This technology is also used in Microsoft Office products during activation. To activate volume-licensed versions of Office, including Project and Visio, one must have a Key Management Service (KMS) host computer. One can configure a Windows Server computer to be a KMS host computer by installing the Volume Activation Services role and then running the Volume Activation Tools wizard.
When installing a retail copy of Windows or Office, the user is asked to input a unique product key supplied on a certificate of authenticity included with the program, which is later verified during activation. Immediate activation is not required following installation, but the program must be activated within a specific period of time in order to continue to function properly. Throughout this grace period, the user will be periodically reminded to activate the program, with warnings becoming more frequent over time.
Certain versions of Windows and Office are available under a volume license, where a single product key is used for multiple installations. Programs purchased under this license must still be activated, with the exception of Windows XP and all versions of Office released prior to Office 2010. Businesses using this licensing system have the option of using Microsoft's activation servers or creating and managing their own.
If Windows is pre-installed on a computer by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), the operating system is automatically activated without the need for interaction from the user. In this case, the copy of Windows installed does not use the product key listed on the certificate of authenticity, but rather a master product key issued to OEMs called a System Locked Pre-installation (SLP) key. On each boot, Windows confirms the presence of specific information stored in the BIOS by the manufacturer, ensuring the activation only remains valid on that computer, even if the product key is used on another machine.
Certain retail copies of Windows and Office sold in certain countries classified as emerging markets have geographical activation restrictions, which only allow the user to activate the product within the indicated region.
The following tables illustrate the usage of product activation throughout Microsoft software, specifying whether the programs can be equipped with retail or volume licensing activation as well as geographical activation restrictions.
While Microsoft says that product activation benefits consumers by allowing Microsoft to produce higher quality software, it has nevertheless received much criticism regarding its design and implementation, effectiveness at stopping piracy and respect of privacy rights. For instance, during the development of Windows XP, beta testers strongly criticized the introduction of product activation, particularly because a change in computer hardware required re-activation. Ken Fischer at Ars Technica questioned whether activation would ultimately be effective in stopping piracy, stating that while casual computer users would be affected, he would \"be a fool to think that someone out there won't find a way to break this whole thing.\" Dave Wilson, a technology columnist at the Los Angeles Times, describes activation as \"just another example of a rapacious monopolist abusing computer users who are helpless to do anything about it.\" He too believed that the system would not have \"any significant effect on professional pirates.\" Fred Langa at InformationWeek, with reference to the transmission of hardware information during activation, stated that \"many users are incensed at this level of monitoring, intrusion, and control by Microsoft.\" Finally, Dr. Cyrus Peikari and Seth Fogie, security consultants, considered product activation to be \"hostile both to privacy and to human dignity.\"
Others defend Microsoft's use of product activation. The Harrison Group, a market research firm, conducted a study sponsored by Microsoft in 2011 illustrating that computers running activated versions of Windows software were on average 50% faster than their pirated counterparts. The group concluded by stating that users of genuine Microsoft products ultimately receive superior performance while counterfeit users are susceptible to security issues and lost productivity. Fully Licensed GmbH, a developer of digital rights management technology, while criticizing Microsoft for being vague about the nature of information sent from a given computer during activation, nevertheless concluded that activation is not particularly intrusive and does not significantly violate privacy.
Microsoft Product Activation has also been criticized on multiple occasions for violating patent law. In 2006, Microsoft was required to pay $142 million to z4 Technologies for infringing on a product activation patent, while in 2009 Microsoft was ordered to pay $388 million to Uniloc for patent infringement in product activation in Windows XP, Office XP and Windows Server 2003.
Microsoft Product Activation has been cracked or circumvented on numerous occasions since it was introduced in 2001. In 2001, a UK security company called Bit Arts successfully managed to bypass product activation on Windows XP, while in 2003, volume license keys for Windows XP were leaked to the public, allowing users who had not purchased a volume license to the operating system to bypass activation. In 2009, several security flaws in Windows 7 were used by hackers to circumvent activation.
Since the introduction of Windows Vista, most attempts at circumvention of product activation have focused on using leaked SLP product keys and BIOS information used by OEMs to preactivate Windows. In 2007, a circumvention measure was developed for Windows Vista by warez-group Paradox that simulates the BIOS, allowing leaked SLP information to be fed to the operating system, bypassing activation. In 2009, SLP product keys and certificate information for Windows 7 were leaked to the public, allowing the BIOS to be reconfigured to bypass activation.
Page 2: Disabling Windows activation completelyA clever little tool called RemoveWAT not only disables Microsoft's activation subsystem, it also installs the latest anti-piracy update from Microsoft and then disables it, too!
The other popular approach toward cracking Windows activation takes advantage of the difference between retail and OEM copies of Windows. Retail copies have to be activated using a unique serial number. OEM copies from large system makers (Dell, Toshiba, HP, and so on, collectively known as Royalty OEMs) use a technique called System Locked Preinstallation (SLP). The preinstalled copy of Windows uses a single master product key tied to specific information in the system BIOS that is unique to that manufacturer's systems. If the encrypted licensing information in the preinstalled copy of Windows matches the information in the BIOS, no activation is required.
The two exploits I describe in this post are certainly not the only ones out there. Indeed, Windows pirates have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with Microsoft for years. In the Windows XP era, pirates focused most often on stealing legitimate product keys, especially Volume License keys. Beginning with Windows Vista, Microsoft has begun building anti-piracy components directly into the operating system, and pirates have aimed their hacking skills at those components with increasing sophistication.
A KMS client connects to a KMS server (the activation host), which contains the host key the client uses for activation. Once KMS clients are validated, the Microsoft product on those clients contacts the server every 180 days (6 months) to maintain its validity. However, a KMS set-up is only viable for large organizations with Volume Licensed (VL) Microsoft products.
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Typically all bit-fields with the exception of the unused field and the 'dockable' field are compared. If more than three of these ten bit-fields have changed in a) since product activation, re-activation is required.
Starting with Office 2k, MS required actual activation of the product in much the same way as Win XP. Office generates a hardware ID for your system and submits it to Microsoft. MS then gives you another product key specifically for that hardware ID. They allows you to register online once, and you're required to call an 800 number each time after that to get your key.
Primary Harddrive Ethernet card CDROM Drive Graphics adaptor CPU Harddrive SCSI controller IDE controller RAM Changing any of these items will result in you needing to call up Microsoft and beg for a new key. No. Changing four of them (sequentially or all at once) will result in you needing to call up - and changing hard drives four times doesn't count.--- TheGreenReaper (Laurence Parry)SharetwitterfacebookNo identifiable information (Score:3)by BarefootClown ( 267581 ) writes: on Monday July 09, 2001 @07:25PM (#96243)Homepage I don't know about the online activation (haven't run a sniffer on it, yet), but I tried the telephone activation today, and there was no personal information exchanged. I called the toll-free number, waited on hold for about 10 minutes (and we're still in the beta stage--just wait until this thing hits mainstream), then finally talked to a patronizing tech support drone. He asked me for the product activation key, a numeric string that makes MS CD keys look sane--32 digits, IIRC. He then read back a 36-digit numeric string to be entered in the activation window. That was it--no e-mail address, no name, phone number/address, etc. I suppose it could have been a hash code containing my name, but that's all it could have contained, as I had not entered any other information to that point. Probably just a hardware ID. 153554b96e