Home Premium. What do you think. Have I to activate again when I use the clean install from my recovery DVD?
If yes, I can use ABR.

It is hard to say based on your description. Dell computers come with 2 separate DVDs like you mention, and one of them is just the regular Vista installation disc. My guess is that because it says "Recovery Disk", it may not be a reinstall disk. In order to figure it out, you can put the disc in your computer and look at what files are on it.

Brian, where can I get 64bits home premium as most of my friends & officemates were having 32bits home premium from their HP laptop? Shall I buy an OEM vista disc or retail disc having a new license key and make clean install. That will be more costly.
What happen to "My Digital life" why I can't download these 3 files from them? any idea?


"Direct Download Links for x64 Windows Vista


Those downloaded files is in .WIM extension, a Windows Imaging Format Archive. By executing X13-49121.exe, users can run setup to install Vista 64-bit edition."

Do you have these 3 files available so I can convert teh ISO image by ISO Recorder and make it bootable using v-lite?

Those downloads used to be available when Microsoft was allowing it. However, they have stopped that program and as a result the link no longer works. I cannot give you a link to download any files as I do not have a license from Microsoft to distribute them, but the filename for the 64-bit edition with SP1 integrated is:

Thank you Brian. Appreciate.

First of all, thanks for making such a useful tool available to people like me.

Unfortunately I'm having trouble getting this to work on my shiny new W500 which came pre-installed with Vista Business 32-bit.

I've successfully run activation_backup and seen the two backup entries on my usb stick.

I've got hold of an MSDN 64-bit Vista disk and installed as per stallen's instructions.

It all looks great until I run activation_restore, which flashes up a command box for a moment and then disappears.

Not surprisingly there's no change in the activation state.

Do you think that it's worth trying another media? Or is there anything that I can do to see what's going on.

I have the luxury of a second disk that I can whip in and out, so can try lots of things. Unfortunately I can't think of any at the moment...


First, try copying all of the ABR and backup files to the computer, like somewhere on the desktop, then try to run it again from the copy. If that does not work, try right-clicking on the restore program and select "Run as administrator".

If neither of those work, try to run it from the command line, and then reply with the output of the command. Here's how to run it from the command line:

  1. Put the ABR files in a folder on your desktop
  2. Hold down Shift and then Right-click on the folder
  3. Select "Open Command Window Here"
  4. Type: activation_restore.exe
  5. Press [Enter]
  6. If there is an error, copy and paste it to a reply here so I can see it

I am not familiar with the "MSDN" Vista disk, so it is possible that is not the official disk for Vista and might not work as expected.

Thanks for the speedy response.

Tried the above to no avail.

Re. point 6, running activation_restore.exe from a command prompt spawns another cmd window that flashes too briefly to see what's going on.

I guess that I need to get myself another disk image, although other posts suggest that the MSDN should be OK.

[...] a lot of useful information. Here is an abbreviated tutorial with the download for the program http://directedge.us/content/abr-act...up-and-restore __________________ The Cubed Quad build log - Current CPU-Z [...]

[...] a lot of useful information. Here is an abbreviated tutorial with the download for the program http://directedge.us/content/abr-act...up-and-restore __________________ The Cubed Quad build log - Current CPU-Z [...]

[...] a lot of useful information. Here is an abbreviated tutorial with the download for the program http://directedge.us/content/abr-act...up-and-restore Microsoft... __________________ .................................................. [...]

Does this work for the new Vista SP2 RTM releases that appeared on the MSDN site? I mean these versions:

6002.18005.090410-1830_x86fre_Client_en-us-FRTMCFRE_EN_DVD.iso and

I have not tried these releases yet but I have no reason to think that it won't work. Microsoft has not changed the licensing framework for SP2 that I am aware of.

Brian, I already performed item 1,2&3 on your instruction below but when I run for the first time v-lite on item 4, it was asking for WAIK download from the microsoft and that is Automated Installation Kit (AIK) for Windows Vista SP1 whihc has 1.4gb and this is an ISO image. The v-lite progem said
"To be able mount an image, you install WIM filter first. Is is small drvier like a virtual DVD, but there wil not be any extra drive letters. This requires the WIM API (wimgapi.dll in the v-lite root) It should automatically installed after you click install, if the WAIK is installed."

Do I need to make copy this ISO image to DVD? the ISO file name is 6001.18000.080118-1848-kb3aikl_en which is 1.4gb. After I copy this to DVD, I will install to get that small driver wimgapi.dll? Just run the vlite to get the small file, I need to burn a dvd for this ISO image, quite tedious.

For Dell discs:

1.Copy the entire Dell DVD to a folder on your hard drive
2.In the "sources" folder, there is a folder called "$oem$". Delete it
3.In the "sources" folder, there is a file called "pid.txt". Delete it.
4.Open vLite and burn a new disc using those files
5.Install vista. It should now allow you to choose a version of Vista to install, and also will not install the dell product key and activation files

I can't really support vLite... you'll have to go to that website for questions on it. However, I don't remember having to install the WAIK in order to burn a disc, but I may have had it installed already when I tried the procedure. If you are trying to make other changes to the Vista install, it might trigger the need for WAIK. You might also try searching Google for "vlite waik".

I have already done that installing the WAIK from microsoft website. V-lite link me there. ther eis only 1 .dll file that it needs from WAIK in order to run. anyway, I have already installed the vista ultimate x64 in different partition of my HD and it run. dual boot select from boot mgr. Both my 2 current OS are located on each partition. I don't want to remove my former OS nor upgrading it since I was just doing compatibility & assesment check on the x64 platform.

I used the activation_backup.exe and it shows the product key no. for the new vista ulitmate x64 which is the different from the one shown on the sticker inside the vista disc. Similar things that happen when I performed activation_backup on my Vista Home Premium that came with my laptop, it is different keys than the one written in the bottom sticker of my laptop.

In case, I encounter stability and compatibility issues in the future for this ultimate x64, can I use the activation_restore to run and activate the windows again?

Yes, the product key found by ABR will always be different than the one on the sticker when running on an OEM installed Vista. That's just the way bulk installation works, and is one of the reason ABR was written. If you run into some issue where activation no longer works, using ABR to restore is not likely to work because whatever issue that caused the reactivation will probably still be there.

Just a quick thanks for this utility. Have done a clean install using my M$ key but got the "OK but you need to phone to activate"...

...Now repeating using your utility - I'll let you know :D

(Acer 2930)

Acer Aspire 2930 with Vista Home Premium

I restored to factory then used ABR to backup my activation which went OK.

Used Windows Vista "Ultimate" DVD (will be Vista Home Premium):


>>without a key and unticked Auto Activate
>>formated the second partition (Windows, Active) and installed there (Partition 0 and 2 left intact)

After Vista installed I checked to see the 30day to activate.

I stored ABR on partition 2 (Drive D on the Aspire 2930) and ran "activation_restore"

It removed a pile of numbers and then install my activation.

I can greatfully comfirm that the utility works.

Thank you clever cloggs :D

Many thanks to you Brian and your Team. your utility software helps a lot to many End Users. Great job and double thumbs up!!

this is interesting. i actually have a question. i have an hp laptop that came preloaded with vista home premium. now, i accidentally deleted the restore partition without backing it up prior. however, i do have a vista installation that came from torrents. would it work to back up the original key using this utility and implementing it into the installation from the downloaded vista version? thanks.

Yes, it should work. You don't need the software from the recovery partition, that is just used as a safety net. Since you don't have it, don't worry too much about it.

Hey man,

I just formatted my system. It had Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 installed. I took the backup, and then formatted using the Windows Vista SP2 RTM disc from MSDN.

I selected Windows Vista Ultimate while installing.

When I restore now, it says it looks like it's already activated, but when I check my system, it says 30 days remaining. What gives?

I specifically asked you this months ago if this'd work, and you said yes, it will. But I don't think it is working right now.


And WTF with this CAPTCHA crap man, I had to try like 5 times.


Since the disk was downloaded from MSDN I really can't say. I don't know enough about the MSDN discs to know if they should work or not, and since SP2 has not been released to the public, I can't say for sure if it will work there either. Also, it might be different if you had Vista w/ SP1 and then upgraded that to SP2. So far there have not been any changes to the activation system with service pack releases, however, it looks like they might be doing things a little differently in Windows 7, so they might be backporting that to Vista (though that seems like a strange thing to do). I'll have to wait and see when SP2 is officially released.

Hi There,

im using a Thinkcentre M57 Vista Pre loaded PC. if a do a clean installation using the ABR.... after doing the Installation and Restoring the Backup License...... when i use the OS Recovery disk will it be activated

You cannot do both. You can either install Vista clean and use ABR, or use the OS Recovery disc. If you use the OS Recovery disc after the clean install with ABR, you will overwrite the clean install with the recovery OS. Whichever one you choose, it should be activated when you are done.

[...] nicht auf das BIOS-Zertifikat zur?ckgreift. Um ganz sicher zu gehen, kannst Du ja das Tool activation backup & restore (ABR) verwenden. Du versuchst einfach beides (sowohl Key als auch Zertifikat) auszulesen. Wenn Beim [...]