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Windows 7: Clarification needed on activation?


08 Nov 2010   #1

Windows 7 Professional x64
 
 
Clarification needed on activation?

I've seen a LOT of discussion about Windows 7 licensing and activation, but I have a technical question about it (vs. a LEGAL one)?

As an on-site service tech, I've run into several situations where users (mostly out of ignorance of the legalities of the licensing) attempted to re-use a license key intended for a single computer.

Does Microsoft actually have a mechanism in place with Windows 7 so when a retail license key is re-used on a new/different computer, it causes any previous computer running it to revert itself to a "not genuine" status? And if so, would this process be something not seen immediately -- but rather, something the user would run into randomly in the next 30 days or so?

Additionally, would the same be true of an "anytime upgrade" key purchased online?

I'm curious not because I'm looking for ways to skirt the law, but rather, because I've occasionally had customers insisting that their copy of Win 7 suddenly turned "non genuine" - and I'm wondering if this might not be the real reason people sometimes see this? (EG. They re-use a previously used CD key for 7 and initially it accepts it and the install appears to go fine. But then 30 days pass and the system checks in with a Microsoft server, which says "Oops... I already saw this key in use by another PC that checked in with me the other day." and it gets flagged.)

I do know this was NOT the way Microsoft handled activation for any of their other products I've used, such as Office 2007. It seems that with those, unless your particular key got added to a "blacklist", you were basically good once you got past the initial activation process successfully.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
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08 Nov 2010   #2

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, clean install, upgrade disc
 
 

If you resuse a key, it will not be accepted on the second computer, there is no affect on the first.

You can install an OS, without givining the key. You would have 30 days to activate by phone. In this situation, you will slowly lose some of the Windows Features until, you can no longer use it. You do get MS warnings during the process

Using the same line of reasoining, if you do have an illegal copy or misused key. MS will notify you that it is not genuine and you slowly lose features until, you can no longer use the OS.

I do not want to go into detail as how MS operates, suffice it to say, it may take 30 or more days to be caught, but you will be caught.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Nov 2010   #3

Windows 7 x64 pro/ Windows 7 x86 Pro/ XP SP3 x86
 
 

I beg to differ with Rich. When you activate a Windows 7 install with a retail key, the key gets bound to a hardware hash that is a composite of various hardware components on that particular computer (such a motherboard which is the most important, hard drive, ram, optical drive etc.). This pairing data is stored on MS's activation servers. Now, nobody knows how long this data is stored, but from what I have read, it is believed this data is stored for 180 days from the moment of activation.

Now, when you use the same key on another computer within that 180 days timeframe, it is likely the key will be rejected straight away. There are reports that beyond that timeframe, the key will work on a second computer. OTOH, there is a distinct possibility, MS's servers will detect the key on multiple machines (E.g. when both computers are online)- when that happens it'll deactivate BOTH machines.

Upgrade and Anytime upgrade keys behave identically to retail keys.

However, let me remind you to please remind your customers, they have no business installing a single retail/upgrade key on more than one computer. Irrespective of whether it works or not, it is illegal and unethical.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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08 Nov 2010   #4

Windows 7 Professional x64
 
 
Appreciate the quick reply, but ....

Maybe what I really *am* asking here is for someone to go into some more detail about what the heck Microsoft really does/doesn't do in this whole process.

If this is deemed inappropriate to discuss in the public forum, I understand (and maybe an email would be better, and would be appreciated too).

I understand about the degradation of features when a copy of Win 7 is running in the 30-day "trial" mode because a valid key was never entered.

But contrary to what richc46 says, I've seen situations where someone was able to re-use a retail Windows 7 key to install it on a second PC without the key initially being rejected. (From the little I've been able to observe, it *appears* to be some kind of time-based situation? EG. If you install it once, wait at least 3 months or so, and then try to use it a second time on a new PC, the key works. But attempts to re-use the key within the same month don't work.)

That's why, I think, all of this can become so confusing. If it were as simple as a key only working for one install, period -- people would easily see that "Oh, I'm not allowed to use this copy again!" and that would be the end of it. But if/when they can successfully do it (at least initially), it would be good to know, technically, what can/does happen next?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Nov 2010   #5

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, clean install, upgrade disc
 
 

@Bill, I think that we are saying the same thing. The second computer will get rejected, with no effect on the first.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Nov 2010   #6

Windows 7 x64 pro/ Windows 7 x86 Pro/ XP SP3 x86
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by richc46 View Post
@Bill, I think that we are saying the same thing. The second computer will get rejected, with no effect on the first.
No, Richard we are not. If MS' servers detect the same retail key being used on multiple computers, it'll deactivate both/all.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Nov 2010   #7

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1, clean install, upgrade disc
 
 

OK then, I was not aware of that fact. I thought it was just the second. Thanks for the information.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Nov 2010   #8

Windows 7 Ultimate x64
 
 

I don't think that MS wants to clarify the process too much to help prevent people from abusing it. I think they are trying to make things as easy as possible on the consumer by potentially allowing a second activation after a period of time has elapsed. Most people don't blow up their computers in less than 2-3 months....so that's probably a reasonable amount of time to allow a second activation. If they allowed it almost immediately, people would install on 2-3 machines endlessly.

Personally, I think MS should have a portal which allows you to see which computers a license key is installed onto. Therefore, if your machine dies and you have a retail key, you could log into the portal and remove the old machine from having any claims to that license. If that computer was ever attempted to be used again, it should check in and then remove it's license and go into shut down mode.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Nov 2010   #9

Windows 7 x64 pro/ Windows 7 x86 Pro/ XP SP3 x86
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by pparks1 View Post
Personally, I think MS should have a portal which allows you to see which computers a license key is installed onto. Therefore, if your machine dies and you have a retail key, you could log into the portal and remove the old machine from having any claims to that license. If that computer was ever attempted to be used again, it should check in and then remove it's license and go into shut down mode.
Problem with that scheme is too much logistics and server space and chances of errors. As you rightly said, MS doesnt care too much as long as the key is used on a single computer. If you get caught, you get caught, if you dont , you're lucky.

No law in the world is fool proof, just because one doesnt get caught breaking the law doesnt mean one is not a thief.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Nov 2010   #10

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 x2 + x86 + Windows 8.1 x64 x2
 
 

Although this thread in itself has not broken the forum rules on discussion of piracy and illegal activities I am closing the thread as any further disclosure could lead to a breach of these rules.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
Closed Thread

 Clarification needed on activation?




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