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

Very good tool!


Thanks! I know how to do with XP but I did not with Vista.

How did you accomplish this with XP? I know how to get the key but not the activation... Having this ability will save lots of time in my line of work.

Thanks for the help.

!!! Could not find activation certificate !!!


ABR only works with OEM preinstalled versions of Vista that come from a major OEM like HP or Dell. If you are trying to backup for a retail version you installed yourself, or an OEM version you bought yourself or was installed by a smaller OEM, then ABR will not work at this time for those.

Will ABR work with an OEM Vista SP1 install?? Thanks


Yes, ABR works with SP1, no problem.

Before i get bashed in the head, I have read "OEM preinstalled versions of Vista that come from a major OEM like HP or Dell ...

But what i am wondering is, if i have, say an OEM licence and decide to upgrade from Vista Business to Ultimate with an upgrade purchased Vista dvd, will i still be able to back up and restore the previous or new upgraded license with ABR? and as such do a clean install?

Many thnaks in adnvance and be kind whoever decides to respond

ABR won't work once you upgrade to the new version because that version will be activated online or by phone. OEMs install with a different activation that does not carry over into the upgrade.

Hi, Does the activation backup work if I put it into no-Oem installation?

It depends on what you mean by "non-oem installation". If you are talking about an OEM install disc, then there is really no such thing. All Vista install discs are the same, so there are no special discs that only work with OEM install keys. All keys will work on all discs.

However, some OEMs like Dell have customized their install discs so they appear to only install one version of Vista. This can be removed using vLite, or it's also mentioned in the guide.

If you are talking about an install where you installed from a retail disc or an OEM version that you bought from a store and installed yourself, then no, ABR does not work with those installations.

[...] from a computer at work/school or maybe from a friend who doesn't use it and run a program called Activation Backup and Restore to extract the key from the OEM install, then use a Vista Anytime Upgrade DVD (which contains all [...]


is this tool also working, if i install the new clean windows (incl. sp1 now, my recovery was without) on a new and much bigger harddrive?

thanks for an answere


Yes, it will work if you change the hard drive. If you change other things like video card or network card, it might not work for that.


can i use the program from command line (if windows dont start and i need to get the activations files)

Thank you


Yes, ABR is a command-line tool, so it should work from the command line. Make sure you run it from media that it can write to though -- it will not work when run from a cd/dvd disc.

Will ABR work if I clean install with a Vista SP1 Integrated DVD, instead of the Original Vista DVD?

Yes, ABR works with SP1.

I am a repair tech. When I have a customers pc that needs to be reinstalled, due to spyware or virus, and they have no media or restore cd's, can I use this tool to get the xp key and activation from it...


ABR only works for Vista. There may be ways to do it on XP, but I don't know what they are.

I used your tool on and XP Home machine. I got me the key that was used but no activation cert...

Good point. Yes, it will get the key, but not the activation. Activation on XP works completely differently.

Yes but you don't need to call microsoft to activate it , so technically he is right

IS this what I want if I don't have vista discs, but want to wipe my hard drive clean and start from scratch? I have an HP Pavilion dv6000 laptop.

No. This tool can help you, but you need to have some type of Vista disc to be able to install. There's no way around that. You should take a look at my guide here for more information on what you need to do:

I have one of those too. It's branded (Sticker) to work with Vista, but barely works even after doubling the memory. There is an extra partition on it that has a program that will build your Vista disks,....just one time,.....Use it wisely.
I ended up putting XP on mine and now it's very fast and dependable.
"Vista Ready" my eye!

Tried running activation_backup as specied. Although it saved the key file it did not produce the backup-cert.xrm-ms file. As the DOS box closes automatically on completion there is not enough time to see if there is a problem.
Any ideas?

If the window is closing on you, it means it is crashing somewhere. To see the error before the window closes, you need to run the command from a DOS window.

1. Open the Start menu and in the search box type "cmd.exe", right-click on it and select "Run as Administrator"

2. Use the "cd" command to switch into the directory you have the activation files in, something like: "cd c:\users\bob\desktop\abr-1.0"

3. Run the command "activation_backup.exe", then press ENTER.

You will now be able to see what the output is and hopefully an error message giving a better idea of what's going on.

hello. I am using windows 7 home premium in HP laptop. I run activation_backup.exe and it only generates backup-key.txt and the window close on me. So I follow your suggestions: I open start menu, search for cmd.exe, and run it as administrator. then I type g:\Activation Backup and Restore because my activation_backup.exe is inside folder Activation Backup and Restore in drive G (my flash drive). then I run activation_backup.exe, and there is a window "do you want to allow this program from an unknown publisher bla bla", I click yes. but after that the window still closes on me!? what should I do now? thx for the help.

UPDATE: I just got an idea: immediately before the window closes, I hit the print screen button. this what is written:

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 102

Do you have any idea? thx

UPDATE again: I just read below me you already answered this question. but I have redownloaded, and run it as administrator. it still doesn't work. have any idea? thx a lot

Try to disable your anti-virus as well. I have had some reports about this happening, but I can't find a way to solve it.

Can't tell you how much this guide 'Installing Vista without bloatware' helped. I'm doing a Home Premium reinstall on my HP and after banging my head for a long time with the service rep of HP, I got the answer to 'why not use my vista key (one at base of laptop) for a clean install'.

I however am curious as to how your program works and if there's a way one could use it to do the same for all Vistas (not only OEM ones). I'm surely not bothering you for this... will try and work it out by myself! But thanks a lot for all your work!



is this tool also working, if i install the new clean windows (incl. sp1 now, my recovery was without) on a new and much bigger harddrive?

thanks for an answere


Yes, it will work if you are installing onto a new hard drive.

i have vista home premium oem, i launched activation_backup.exe and i received the following errors:

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 102.

I have not heard of an error like this before. Please try to download the program again to make sure your download did not get corrupted. Also, make sure you are logged in to the system using an Administrator account, and also try to run the program as Administrator by right-clicking on the activate_backup file and selecting "Run as Administrator".

I got this output when I ran it from the cli:

'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 102.'

I am running a clean install of Vista Business SP1 on a Lenovo that came loaded with crapware on Vista Business w/out the service pack.

I know you've not seen this one before ... but do you have any ideas on what I can try next?

===== OEM Windows Vista Activation Backup 1.0 [by orev] =====

Backing up product key...
Found key: xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
Saved to file: backup-key.txt

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

Backup file stats:
Size: 31 bytes
MD5: d8f95538d932d7dcc5699643dcf6ce9c
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 102.


I am running vista home premium on a HP Pavilion dv6258se

I followed the instructions on use and the program shut down after creating the backup-key.txt. I then tried running the program as an administrator and same thing. So i started a command prompt and same thing. I ran the command prompt as an administrator and same thing. I tried 2 different usb flash drives, 3 usb harddrives, and an sd memory card. Same error on all media. I tried running the program first then as an administrator and had the same problem each time.

Help! Please?

I will mention that a while back ( computer is updated regularly) after doing some windows update I came up with an error saying I needed to enter my key and activate with microsoft. This is a preinstalled os but i read up on this problem with microsoft vista. So I had to activate it over the internet and everything was fine. Hope this helps.

I have a Vista Home Premium Express Upgrade disc (I know this won't work for a clean install) which I obtained free from the Manufacturer to upgrade my laptop from XP Media Edition. However, I don't want to upgrade my laptop to Vista.

I also have a Windows Vista Basic Anytime Upgrade disc which was obtained from MS as part of a special when purchasing an XP Home installation disc. (I know that the Anytime Upgrade disc is the one to use for a clean install) I installed the XP Home on an older desktop pc and will leave it that way.

I purchased a desktop with an OEM installation of Vista Home Basic and would like to upgrade to the Vista Home Premium doing a clean install. My desktop meets all requirements to upgrade to the Vista Home Premium.

Both computers are from the same Manufacturer.

My question is: Can I do a clean install on the Vista Home Basic (using your ABR) and then install the upgrade using the Express Upgrade disc? or should I use the Anytime upgrade disc to upgrade and then use the product key which is on the sticker that came with the Express Upgrade disc?

ABR can't help you here. It's only good if you are planning to run the same version of Vista that was already running. Since you're going to be upgrading to Home Premium, I suggest that you:

  1. Use ABR to backup the activation for Home Basic. You won't be using this backup now, but it will be nice to have if you ever want to sell the computer with the original Vista Basic license.
  2. Reinstall with Vista Basic. Don't bother to activate or even type in a product key. You have 30 days to run like this.
  3. Install the upgrade to Premium. When you do the upgrade, use the key that came with the upgrade.

Thanks this is going to be helpful. I appreciate your quick response.

[...] Homepage Download Activation Backup & Restore v1.0: Exe | Zip Categories:H? ?i?u hành Last updated:September 27th, 2008 Posted by:rilwis Popularity:1% Avarage user rating: (Rate it NOW!)  Loading ... addthis_url = location.href; addthis_title = document.title; addthis_pub = 'rilwis'; Write your comment [...]

[...] you can get a hold of a Vista 64 bit ISO you can use this. It's called ABR. ABR (Activation Backup and Restore) | directedge.us Backup your current key onto a flash drive with this program. Then reformat with Vista 64bit and [...]

Like i have a laptop and it came with vista installed, but i just bought a better desktop and i wonder if its possible to activate the code on the desktop. (and im not gonna use my laptop anymore, so not gonna update vista regularly on it, if that matters)


You should check the license agreement that came with your laptop's copy of Vista, but the answer is probably "No". OEM editions do not come with permission for the license to be transferred to another computer.


I bought Windows Vista Ultimate with my notebook. I got a 32 bit disc with it, and not a 64 bit disc. Therefore, I bought a retail version of Windows Vista Ultimate x64, but now everytime I re-install it, I have to go through hell. Once, after an update, it gave me 30 or so days to reactivate it (I think Microsoft later acknowledged this error because I don't get it now). Now I am back on my OEM disc because a software I need to use won't work on an x64 OS. Will my ABR back-up from this OEM installation work on the retail disc's installation when I install from that later on?

Thank you.

Yes. ABR will work for this if you follow these steps:

  1. Install the 32-bit OEM version of Vista on your computer (I think you already have done this)
  2. Run the ABR backup and save the backup files
  3. Install the 64-bit Vista version from the retail disc. When you perform the install, do NOT enter the registration key and do NOT automatically activate during the install process
  4. Once the install is completed, run the ABR restore, and it will restore the OEM key and activation to your now 64-bit install.

The vista disc does not know and does not care if it is a retail or OEM disc. That information only comes from the key that you type in, so otherwise it is the same.

Also, I'm sorry to mention that you did not need to purchase an entire new retail license to get 64-bit. It was probably quite expensive and that's because you bought a new license. You can obtain the disc for about $12 which would contain the 64-bit version, and you could use the same license you already had. At least now you can install the retail version on another computer if you want to.

Yeah, well I guess I have habit or learning things the hard way. Later I checked this disc wasn't available in my country if I wanted to get it through Windows Marketplace, and I couldn't bother to go to other websites (the credible ones didn't have one with SP1 integrated at that time). No problems though, my GF still thinks her money was stolen by one of her friends. :D

I'll mention that I have helped you in this.

Oh yeah, my name is Silas Awaketh, and I'm that good! :D

Yes, of course I remember, on the NBR forums. Your help on the Dell OEM disc was very much appreciated, as well as all of your input in the discussion.

But don't you think this could be used by the pirates and others? I mean, they can buy one disc, clone it to make 1000 others, and use this method to activate all of them.

No, because the activation only works on the same hardware configuration it was activated on, and relies on the OEM to have place an SLIC table in the BIOS. The only machines that could have it installed would already have an OEM license for Vista.