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Windows Vista Activation Problems

What happens when Windows Vista decides that it's been tampered with? Here's a step-by-step report of what happened when Ed Bott installed a new game.

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1 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

The Setup program for 9Dragons seems like a perfectly normal Windows program installer. Running through the Setup program triggers no warnings from any security software, including Windows Defender.

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2 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

This dialog box popped up a few minutes after I began playing the game. The confusing message doesn't mention Windows Vista at all.

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3 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Although this copy of Windows Vista had previously been activated, the bottom of the Welcome screen now says the activation status has changed.

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4 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Clicking the Validate Windows link in the dialog box leads to this webpage, where the text in the top right promised that it's "quick and easy" to confirm that my software is genuine. I click Validate Windows.

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5 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

If I'm not sure what the Genuine Windows program is all about, this page offers me a change to find out. I'm more interested in fixing my activation issue.

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6 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Last fall, Microsoft said that the Software Protection Platform code was integrated into Windows Vista. Just as in Windows XP, however, it requires an ActiveX download to validate your copy. I click the Info Bar at the top of this browser window to begin the installation.

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7 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

The ActiveX security dialog box makes it clear that I am indeed about to install the Windows Genuiine Advantage code in Windows Vista. Meanwhile, a balloon pops up from the taskbar telling me that Windows was deactivated

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8 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Yesterday this copy of Windows was perfectly valid. Today it's in danger of being shut down completely, all because I installed a perfectly harmless-looking game.

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9 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

A link at the top of the Validation webpage leads to this forum. There are lots of people having trouble with validation and activation of Windows Vista, but no specific mention of the game I installed. The only clue is a reference to the anti-cheating tool nProtect GameGuard.

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10 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

A fter a restart, the message at the bottom of the Welcome Center screen has changed. I now have three days to activate. Although the message doesn't say so, it's clear that I'm less than 72 hours from being shut out of Windows completely. I click the link.

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11 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

After starting the activation process, I learn of the possible consequences. If I don't activate Windows now, it's going to stop working in three days. I click Activate Windows online now.

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12 of 12 Ed Bott/ZDNet

Reactivation was successful, although it required that I restart the computer and stop playing the game. What happens if I restart the game? Presumably, the game's components will trigger the same anti-tampering warning from Windows Vista.

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