Vista starts spotting activation cracks

As expected, scanner hits Windows Update, looks for pirated copies

As it promised, Microsoft Tuesday started sending Windows Vista users an update that identifies illegal copies of the OS installed with cracks that the company will disable when it distributes Service Pack 1 (SP1) in two weeks.

Last Thursday, Microsoft announced the update, which detects two common cracks used to activate pirated copies of Vista, and said it would hit Windows Update (WU) within a week. Users who have left Vista's recommended WU settings alone will receive the update automatically. Others, said Microsoft, must enable Automatic Update within Vista or manually call up Windows Update from the Start menu.

A document posted to the company's support site spelled out the details. Among other things, it promised that the 3MB update "does not affect the functionality of your operating system." That jibes with what Alex Kochis, senior product manager for Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program, said last week when he announced the update.

If the update finds one of the cracks -- the first, dubbed "Grace Timer," extends Vista's activation grace period, while the other, "OEM BIOS," mimics factory-floor activation -- it pops up a notice alerting the user, but doesn't disable either crack. Users whose PCs don't have the cracks will not see the pop-up.

Once installed, the update cannot be removed, as it doesn't appear in the "Uninstall or change a program" list in Vista's Control Panel.

The update is one of the last steps Microsoft's taking before it offers SP1 during the middle of next month. The service pack will kill the Grace Timer and OEM BIOS cracks, a move that in turn prompts the operating system to start showing messages informing users that they're running a bogus copy and persistently nagging them to pony up for a legitimate version.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?