Halloween Spooks - Microsoft is watching your upgrades

Halloween Spooks - Microsoft is watching your upgrades

Summary: On All About Microsoft, my blogging colleague Mary Jo Foley has come across an interesting tidbit in the Volume Activation 2.0 FAQ that demonstrates just how much Microsoft's changes to the Windows Vista EULA will affect hardware enthusiasts.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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On All About Microsoft, my blogging colleague Mary Jo Foley has come across an interesting tidbit in the Volume Activation 2.0 FAQ that demonstrates just how much Microsoft's changes to the Windows Vista EULA will affect hardware enthusiasts.

[poll id=10]

Halloween fun!
Credit: Vexentricity.com

Contained in the FAQ, Mary Jo discovered the following question and answer:

Q. How do hardware changes impact system reactivation requirement?

A. As long as the change is above 25 points you do not need to re-activate. Here is the table to determine total points. This applies to both Windows Vista client and Longhorn server for retail activation, MAK activation and KMS activation. [Emphasis added]

Component Class NameDefault Weight
CD-ROM/CD-RW/DVD-ROM1
IDE Adaptor3
Physical OS Hard Drive Serial #11
Display Adaptor1
SCSI Adaptor2
Audio Adaptor2
Network Adaptor MAC Address2
Processor3
RAM Amount Range (i.e. 0-512mb, 512-1GB)1
BIOS ID ('0' always matches)9

Note:  I'm assuming that "As long as the change is above 25 points" is a mistake and that it should read "As long as the change is below 25 points".

This is what's behind the 'algorithm' that Microsoft has been hiding behind for the past few weeks. 

Make any changes that adds up to more than 25 and BANG! It's time to reactivateThis clearly shows the extent of the problem that hardware enthusiasts will face.  Make any changes that adds up to more than 25 and BANG!  It's time to reactivate.  Do that twice and you're either looking at buying a new license or having to call Microsoft product support and hope (and it is hope, because there doesn't seem to be any written policy anywhere) that you'll be allowed another activation.

I'm also assuming, although I have no information to back this up, that Microsoft is also going to incorporate some kind of timer into the equation so that you can't say change the hard drive now and the rest of the PC later on today (or maybe they haven’t thought of that, in which case enthusiasts  have a possible escape route to avoid activation - don't count on it though).

My main worry with the points system is that it is heavily motherboard and primary hard drive centric.  The algorithm hits those who use motherboards with a built-in display adaptor, network adaptor, IDE adaptor, BIOS and so on.  However, it seems that changing a motherboard isn't enough to have to reactivate:

Maximum effect of changing a motherboard
Component Class NameDefault Weight
IDE Adaptor3
Display Adaptor1
SCSI Adaptor2
Audio Adaptor2
Network Adaptor MAC Address2
Processor3
BIOS ID ('0' always matches)9

TOTAL

22

Lose your motherboard and hard drive in some kind of incident and you're down an activation.  Nasty.

Don’t have nightmares!

More scary tech here!

Topic: Hardware

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98 comments
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  • Can't wait for the activation crack...

    ... come on you know there will be one! Personally I wouldn't wanna play the licensing game if I am faced with hardware failure / upgrades and I PAID for the software. I feel that if I purchased it, there shouldn't be a hidden 'screw you' clause in the hidden EULA (that I'll never read) that forces me to 'activate' or re-purchase what I already have.

    I think if MS keeps this up they will find one of 2 things happening:
    1. More people will turn to 'cracking' their software (ie removing their stupid countermeasures that make life miserable).
    2. Some (lets not kid outselves) people jumping ship to Linux distros like the all popular Ubuntu / Kubuntu / Edubuntu (free is goood! plus no spyware / viruses is a bonus for those that just email and surf!).

    my 2 (canadian) cents..
    jakex39
    • Educate me here

      Has anyone ever actually done this successfully? I know there is all sorts of hot XP OS software floating around out there, but I've been under the impression that if you ever let your computer "call home" MS will catch on and a little box about getting legitamate software will pop up. Vista will be even less friendly. I'd rather buy a hard drive and an OEM OS than put up with reminders and/or having the computer crippled.
      Bill4
      • Can't You Just Set Up A Patch Server

        Download the patches and apply them to the machines that need them even if their licenses aren't legit?

        Just curious.
        itanalyst
        • Sure

          I understand that is how people who really want to steal XP bad do it. But this is just a way to work around the system and not beating the system.

          I am not an early adopter, mind you. I will stick with XP for a year or so before moving to Vista if I ever do. I'll probably do so with some new hardware and an OEM Vista.
          Bill4
      • My OEM OS was XP. It and the computer were from HP

        And for the first three weeks, I would constantly get a message that my OS was illegal and I needed to buy an honest version. I ignored it and eventually it went away.
        Just Watching Now
      • Spoof OS

        There are plenty of "fixes" for this.
        It has been a game of MS vs. Others. As one fix comes out, MS updates WGA. Then another fix, another version of WGA, etc........
        dkunzman9
    • tsk tsk tsk

      "Personally I wouldn't wanna play the licensing game if I am faced with hardware failure / upgrades and I PAID for the software. I feel that if I purchased it, there shouldn't be a hidden 'screw you' clause in the hidden EULA (that I'll never read) that forces me to 'activate' or re-purchase what I already have."

      Silly Wabbit, you don't pay for the software... you pay for a License to Use the software. How in the world could MS screw you if you actually owned the software? It's not yours, at least, not anymore. You might want to take a gander at that EULA. ;)
      Badgered
  • I'm about to go on three this year.

    (NT)
    ju1ce
  • Maybe it really is <b>above</b> 25.

    If the table is correct, then all the parts add to 35. That means you could change anything [b]but[/b] the mobo or HDD and not have to reactivate. Change one of those, and you burn your 1 major change.
    Letophoro
    • my initial thought, too...

      you add up all the parts that are the original, and if it adds up to over 25, it's safe.

      it automatically takes care of the timing issue, too. just record what everything was when you registered it, and then every upgrade would deduct the points from the original, meaning you get 10 points that you can play with.
      shryko
  • Get the OEMs involved

    Now granted someone who builds their own won't directly benefit from getting OEMs to lean on MS, but if a normal person's MB and HD konk out, they call Dell or HP or whatever and make them fix everything, from the hardware problem to the triggered OS problem. If the OEMs start having to waste reactivations on hardware issues then I'd have to imagine they will start leaning on MS to lighten up to the point that even home builders would benefit.
    Michael Kelly
    • The OEM version is locked to the system and does ...

      ... not require activation. As long as you get the parts from the OEM you will not have to activate.
      ShadeTree
    • You're joking, right?

      [i]Now granted someone who builds their own won't directly benefit from getting OEMs to lean on MS, but if a normal person's MB and HD konk out, they call Dell or HP or whatever and make them fix everything, from the hardware problem to the triggered OS problem.[/i]

      If it wasn't the same drive the OEM installed, you've violated your warranty. Not their problem, but they'll sell you stuff to fix it.

      If it was the same drive, they'll replace the drive. The software isn't their problem; see the fine print.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Actually it is...

        "The software isn't their problem; see the fine print."

        You're right about violating the warranty, but incorrect about the software. Microsoft's deal with Dell et al states that The OEM's can sell computers with OEM copies of Windows, but it's up to the OEM to support it. It's written on the bundled OS discs to contact the manufacturer of the PC with any technical questions about Windows. We may still have to call Microsoft for activation, but the role of the OEM in this case is an interesting question.

        As a whole, it appears to me that Microsoft is truly digging their own grave with Vista's licensing and DRM. I'm no MS basher, but they're really losing the technology enthusiasts, case modders, EFF members, and IT communities. The problem is that all of these groups influence the masses. Granted there will always be sales of Vista due to system bundling, but it'll be very difficult for Microsoft to get back the tech people with all of the DRM, etc. intact, and I'm sure plenty of the techs will be influencing purchasing options of others who are on the fence, and I'm sure it will reflect in their 1st quarter earnings.

        Joey
        voyager5299
  • Above 25 points correct

    I believe that the statement above 25 points is correct as originally stated. My reading is that you get points for every component that hasn't changed. So if you have enough components that stay the same, you get more points and don't have to re-activate. Every component you change means that your point total is lower, which means you are more likely to have to re-activate.

    My question is whether replacing a device with an identical component (other than serial number) is considered a change. In other words, if my video card dies, but I get the same replacement card under warranty is that considered a change or not? My guess is that it's considered a change because of their statement that the serial number on the hard drive is checked. If replacement of the component most likely to fail and require a reinstallation of the OS triggeres re-activation, that just sucks.
    t_mohajir
    • Where's some of this come from?

      Why would video, sound, or network cards count at all? People swap those all the time. Also, what about USB connected drives (floppy, hard, CD/DVD), wireless network adapters--will they count or not?
      Bill4
      • And what about....

        What about running from a USB drive? Hmmm....
        Techboy_z
        • That is my second point

          And I really hope someone has the answer.
          Bill4
    • re: replacement with an identical part

      "My question is whether replacing a device with an identical component (other than serial number) is considered a change."

      My understanding is that even if the part is identical, as long as the serial number has changed, it is considered a replacement; and would therefore count against your activiation score.
      Badgered
  • Welcome to activation hell

    And if that wasn't bad enough there's a new 'sploit out there that can disable the firewall on a fully patched Windoze box.

    http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=35443

    The infamous double whammy. New restrictions on your OS coupled with ever increasing security threats. File this one under Sucks To Be You.
    Chad_z