Vista Hands On #9: Use Vista for four months, free

Vista Hands On #9: Use Vista for four months, free

Summary: Looking for real Windows Vista secrets? Everyone knows you can install Windows Vista in evaluation mode for 30 days and reset the countdown timer three times, giving you a free evaluation period of 120 days. The trouble is, you have to remember to type the magic command every 30 days or you're deactivated. Unless you know the real secret, which uses another Windows feature to automate the process. I've got the never-before-published details here.

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TOPICS: Windows
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As I pointed out in yesterday's Vista Hands On installment, you can install an evaluation copy of any Vista edition and use it for a minimum of 30 days without having to activate it. As several publications have already noted, you can renew this evaluation period a total of three times, extending the evaluation period to roughly 120 days. But this post contains a secret technique that no one has yet published: how to automatically "rearm" the trial period at the end of each 30 day period.

The not-so-secret technique is simple: Open an elevated Command Prompt window (type cmd in the Search box, right-click the shortcut, and choose Run As Administrator from the shortcut menu). At the prompt, type slmgr.vbs -rearm and press Enter. Restart your computer. Done.

The trouble with this technique is you have to remember to do it. If the 30-day deadline passes while you're away from your computer, you'll find yourself deactivated. Here's how to handle the task automatically:

1. Click Start and type task in the Search box.

2. Click the Task Scheduler shortcut and click Continue when you see the UAC prompt.

3. In the Actions pane at the right of the Task Scheduler window, click Create Task.

4. Open a Command Prompt window (it doesn't have to be elevated), and type the command slmgr -xpr. Make a note of the date and time when the initial grace period expires.

5. On the General tab of the Create Task window, give the task a name, click Run whether user is logged on or not, and select the Run with highest privileges check box, as shown here.

6. On the Triggers tab, click New and fill in the dialog box to create a One Time task using a date and time that is before the end of the initial grace period, as calculated in Step 4. Click OK.

7. On the Actions tab, click New. The default action in this dialog box is Start a program. Fill in slmgr.vbs for the name of the program and add -rearm in the Add arguments box, as shown here. Click OK.

8. Click OK to save the task. Enter your password when prompted (this is what allows the task to approve the UAC consent request on your behalf).

Repeat this process for the second and third rearm task, making sure to choose dates that are less than 30 days after the task you just created. As long as your computer is turned on when the scheduled date and time arrive, the task will run and you'll get your renewal.

Topic: Windows

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49 comments
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  • Version Question

    This has probably already been asked and answered so I apologize in advance if it has, but can you install Vista Ultimate for the trial period and then at the end of the trial period enter your Home or Business key and essentially "downgrade" your trial to your legal copy? Or do you have to do a complete reload of the system if you try out Ultimate and only have a key for a lesser version?
    TechnoCritter
    • I've tried that ...

      If you attempt to activate Vista with a key for a different version than was installed, it won't work. It is not clear to me why since all Vista media contains everything you need for all versions but it doesn't.
      M Wagner
    • Key is version -specific

      When it's time to finally enter a key, you need to enter a key for the version that's installed. As Mark correctly notes, if you try to enter a different key you'll just get an error. That applies across all editions.
      Ed Bott
    • complete re-install

      there is no 'downgrade' available. you must install the version you have the key for if you wish to activate. this made it easier to manufacture 1 kind of dvd, one w/ every version w/ the key code algorythm, then merely print codes for version specific packaging. also, then you can easily upgrade via the 'anytime upgrade' online, they give you a key that coincides to the version you pay for, and you use the same dvd to do your upgrade, w/o having to go get another disk. this is also why you may wish to test drive another version w/o having the key after having bought a legal version. one thing no body here has mentioned is the ability to buy any version in an uupgrade and do a clean install for purposes of testing before doing the 'in place upgrade' which will overwrite the os while saving your settings and personal files. another reason to test drive before installing and activating. after reading most, if not all, of the posts here, and some of which just are more ms complaints, i am sort of amused at the questions 'why test first', seems obvious to me.
      inertman@...
  • Great, but what about the License Agreement?

    Hey, this is a GREAT tip, and I'm sure all those evil pirates Microsoft is trying to defeat will be sure to follow this suggestion. However, for THOSE OF US who stay on the correct side of the law, is this re-arming compliant with the EULA? Or have we been given the ability to do something that could land us in trouble?

    After all, the RIAA is going after college kids and universities again, so who is to say Microsoft won't use this against us later?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

    racingmustang
    racingmustang
    • The RIAA is only going after those college ...

      ... kids who have (1) broken the law, and (2) done so in such a manner as to have gotten the RIAA's attention. (Most drunk drivers are not spotted by the police and pulled over and most 'casual pirates' aren't getting caught either!)

      That aside, though, Microsoft has clearly made this EVAL option available for a reason -- it makes it easier for them to offer on-line upgrades which lets them make some extra money without (1) sending the consumer back to the store, (2) sharing those added upgrade profits with a reseller.
      M Wagner
      • The RIAA is going after...

        more than just college kids. If I may quote from this link:

        [u]http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20051130-5650.html[/u]

        "But the RIAA has been wrong before, as it was in its 2003 suit against Sarah Seabury Ward, a sixty-something sculptor who was accused of downloading gangsta rap. The suit was eventually withdrawn, but the case (and others like it, including one against a dead grandmother) does shed some doubt on the RIAA's ability to correctly identify the infringing party."
        msalzberg
    • I'll have a follow-up on this issue

      I see nothing in the license agreement that prohibits this, but I'm not a lawyer. A Microsoft spokesperson reportedly told ComputerWorld reporter Gregg Keizer that: "Extending the grace period, the spokeswoman continued, is not a violation of the Vista End User License Agreement (EULA)."

      Gregg's story is here: http://tinyurl.com/2t477n.
      Ed Bott
      • Thanks Ed!

        Thanks for responding to this. The Keizer story is helpful too!

        racingmustang
        racingmustang
  • Nice job, nice tip

    nt
    klumper
  • What about Office 2007?

    Is there an available "rearm" command for Office 2007?

    DR
    spindruiz@...
    • Not to my knowledge

      The rearm switch was originally intended for corporate system builders who needed it to manage installer images. there's no such need for Office.
      Ed Bott
  • What's interesting about this ...

    ... is that Microsoft is finally recognizing the value of "try before you buy" -- especially during a transition like this.

    They're moving to "try before you buy" coupled with on-line product upgrades helps MS become more customer-friendly while reducing its dependency upon shrink-wrapped media -- AND its dependency upon the reseller channel to support upgrades.
    M Wagner
    • Still a reseller channel

      Baby steps. The Anytime Upgrade program and Express Upgrade program both use resellers, one of which is Microsoft. Microsoft has sold licenses directly for a long time, but they still seem reluctant to cut out resellers.
      Ed Bott
    • It's not "try before you buy"

      because you still have to buy Vista, don't you? It's more like "try before you activate."

      Can you point me to a trial disc?
      msalzberg
    • How are u getting FREE a CD to do this on?

      How is this try before you buy? How is this 4 months free? Don't you have to BUY Windows Vista before you can even have the media to delay activating it?

      I realize some will get it free on new PC, or free upgrade on new PC or laptop. So it's already been subsidized. What's the point in not activating it? It's already yours?
      communications@...
      • borrow one....

        i found a cheap copy on amazon, $60, basic upgrade. but if you use any of the hintsor tricks you can find anywhere, you canuse any version and if you wish, you can purchase the 64-bit for another $10 from ms. then you can try any version forthe 120 days shown here before you spend all the cash on the one you want. my disc can w/ 7 versions, including 2 european (w/o media player)and the sampler. then of course you can try the same 7 versions in 64-bit for 120 days each. that's 14x120=4.6 years. i doubt anyone would do that because who really wants the sampler or basic? but you could really try out each one you would be interested in. as for borrowing one from someone you know, you can't activate it if your friend has already and you would tell vista not to automatically activate in order to go around screwing up your friend's activation. however, i tried it once while trying the key generating step of slmgr and had trouble restarting, but i think i made a mistake somewhere and haven't tried it since. and the generator hasn't yielded anything in 15 days of running either.
        inertman@...
  • Actually, you were scooped on 2/15

    Ed,
    Brian Livingston, author of the Windows Secrets series of books (very worthwhile) published this in his Windows Secrets free newsletter on 2/15/07, so your claim is incorrect and you're late to the game, with egg on your face. You might want to check out windowssecrets.com before making those sorts of claims in the future.
    rickearley
    • And credit where credit is due

      Ethically, Livingston also cited his sources: "I wasn't the first to discover the 120-day extension technique. As far as I can tell, an early description came from Jeff Atwood of the Coding Horror blog. I merely tested the procedure under various scenarios and found it to be reliable. I'd also like to thank reader Ernie Kitt for his research help with this topic." Were you sleeping in Journalism class that day?
      rickearley
    • Actually

      Actully Bott stated that the thing that was a "first" as how to *automatically* rearm (using task scheduler). And as he said, it's not-so-secret, seeing as how anyone who knows how to use task scheduler could figure it out.
      Punchey