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Root of Windows Activation Problems Found?

October 24th, 2007 at 2:30 PM (17 years ago) by Matt Freedman

Remember back in July when I had those activation problems with Vista? No? I didn’t think so… Anyways, Vista had suddenly said it wasn’t activated and that it was genuine (which is crap, since I bought it legally). This actually happened once (or maybe twice, I don’t remember) more after that, too.

Well, it appears that APC Magazine (I’ve never heard of it before…) has figured out what the problem might be.

You see, when Vista is installed on a computer, it detects what hardware is in the machine and creates what I like to call a “hardware sum”. This is now the base sum. Whenever you change the hardware in the computer, Vista decides how big the change is and remembers that. If your current hardware sum becomes to different from the base sum, Vista deactivates itself. This is all done to prevent piracy. They don’t want you to take an image of your machine and put that on another machine. Which is actually a good way of trying to prevent piracy… Okay, so I did install a new graphics card, and maybe because I use multiple flash drives and other USB-based devices, it just decided that the hardware was too different, and deactivated itself.

But, it gets even more interesting. There’s a major flaw in the way Microsoft implemented this. Instead of using the id from the hardware (which isn’t necessarily unique), it gathers the sum from the details of the device drivers. So, when you install or change hardware, the sum changes, that’s fine. But, even upgrading your device drivers can cause the sum to change! Because the details of the driver can change version-to-version and most people use drivers by Windows at first and then upgrade them to drivers from the manufacturer, the sum can change. Which, when combined with actual hardware changes, could be enough to change Vista to deactivate itself.

This seems like a viable explanation for why this happened to me. But, the only hardware change I had made then was a new graphics card. So, maybe I updated some drivers at one point… Although, Asus hasn’t released any Vista-compatible drivers for my motherboard yet, so the only way actual hardware (not USB-based devices) drivers could have been updated would be through Windows Update and they would be Microsoft drivers (and you would like they wouldn’t change the hardware sum)… Also, the activation window didn’t have everything that it should have on the Phone page. it should have had numbers that I would have to give to the support rep, which would allow them to give me a key that would reactivate Vista. Plus, after a few restarts, Vista went back to saying it was activated and genuine.

APC Magazine says that Vista developers are working on fixing these problems… Hopefully they do and use a better way of getting a hardware sum then device drivers…

3 Responses to “Root of Windows Activation Problems Found?”

  1. Kareem
    Kareem says:

    i turned on my computer after installing automatic updates and there you go, my windows is now pirated (according to ms). actually my copy islegal.
    why does this happen?

    i found an interesting workaround…. inReduced Functionality Mode’s IE. press ctrl-o (to open a webpage) and open c:\windows\explorer.exe, and keep clicking on ‘Run’
    heypresto, you get your windows back!

  2. Leah
    Leah says:

    Thanks for this information. I’ve just encountered the same problem. Have there been any recent fixes? I followed Kareem’s advice and my have windows back, but I still have the ‘non-genuine’ notation on the bottom right of my desktop.

  3. Matt Freedman
    Matt Freedman says:

    The only way to fix this is to call Microsoft and explain the problem to them. They’ll probably give you a number to enter into the Activation wizard which will reactivate your copy of Windows.

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