Microsoft gives away Windows 8 Pro to pirates by accident

Microsoft gives away Windows 8 Pro to pirates by accident

Summary: Forget torrents, just go and download as many Windows 8 keys that you need, from Microsoft directly.


You want a copy of Windows 8 Pro? Go ahead and download it -- Microsoft is giving the keys away for free.

According to VentureBeat, an interesting exploit on Microsoft's download page allows users to pick up a free copy of Windows 8 Pro -- directly from the website, and at no cost.

If you attempt to download the free Microsoft Windows Media Center upgrade, which is being offered until January 31 next year, a strange side effect takes hold. Windows 8 Pro will be permanently activated.

windows 8 for free legitimate pro crack key microsoft media center upgrade exploit


For the pirates among us, this would provide a handy workaround for the tech giant's Key Management Service (KMS). Built for enterprise users, the KMS is intended to make deployment of Windows 8 through a KMS host and KMS client, making Windows 8 fully usable for 180 days before activation. In other words, instead of being required to input an activation key or reach Microsoft authentication channels on each individual computer, businesses can activate Windows copies on a local network and make the transition step-by-step.

Within the enterprise, making Windows deployment processes easier can only be a good thing. However, this does mean that by setting up pirate KMS servers, keys can be traded across the Internet for free.

One feather in Microsoft's cap, however, is that Windows has to be reactivated every 180 days using this method. Volume keys are no longer in use, and so each individual PC needs a unique key -- and so 'legitimate' activation cannot be achieved through multiple users activating through the same key.

Therefore, pirateers have had to come up with more complex methods, possible through the KMS system, but more time-consuming than simply downloading a Windows Media Center upgrade. 

Once you've reached the desktop within the Windows 8 Pro installation and after applying a KMS key, using the new Windows Media Center upgrade key -- obtained for free by Microsoft's website -- does not result in a validity check. Therefore, any version of Windows 8 Pro, whether obtained through a pirate KMS network or not, will become fully active and 'legitimate'. 

Stephen Hall at Windows Wave originally reported the exploit, and was able to confirm it works, at least for now. 

Reddit user noveleven explained on a discussion thread why the method, in theory, works:

"When you activate Windows via KMS, in the activation window it says "Windows is activated until…" and a date (so if you were to install it today, it would say it's activated until May). After installing the upgrade, the window just says "Windows was activated on…" and the date of activation. That means the activation is permanent. When you install the upgrade key, that replaces the existing product key; only the new upgrade key is used for future checks. Windows won't check the key you used to install because it no longer has it."

ZDNet has reached out to Microsoft and will update the piece if we hear back.

Topics: Microsoft, Security, Windows

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  • Thanks

    I really love what you do, bravo! Thank you very much for sharing with us this article.

    • repetition of vista failure

      I am pretty much sure this is not the hack; this is another Microsoft stunt.
      Every good computer user will stay away from the window 8, like we did in vista’s time.
      Microsoft needs good computer user on windows8; otherwise it’s a repetition of vista failure.
      • ignorance is bliss

        ... for those who dont think like you do :)

        btw, I can't disagree with you more.. been using Win 8 since early Sept, doing my VS 2012 development on it for couple web sites and its simply uncomprable with Vista and better than Win 7. All i can say is dont knock it untill you try it. I'm not funboy of any company, using MACs (powermac and powerbook) since '98, using Linux since slackware v.3 floppys came out.. in other words , "its not the tool, its how u use it"...

        And I def agree with you that its not hack, its MS trying to proliferate the user base for stats and marketing purposes, expand the user base.. which is what every good vendor should do to encourage people to use their product to max extent possible.
  • So basically...

    So basically what's going on here is that an installation of Windows 8 Enterprise edition is basically converted into an installation of Windows 8 Professional after applying the Media Center upgrade? Is that about right?
  • Does the product key, I will be upgraded to Windows 8 Pr

    I am running Windows 8, does the product key I've just asked for through this link, mean I will be upgraded to Windows 8 Pro with Media Center for free?

    My Windows 8 key came preinstalled with my Sony Vaio. I believe it's OEM.
    • Does the product key, mean I will be upgraded to Windows 8 Pro?

      Does the product key, mean I will be upgraded to Windows 8 Pro?
      • My copy isn't enterprise, it's not clear if you need to have Win8 Pro?

        My copy isn't Enterprise, it's not clear if you need to have Windows 8 Pro first or can you use Windows 8? It says:

        "* If you were running Windows 8, your PC will restart automatically and Windows 8 Pro with Media Center will be on it.
        * If you were running Windows 8 Pro, your PC will restart automatically and Windows Media Center will be available for use."

        It also says it's FREE! :-D
      • No. For earlier versions of Windows 8 only.

        No. For earlier versions of Windows 8 only. But there's an explaination. To upgrade to Windows 8 Pro Media Center, you must have your earlier versions of Windows 8 to upgrade. See Add Features to Windows 8 in for how to get the product key for Windows 8 Pro Media Center. You must have these following things:
        1. Your earlier version of Windows 8 (like mind - Windows 8 Release Preview)
        2. Your E-Mail
        Make sure you have your product key activated in 2012 after you downloaded the Upgrade Advisor and the Product key with you. If you want to upgrade with an earlier version of Windows, go to and click "Download Pro for $39.99 ERP".
        Stanley Borines
    • "..upgraded to Pro..."

      No. You have to be at Pro level to install the MC added feature.
      Specifically, you need to buy/apply the Pro Pack 1st, then apply MC.
    • Windows Media Center

      I'm curious if Media Center will be the program I'm used to, and how it will integrate with me, outside of a touchscreen or mousing environment. Media Centers are played on big screens and (or) projectors without mice (and of course without touch screens).
  • Genius!

    When you wake to headlines screaming that your OS is failing in enterprise and retail, have an "accidental" release of keys and give the sucker away for free. Well played, Redmond.
  • Windows 8 for free

    Nope - sorry MS I'm still not tempted..
    The Central Scrutinizer
  • Windows 8 for Free?

    I think this was not done in error, I think Microsoft is quietly doing things that will encourage people to upgrade to Windows 8.

    Why, you ask? Simple, Microsoft knows it will make more money in the long run from people who will buy software from their App Store equivalent. This makes Microsoft want to have everyone running Windows 8.

    As for if it is good or not, from an I.T. standpoint, I LOVE it, it is easy to setup, quick, prevents most bad software from being installed (at least at present), etc.

    For the end user, the interface is a problem, unless you are running a touch screen. Luckily there are third party tools that fixes this.
  • Forgot to add - "And still nobody downloaded Windows 8".

  • Vista had nasty DRM too..

    And nobody wanted it either. I'd say let them enjoy all the nasty DRM that they want but as a retailer just let me share one little anecdote that should say it all...

    For nearly 7 months I had a NICE desktop running Win 8 in my shop for people to try and NOT ONE PERSON wanted to buy that system, not a single one. When I got tired of looking at Windows 8 I installed Win 7 HP on was being carried out my shop less than a week later. Hmmm...7 months of Win 8 and no sale, 4 days of Win 7 and its gone? I think that really says it all, I didn't see as much hate for Vista as I do this abomination.
    PC builder
    • The only way people are going to even try it is if there's no option...

      ...for anything else. Which M$ will have to do in order for this rediculopathy to hit the mainstream. Of course, which PC sales as such on a slowdown, this might affect that coercive approach. There are more choices, now.

      I just wish people could get past the "one-OS-has-to-do-everything" mindset. Why does it have to? An OS is just a means to an end. The software is what counts... and to run your software, well, there's more than one way to skin a cat.
      • Agree Robynsveil

        "I just wish people could get past the "one-OS-has-to-do-everything" mindset. Why does it have to? An OS is just a means to an end. The software is what counts... and to run your software, well, there's more than one way to skin a cat."

        Well said Robynsveil.

        I think that there seems to be a mindset promoted here that you either do what the Furore wants you to do or off you go to some undisclosed location to be re-grooved.

        BTW - is this true: "One feather in Microsoft's cap, however, is that Windows has to be reactivated every 180 days using this method."

        Windows 8 has to be reactivated every 180 days????

        Is that the case?
  • By "accident" or

    ... to pad the numbers to show better usage.

    Most stores are reporting people asking for the "downgrade" option.
    • references pls..

      so can't believe that.. any reference articles by major retailers where this is actually backed up publicly ?
  • IE10 for Windows 7 (SP1) out

    It's here:

    I've been using it today and it does crazy things. Sometimes it just comes up blank. Other times it takes awhile to pop up a new window. Good luck in accessing Google Mail and anything else Google at the same time to do a search.

    Very strange.

    But it's a preview (which replaces IE 9). It seems to have some of the same bugs as IE9.