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Inside Activation

Both Office XP and Windows XP include Microsoft's new Product Activation feature, designed to discourage casual piracy. When you install a copy of the protected software, it generates a unique Installation ID that is sent to Microsoft over the Web or by phone. Microsoft returns an activation code that authorizes the software. Without the activation code, the software stops working, and because the Installation ID is based on part on your computer's hardware you can't use the same activation code to install one copy of the software on multiple PCs. Corporate copies, such as those purchased under the Open Licensing program, are not included in the Product Activation program.

A German company, Fully Licensed GmbH, has reverse-engineered the Product Activation scheme used in Microsoft Windows XP. Its research shows that most of the Installation ID is derived by encrypting the Windows serial number, and that the hardware information sent to Microsoft is minimal and not an invasion of privacy. It also determined that you can change up to three major hardware items (CPU, network card, hard drive, graphics adapter, RAM, drive adapter) in your computer before you'll need to reactivate Windows. You can read the complete results of the company's research at www.licenturion.com/xp/fully-licensed-wpa.txt.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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