TECH NOTE: Can’t Activate XP after a Repair Install, because you can’t get past the “Please Wait” screen?

So there’s this fun bug in XP SP3/IE8 where if you do a Repair Install on a computer that already has IE8 installed, you’ll end up stuck on a “Please Wait” screen forever once you get done with the repair install. The fix (detailed here) is to boot into Safe Mode, install IE8 there, then reboot and you should be good to go. But what if it doesn’t even let you log into Safe Mode because it’s complaining about needing to be activated and the only way it can activate is to boot in Normal Mode and you can’t get to it because of the aforementioned XP SP3/IE8 bug?

So here’s what you do (kind of simple, really, but I wanted to document it for future generations)

  1. From a working PC, download IE8 for XP:
  2. Place said download on a USB drive or burn it to a CD
  3. On the dead PC, boot into Safe Mode with Command Prompt
  4. This mode doesn’t complain about not being activated, so we can install IE8 from here
  5. Navigate to your CD (usually drive D) or your flash drive (usually drive E-H) and run the IE8 installer we downloaded earlier
  6. Let it install, then reboot and once you’re booted into Normal Mode, activate XP and go nuts

I hope that helps somebody out there. Go wild, guys.