TO GOOD TO BE TRUE PRICING
LOOK AT THE PACKAGE
There are many things to look for in the Microsoft OEM package itself before you even break the seal. Software pirates making bootleg copies of Windows XP Home can make a disk and package that looks nearly the same but they can't duplicate the process 100%. To do so would cost them as much if not more than the real thing. A large amount of the price consumers pay for Windows XP Home goes to piracy protection Microsoft has to build in.
Start off by looking at the package itself. It should be tightly shrink wrapped. One layer of tight shrink wrap is all there is, there shouldn't be some kind of loose baggy type of plastic around it or a wide seam in the shrink wrap. If you see that type of packaging then it has been opened and then repackaged. Most likely its been installed and the 25 product key numbers used. Take the Xp package and hold it flat under a lamp. On the top side you should see several rows of pin holes in the shrink wrap. These are for ventilation and are usually on just one half of the front side..
THE COA AND THE 25 PRODUCT KEY NUMBERS
Update November 2007
Microsoft has now released a new and probably final COA design for Windows XP as pictured above on the right. If features a blue and yellow scheme with a large M. It has the same two cut-out port holes, (always ragged cut for security) one is oval and the other is somewhat in the shape of the Microsoft flag. The hologram strip that runs through the COA now says Our Passion. The older style of COA will still be around for another couple of months until stock is depleted.
NOTE: As of 1/14/08 all Windows Xp packages that I'm receiving and selling have the newer style COA.
Next, take a look at the COA (Certificate of Authenticity) on the back side and the two large holes with the strip running though them. Those holes shouldn't look like they were cleanly punched out,they should look like a somewhat ragged cut. The chrome looking strip running through those holes is a hologram itself. You should be see different colors reflecting as you tilt it back and forth. You should also see the words OUR PASSION on the strip. Sometimes its flipped over backwards so the word is reversed. To the right side of the package look at the line thats just above where the Part No. X08-48123 is printed. That very fine line isn't solid, its actually micro type. Therefore instead of being clean,straight line it should look a bit jumpy or ragged. You'll probably have to look through a magnifying glass to notice it. With a microscope you'll be able to see what the print actually says!
THE HOLOGRAPHIC WINDOWS XP CD
On to the CD itself. Its a mirrored holographic work of art, another reason its so expensive. The easiest way to tell if its the real deal and 100% legit is the edge of the holograph--It should be wavy as in the picture above, not a rounded edge. The entire holograph is always embedded into the CD, it's never a sticker or label. If you can get a fingernail under the edge of a label/sticker on your copy of Windows Xp then its not a legal disk and should be returned to the seller and reported to Microsoft through their piracy program.
The holograph should never go all the way to the center "hub" of the disk. There should be another chrome looking holograph around the center of the disk and it should also be embedded into the disk. Once again, if you can peel off a label or sticker around the center hub then you have a pirated CD. Another way to tell legitimacy is whats called the stereogram in the upper right hand corner as show in the above picture. Its fully 3D and looks like its several inches deep! Move the disk back and forth and the Microsoft flag should change colors and appear to wave.
Here's a more fleeting holograph to look for. Look just above where the flag is and move the disk slightly back and forth,you may have to even change to a different lighting position but if you do it correctly you'll again see the word GENUINE appear. Rotate the disk around to where the word GENUINE is running up and down,tilt the disk around a little and you should be able to see XP. Both are in a green color. Looking just left of the Stereogram running up and down the word MICROSOFT will appear, do some moving a tilting and you'll find it. It will appear to be under the other print that's beside it. I've tried to take a picture of the words Genuine and XP but to no avial. In fact merely taking a picture of the disk itself if very difficult. Its basically a mirror with a lot of colors! Last, at the bottom of the CD under the word Edition is the Microsoft box. Its another stereogram with depth and plenty of colors. You can easily see the word Microsoft and the 01001100 numbers along with the globe of the World.
Update April 07:
Microsoft has added yet another security feature to XP recently. Look at the shrinkwrap on the back side of the package where the CD is. You may have to rotate it slightly but the wrap will have a "fish scale" or "raindrop" look to it instead of being just smooth plastic. It looks as though its stamped on during the manufacturing process. It should appear only over the CD, on the lower part where the COA is it will again look like smooth plastic shrink wrap.
Update November 07
Microsoft is no longer using the fish scale look on the shrink wrap over the disk but have switched to a process that runs about 13 or 14 "scratch" marks vertically over the disk area of the wrap. You'll be able to see them by rotating the package slightly. This process is on the back side only.
Update March 08
Microsoft is still using the scratch marks on the and a type of flower pedal stamp to the shrink wrap on the backside only. Both can be seen by holding the package flat and rotating it slightly. Most all Xp packages by this time should have the new COA. Looking at all those different areas with their holograms and stereograms will always insure you have a legal copy of Windows XP Home OEM. Those disks will pass the WGA test--Windows Genuine Advantage and allow you to upgrade to newer service packs, newer editions of Internet Explorer and Media Player.
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps with your Operating System purchase on eBay!
OEM System Builder--Microsoft Partner Program Member