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Windows 7: Hardware "hash" within virtualbox


22 Mar 2011   #1

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 
Hardware "hash" within virtualbox

Hi,

I have a retail copy of Windows & Home Premium installed on an old Compaq laptop (that originally came with Windows XP OEM, which I, fortunately, chose not to upgrade). The laptop is now so old and slow that I have decided to install Linux on it and use its retail license for VirtualBox.

I would like to know how VirtualBox presents the hardware to the guest OS; does it present or emulate the underlying hardware itself, so that, at any time, a guest OS (i.e. Windows 7) running on VirtualBox on a particular computer (with any host OS), produces the same hardware hash (for identifying unique activations)? If not, then does it generate a unique virtual hardware every time it is installed on a host?

Basically, I have a multi-boot system on one of my desktops with Fedora, Ubuntu and Windows 7 (Ultimate). Each has VirtualBox installed on it. What I want is to have a single copy of Windows 7 (Home Premium, from the Laptop) installed on a vdi file, which I can share on the same desktop among the three OSes (by creating new virtual machine on the different hosts, and associating each with the same vdi file). I'll use Windows for testing new software as well as (on Linux) to run Windows-only softwares. I know that I can transfer the retail license from the Laptop to a virtual OS, but can the same guest OS be used with different hosts on the same "real" hardware, legally (i.e., without activation problems)?


My System SpecsSystem Spec
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22 Mar 2011   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
 
 

Short and simple answer: no.

Every virtual machine has its own SID and "reports" virtualization platform specific emulated hardware. Two virtual machines using the same vid or vhd running on same platform (VBox, VPC, VMware) still both need and must have individual identifiers. There's no legal and valid way to activate several Windows virtual machines using the same product key without earlier installations losing their activation status.

Running sysprep with generalize switch resets all hardware specific information, including SID, to allow you to deploy an image of your Windows setup. However, it also resets the activation information, so using a retail product key you have no problems activating Windows when a generalized image is then transferred to a new hardware setup, whether a physical or virtual machine. Using an activated Windows vid or vhd when creating a new virtual machine and trying to activate it with the same key is then as any other scenario where you try to activate Windows with a product key already used to activate another machine and setup.

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 Mar 2011   #3

Win 7 Ult + Starter, XP Pro +Home, 2kAS, Linux Mint 8, SuperOS
 
 

You want to run a retail copy of the Windows 7 Home Premium as a VM. That's ok. You have 3 LINUX hosts on a single physical machine which you would like to run that VM upon.

As long as you do not run more than a single clone of the VM at a time I cannot see how this is different from a physical installation of an OS with 3 users.

Legally, you should be OK, but I can see that you may lose the activation every now and then, (doesn't everybody who does geeky things with Vista and 7 seem to?) but you are free to reinstall the OS as many times as you wish, as a physical or Virtual machine on a single computer. You can only use it as a single virtual OS machine at any time. What the host is at any time is irrelevant to the license.

Make up your own mind - here is the relevant part of the EULA:

EULAID:Win7RC.1_HP_NRL.EVL_en-US
Quote:
2. USE WITH VIRTUALIZATION TECHNOLOGIES. Instead of using the software directly on the licensed device, you may install and use the software within only one virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed device. When used in a virtualized environment, content protected by digital rights management technology, BitLocker or any full volume disk drive encryption technology may not be as secure as protected content not in a virtualized environment. You should comply with all domestic and international laws that apply to such protected content.
The "one virtual hardware system" is VirtualBox in your case, not the underlying OS IMO - virtualization removes the influence of the underlying host OS..

Keep a backup, that's quite legal. If your VM becomes invalidated, restore your backup image.

You are not a Pirate, and Microsoft has no interest in preventing genuine Developers or enthusiasts from using properly licensed, Microsoft products.
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22 Mar 2011   #4

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

@Karli

Other than sysprep, is there any way to get VirtualBox use exactly the same virtual machine on each host? I don't know whether the export/import appliance feature in VirtualBox produces the same SID or not.

Is there a way to backup the entire virtual machine (with vdi files and hardware SIDs)? Even if I limit the virtual machine to a single host (say Ubuntu), there will be times when I will have to reinstall VirtualBox on the host or even the host itself. Creating new virtual machine and attaching old virtual hard disk to it will still generate a new hardware (with different SID) and hence would invalidate the activation.

@fafhrd

I agree that Microsoft is not against legitimate users, like us, but we are caught in the crossfire between the pirates and Microsoft, and, hence, must suffer, unduly. I also agree that people playing with windows have to re-activate it several times.

I believe "within only one virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system" refers to a single virtual machine on a single host. Though VirtualBox hides the underlying system, I believe, it presents to the guest a unique piece of hardware, with its unique set of serial numbers and hardware IDs. So, every virtual machine is probably different, despite any resemblance it bears in the hardware model (e.g. chipset model etc.) Do tell me if you believe that I have a wrong conception of the activation process.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 Mar 2011   #5

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
 
 

Any imaging software can help you to create an image to be transferred to another machine, but you can then have problems because of different hardware. Because of this, sysprep is the best alternative.

A virtual machine can be backed up as any other computer, even using guest's own native tools like Windows Backup.

Yes, it refers to a single vm on a single host. Every vm is, as is any real computer, a unique piece of hardware, as you put it, whether this hardware setup is emulated as in vm's or physical as in real computers.

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 Mar 2011   #6

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

@Karl

So, I think, I can just make backups of the VDI files (maybe using VBoxManage clonehd command) and whenever I reset the VirtualBox system, I can use sysprep and later reactivate. But, if I remember correctly, sysprep can only be used a certain number of times (probably three) to reset the activation system. What shall I do after that? All I can think of, then, is to re-install the Windows system. Can you suggest better than this? Will something like Acronis TrueImage be of any help?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 Mar 2011   #7

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
 
 

Acronis is OK, but the activated system image can be restored without need to re-activate only to same hardware. If it detects hardware change, you need re-activate.

Kari
My System SpecsSystem Spec
23 Mar 2011   #8

Win 7 Ult + Starter, XP Pro +Home, 2kAS, Linux Mint 8, SuperOS
 
 

Part of any legal definition of "Breaking the law" is "intent" (not that Microsoft is likely to be taking any fraudulent single user to court anytime soon!). Is your intent to use this software (your retail Windows 7 Home Premium) fraudulent? Do you wish to use it in such a way as to deny Microsoft it's due remuneration?

If you run a single installation of your OS to a guestOS.vdi on host platform 1, and take a full backup of that guestOS.vdi to some mass storage medium, or other archival storage such as DVD, you are behaving legitimately. You perform some operation to test how host platform 1 interacts with your guest OS, and then shut down the VM and then the physical machine, you have done nothing outside your license agreement.

If you then boot into host platform 2 on the same physical machine, and from within your hypervisor installed upon that OS on that machine, you open the same guestOS.vdi, and perhaps access some data that had been stored by the previous session, you are still not doing anything wrong. And so on...

If you delete the "used" GuestOS.vdi (just because you want to use a clean copy, or because you have damaged your working copy) and revert to a copy of your archive, you are doing nothing outside your license terms.

If at some point, you find that the guest OS reports that it is not activated, and you run an online activation and it reports that you are not genuine, you have the option of talking to a Microsoft operator for a telephone activation, or getting further information at:

Windows 7 Genuine Advantage Validation Issues (Windows 7) Forum

where you can discuss your particular issues with technicians with access to Microsoft official genuine product databases, who will advise you further.

or

You can reload your archive copy

or

you can reinstall afresh.

If on the other hand, you run an office with a team of developers on linux workstations each testing their output on a separate clone of your Windows 7 guestOS.vdi, you are clearly breaking the terms of your EULA, and deserve to have legal action taken against you.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Mar 2011   #9

W7 X-64 W8.1 X-64 Opensuse 13.1 W2003 Server
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Kari View Post
Short and simple answer: no.

Every virtual machine has its own SID and "reports" virtualization platform specific emulated hardware. Two virtual machines using the same vid or vhd running on same platform (VBox, VPC, VMware) still both need and must have individual identifiers. There's no legal and valid way to activate several Windows virtual machines using the same product key without earlier installations losing their activation status.

Running sysprep with generalize switch resets all hardware specific information, including SID, to allow you to deploy an image of your Windows setup. However, it also resets the activation information, so using a retail product key you have no problems activating Windows when a generalized image is then transferred to a new hardware setup, whether a physical or virtual machine. Using an activated Windows vid or vhd when creating a new virtual machine and trying to activate it with the same key is then as any other scenario where you try to activate Windows with a product key already used to activate another machine and setup.

Kari
Hi Karl

I really hate having to disagree with you but you can "Clone" Virtual machines and these NEVER ask for a new activation. (Note whether or not this is legal is a mute point if you only run ONE at a time and are just using for testing different versions of Application Software such as say photoshop CS4 vs Photoshop CS5).

The SID changes such as with VMWARE you get a message the first time you power on a cloned VM Did you MOVE or COPY it. I just tick the I copied it box.

The only time Windows (any version) will ask for a re-activation is if the "Virtual Hardware" changes SIGNIFICANTLY - which usually means if you increase hugely the amount of RAM allocated to the VM or attempt to add very eseoteric and unusual hardware.

If you CREATE a VM by doing a Windows INSTALL then you WILL be asked to activate but an activated VM clones without problem and won't ask for re-activation --at least on vmware software.

You can clone also in various ways --acronis is good, also the Vmwware menu before powering on the VM ==> clone Virtual Machine or just simply use Windows explorer - just copy the vm data files to another location. No special backup / restore needed although my preference is to use Acronis since I use this for "Normal" backups and it makes the task more manageable --you don't want zillions of differet backup methodologies to backup machine images.


Cheers
jimbo
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Mar 2011   #10

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center
 
 

Jimbo, I'm only happy if I have wrong information and someone corrects me. I know you can VMware inside out, so I take it for granted that's true what you now told me.

My posts in thread are solely based on my own experience with VirtualBox and Virtual PC, not being familiar with VMware. I have not succeeded to clone Seven or XP vm's on Windows Seven host, then run them in Linux host keeping the activation status.

Kari

EDIT:

Here's a screenshot of a test I just made. I cloned an activated Windows 7 Enterprise vm running on VirtualBox on Windows, rebooted to OpenSUSE Linux, created a new vm using the clone in VirtualBox, booted the new vm and I had to re-activate it. Did so, shut down the new vm, booted back to Windows, run the old original vm, and got this:

Name:  Activation_removed.png
Views: 14
Size:  16.1 KB


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 Hardware "hash" within virtualbox




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