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

does this work with SP2?

Yes, SP2 is no problem.

Well then, I still waiting for Windows 7 Version. Since i had purchased Windows 7 Professional, and it seems that i will do some re-install option very often. Really appreciate for your hard work :)

Great little app Brian and it will be of great use to me in restoring those systems where the restore partition has been damaged.
I see a lot of people still asking about backing up the XP WPA files. I wrote a quick little app to do judt that but I could easily change it to also restore the files, a step which s currently done manually. If you are interested in it or in adapting it to a suite of WPA tools then Email me. I'm assuming of course that you can recover the email address from this reply.

I understand that a Windows 7 version of ABR is not yet available. To see what happens anyway, I ran ABR-1.0 on my new HP DV8t with W7 Premium 64-bit and a backup-key.txt file appears to have been successfully generated. Key restoration dosn't work, but will this key file be able to be used by the upcoming W7 version of ABR? I wanted to do a fresh install now so I'd just save the key file.

To successfully restore, you need both the key and the activation. The key alone is not useful, so you would not be able to use it if you did the clean install now. I am very close to putting out a beta that supports W7, so please stay tuned.

Used the new beta today on HP 6000 Pro system with Windows 7 Pro and it worked great. This is an awesome little program. Thank you for all your help.

AbrBeta doesnt work to extract oem cert on windows seven :
I excracted it on HP computer and compare file with original oem cert (stored on c:\windows\system32...\) : It was not same file.

As far as I'm aware, the OEM cert is not stored as a plain file anywhere in c:\windows\system32, so whatever file you are comparing to is probably not the correct one. If you can give the full path to the file, I could try to investigate, but the true test is if it can be restored after a clean install.

with HP computers (dc7900) there are stored on hard driver (search files *.ms-xrms) you find one,
and if you compare it with file stored by abr.exe beta1.1, it's different.
I installed seven on other hp computer (vista was installed on)
HD formated, and seven installed (with seven oem serial HP)
Bios updated (with hp bios for windows seven,
because, oem bios tag for seven is stored in (slic table....)

that's working fine :D

on my computer, oem cert will be stored on c:\windows\system32\OEM (HP7900 SFF), and that wasn't same as that generated by abr1.1beta (I edit these files, and compare it (with notepad++ for example...)

for more info, send me mail :D

Hi there,

Downloaded and tested on a Windows 7 Professional x64 DELL laptop. The backup only created the 1 file with the CD-Key but no Activation certificate. But worked on my Vista Ultimate x64 just fine.

Hope this helps :)

For the Windows 7 install, it should have created 2 files, so are you saying that the xrm-ms file was empty, or wasn't created? Thanks.

For me, the xrm-ms file wasn't created.

If it was not created, there may have been some other error or it crashed. A "normal" error would cause the file to be created but blank.

If you try it again, make sure to right-click and select "Run as Administrator". Also, disable any anti-virus software, as that might interfere as well.

You may be interested in this article:


and this one


The three key items appear to be:
1 tokens.dat
2 pkeyconfig.xm-ms
3 the product key

Is this correct?

Yes, those are some of the files that I am using as well. There are a few ways you can achieve the backup/restore of the activation.

My method aims to be easy to use and uses standard Windows methods to reactivate, so you do not need to deal with copying files deep within the windows folders and don't need to start/stop services. Feel free to use whatever method works for you.

doesnt work with my dell laptop with win 7 home premium installed either. it didnt create the xrm-ms file either for me, and i ran it as an administrator.

this has always worked with vista for me though on other computers.

I've seen a few reports of this, but so far I'm not sure what could cause it. If the extraction fails, the file should be created but it would be blank. It may be crashing as it runs. Try disabling anti-virus tools when you run it to see if that helps.

disabled it, tried again and still doesnt create the xrm-ms file. this is what the program says

Backing up activation...
!!! Could not find activation certificate !!!

Backup file stats:

Name "main::backup-cert.xrm-ms" used only once: possible typo at File/stat.pm li
ne 56.
Can't call method "size" on an undefined value at script/activation_backup.pl li
ne 103.

my copy is activated so i dont know why it says it cant find the certificate for me

Will this program work if I somehow lost my activation of my OEM Vista without doing a clean install?

if you have save cert, all right, also, that's not possible, bacause you dont have cert.

What I meant to ask is that, I have already backed up the cert and key of my OEM Vista beforehand when Vista is activated. Then if somehow I lost the activation, can I simply restore the cert and key without a clean install?

It depends on how you "somehow lost the activation". There is no reason that you should have lost the activation unless something major changed in the system. However, if you do have the activation files, you should be able to restore them and regain activation.

Win 7 beta error report

First: Thanks for your great work!

But Win 7 beta doesn't work for me. It will not create certificate file, not even an empty one. backup-key.txt is written and not empty. I tried running as admin etc.

Using Win 7 business (msdn-aa version).

Name "main::backup-cert.xrm-ms" used only once: possible typo at File/stat.pm line 56.
Can't call method "size" on an undefined value at script/activation_backup.pl line 103.

Windows 7 Pro (Retail)
Backing up activation...
!!! Could not find activation certificate !!!

Backup file stats:
Size: 31 bytes
MD5: 711bb9ecd564a0e07438b0118fb7ad51
Name "main::backup-cert.xrm-ms" used only once: possible typo at File/stat.pm line 56.
Can't call method "size" on an undefined value at script/activation_backup.pl line 103.

I might have figured it out. there is no tokens.dat file on my system (at least on not on under the path mentioned in the mydigitallife blog post.

On my installation there is no AppData folder under NetworkService folder.
Hope that might help you,

Used "ABR Beta With Windows 7 Support" and all went smooth - I have a "backup-key.txt" (crosschecked with other key identifiers) + a "backup-cert.xrm-ms" file (2731 bytes)

I also have a brand new laptop with a lot of OEM bloatware + partitions that are blocked, waiting for a clean install of Windows 7 Home Premium (I intend to switch from x86, original to x64).

Am I in the clear?
I created a 2 DVD system backup. I would like to delete the OEM partition by formatting - but is it safe, do I need a safety net still?


With your system backup, it sounds like you are ready to go.

Hi again, Brian
Sorry I'm late, but I have not forgotten about feed-back.
(W7-HP x64)

EXCELLENT TOOL - it simply worked the first time: install ABR / a few clicks to generate backup / clean reinstall / restore activation.

Just that simple!

Yes, I was reluctant initially, and over-cautious, but then my experience tells me so...
And there is also the decision about which drivers...
But now I have a system as it should - partitions as I need + no bloatware. GREAT!

To anyone interested - I can easily recommend!

Working great on Windows 7 Ultimate, thank you for this useful utility!

I have a damaged HDD and would like to extract the activation from it. Is that possible?

No. ABR cannot help in that situation.

Great tool, works with vista and Win7, thanks so much

I installed an OEM Windows 7 on my laptop. However, ABRbeta didn't manage to find the backup-cert.xrm.rms file. However, I was able to find all the files listed in this website: http://www.mydigitallife.info/2009/09/24/how-to-backup-and-restore-windo...

Anything wrong?

I bought Acer computer with win7, and in c:\windows\system32\oem.... there are files with oem cert, I dont try to installd seven with microsoft Dvd, but I think, that will working fine (as with HP win7 oem cert)

Yes, it's possible that the OEM has left the required files laying around on the hard drive as well. However, you will also need the correct product key, as the key on the bottom of the laptop will not work with those activation files.

But you can find wich it use with specific software.
Licence wich is on sticker (on your computer)
with stiker on your computer, you can activate (and use it) one time,
for that it's necessary to use oem cert with OEM serial
but it illegalbecause your arenot OEM customer....

There's nothing illegal about it. You already have the license and already have the key. It is the same as performing a backup of your computer. As much as the big companies would like it, they have not managed to make backups illegal yet.

[...] and Restore) For OEM versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 that are pre-activated at the factory. http://directedge.us/content/abr-act...up-and-restore Test version with Windows 7 Support: http://directedge.us/files/abr/ABRbeta.exe Guide Here: [...]

How come the activation is different with an OEM OS vs. a Retail OS?

That puzzles me. I thought activation was activation, plain and simple.

Now, why do they include a product key on a OEM machine and have a different one installed (I know, it would take much longer to install with individual keys but..) Can you just use the key on the sticker to re-activate your windows after a clean install and forget about all this?

I used the tool in an OEM vista installation and worked like a charm. Now that I have a Retail W7 it obviously doesn't work but great work anyway!


It is different because OEMs manufacture systems in bulk, and individually activating each system would be extremely time consuming and expensive. Using ABR avoids you having to contact Microsoft for "permission" to reinstall your computer every time. It is a time saving application, especially if the alternative is to call them on the phone and enter many numbers. You may not reinstall that often, but some people do.

Yeah, I re-install quite often... I understand perfectly the bulk manufacturing etc.. my question was rather:

how come activation for OEM and activation for Retail are different in the way they store the info in the system. Why OEM information can be retrieved with ABR but not a retail install's. Is the information missing or stored/encrypted differently? Still, it can extract the key for either installation (in registry I suppose...)

I'm good for now with my W7 install. Hopefully when comes the time todo a clean install, we'll have something working here :-)

The activation is not stored in the registry, it is stored in a binary file inside of C:\Windows. The OEM certificates are mostly the same, and are much easier to test with because they don't require connecting to the MS servers. A retail activation certificate comes from the MS servers and are unique to the activation request, so they are harder to test with and harder to isolate. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's a lot more work that I haven't been able to do yet.

beta for windows 7 works
keep up this good work.

Hello, I ve tested program on windows 7 pro 32, it works very vell. Thank you very much for this, its very usefull for me.

I he the ABRbeta.exe tested on windows 7 and it works excellent

[...] platt. Bevor du aber dein altes Vista formatierst, solltest du deine OEM Aktivierung hiermit: ABR (Activation Backup and Restore) | directedge.us exportieren. Denn die Aktivierung von OEM Keys ist online nicht direkt m?glich. Wenn du dann dein [...]

Worked for me, used it with Windows 7 Ultimate on an Acer laptop. Good job, keep up the fantastic work.

Tested on Windows 7 Home Premium 32bit Slovak *UPGRADE* version - unfortunatelly it's not working :(