Run Vista legally without activation for a year

A security expert says Windows Vista can be run for at least a year without being activated, but Microsoft calls the process an antipiracy 'hack'

Activation Deadline Extensions

"This is somewhat of a threat to Microsoft," Livingston said. "But the extent to what it can retroactively patch, I don't know. Maybe they will want to change this. But that would only call more attention to activation, and perhaps reveal the mechanism Vista is using to count SkipRearm."

Livingston has not been able to find where Vista stores the SkipRearm count; conceivably, that count is what restricts its use to a maximum of eight. If someone was to find the count location, however, and manage to change that as well as the SkipRearm registry key, users might be able to postpone activation forever, said Livingston.

"The problem I see with this is that unscrupulous system builders will use it [to install counterfeit copies of Vista], but that Vista will start demanding activation a year or more out, when the guy is long gone with your money," said Livingston. "And then the activation key wouldn't work, because he would have used it on hundreds or even thousands of systems and Microsoft would have blocked it."

Background

Microsoft introduced product activation in 2001's Office XP and also used it in that year's Windows XP. Activation was toughened up for Vista, however; After the grace period, nonactivated PCs running Vista drop into what Microsoft calls "reduced functionality" mode. In reduced mode, users can only browse the Web with Internet Explorer, and then only for an hour before being forced to again log on.

Livingston's work-around, however, may do away with activation altogether. "[Activation] has become so convoluted, the way Microsoft has implemented it, that it's more of an irritation to legitimate users than a worthwhile antipiracy measure," Livingston concluded.

Naturally, Microsoft's Lazar sees it differently. "The new anti-piracy technologies in Windows Vista are designed to protect customers and prevent the software from working correctly when it is not genuine and properly licensed," he said. "Systems utilizing these hacks will not provide the benefits of genuine Windows, nor will they work as expected."

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld

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