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Friday, March 16, 2007
Extend Vista Licensing For a Year For Free


Microsoft says it opposes "software pirates" who sell unauthorized copies of Windows. But the Redmond company has made things a lot easier for pirates by adding a line to the Registry that can be changed to postpone the need to "activate" Vista indefinitely.

At least this is what Windows expert Brian Livingston claims in his blog. Windows Vista can be run for one year without being activated, according to Livingston.

He said that a change to Vista's registry would allow users put off the operating system's product activation requirement. However, he added that the total amount of times he managed to "reset" the activation mechanism was eight, although more research could postpone activation indefinitely.

The procedure is quite simple, according to Livingston. All you have to do is change a registry key value found on Vista-called "SkipRearm"- from the default "0" to "1". The procedure can be used in eight times in total, which means that you could extend your Vista free license for nearly a year (360 days).

Microsoft seems to be aware of the issue. After all, the company has documented the key on its support site. The company explains that "rearming a computer restores the Windows system to the original licensing state. All licensing and registry data related to activation is either removed or reset. Any grace period timers are reset as well."

However, the latest attempts to apply the "trick" to a copy of Vista Home Basic bought March 14, did not work, according to Livingston.

"Microsoft has slipstreamed something into Home Basic and Home Premium," Livingston said in a statement to computerworld.com. "But from my reading of the support documents, Microsoft needs to keep this feature in its business editions, Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate. It seems that Microsoft is sympathetic to enterprises' difficulty in rolling out Vista within the activation deadlines."

Theoretically, someone could find where Vista stores the SkipRearm count, which is what restricts its use to a maximum of eight. This could allow users to postpone activation forever, said Livingston.

Microsoft's Window's Vista OS feature a new anti-piracy technologies designed to prevent the software from working correctly when it is not genuine and properly licensed, according to Microsoft. Hacked systems were supposed not to provide the benefits of genuine Windows, nor would they work as expected, Microsoft claims.

It is obvious that Microsoft was aware of this security issue from the very beginning. The Redmond company would not allow such an obvious trick to bypass its premium OS. The feature could be efficiently blocked if Microsoft desired.


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