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Thursday, March 03, 2005
Microsoft's Net Activation Plan Kicks In

Microsoft's plan to halt some Net activation for Windows kicked in Monday, with the software maker assuring customers that the antipiracy measure will not prove a problem for legitimate users.

As most gamers know, many game manufacturers use some sort of physical copy protection measure on the disc to prevent copying or at least make it very difficult to clone. Microsoft and many other commercial software manufacturers on the other hand resort to product activation where the product ID is tied to a unique key generated from a hash of some of the PC hardware's serial numbers.

Back on Monday, Microsoft decided to get the top 20 PC manufacturers including HP and Dell to activate Windows XP on every PC they ship and as well as decided to disable Internet activation for Windows sold by these OEM's. Beforehand, most PCs sold by large OEM's did not have its Windows tied into the Product ID on the case, meaning that someone could potentially reuse the key on the PC's product ID sticker or illegally sell it on as an unused OEM key. According to Microsoft, some pirates were recording the Product ID's of PCs being resold and then reselling the Product ID's to illegally make extra income.

Users who purchase from these top 20 PC manufacturers will still be able to activate Windows in the usual method so long as they use the restore discs that ship with their PC. However those who try taking their PC's product IDs to another PC or have purchased stolen keys will be told to contact Microsoft. In this case, when they call Microsoft they will be asked to answer questions and most likely be told that they are using an illegitimate or stolen copy of Windows.

"For users of genuine Windows, who have gotten Windows from one of the larger OEMs or smaller OEMs, it should be zero impact," he said.

The change is the latest attempt by Microsoft to target software pirates who try to sell stolen copies of Windows XP or the certificates of authenticity that mark the software as legitimate. The company has a plan to check that people's operating systems are properly licensed before allowing them to download certain updates. The plan, known as the Windows Genuine Advantage initiative, was introduced in January.

Most PCs sold by many retailers require the user to enter the product key listed on their box when they power on the PC for the first time, while many other PCs already have Windows pre-activated. The drawback with the new method is that those who get their PC?s pre-activated must call Microsoft if they decide to change any hardware that requires Windows to be reinstalled or causes it to deactivate.

While this method may be effective at preventing stolen codes from being resold, I don?t think it would have too much of an effect at stopping some users from giving their product IDs to friends. If the other user already knows about this anti-piracy approach, then there is little stopping them from falsely telling Microsoft that they just done a major PC upgrade (changed motherboard, hard drive, CPU?)


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