Home > Microsoft, Windows > Vista Piracy half that of XP (allegedly)

Vista Piracy half that of XP (allegedly)

It is unlikely to be true given how easy Vista’s version of WGA is to get around (without being detected by MS) but also due to the lethargic adoption amongst power and intermediate users. It is hard to claim a victory over Vista piracy when demand for the product is so low.

Ever since the release of Vista, Microsoft has been plagued by a fairly hostile reaction from the press and the blogosphere to the sixth release of Microsoft’s flagship – Windows. Vista’s copy protection enjoyed more of a gleeful reaction reaction as it was actually (initially) easier to circumvent than XP . This way due to the ‘feature’ which allowed Vista to be installed without entering a product key. This meant later on when the ‘RTM Stop Clock’ hack came out, Microsoft could not ban an individual product key (like they did en mass with XP) as the installation would permanently believe it was in the initial activation grace period without a Product Activation Key.

Around the same time a ‘Brute Force’ crack was created. This was a new approach which tried to randomly generate keys and see if they activated. Potentially it would have created a big problem for Microsoft as people using this method would potentially be activating genuinely owned Product Keys. However it was revealed by the author to be a hoax, it did actually work as advertised, however the success rate was so statistically insignificant as to be worthless. Various local and alternative remote activation servers were also used to authenticate copies of Vista, however since any copy activated by this method would require reactivation within 180 days it was not as useful.

More recently a spate of OEM activation cracks have appeared. These seem to be the ‘big daddy’ of Vista activation techniques since they employ the ability of OEMs to ship pre-activated products.This method seems to emply manufacturer based digital certificates which can be installed on any corresponding laptop from the manufacturer and used to activate Vista offline.
The point I am trying to make with this post is that there have been and still are a variety of techniques used to activate Windows in an almost transparent fashion. With Windows XP, the main way for activating (or get around activating) Windows would be to install the so called Corporate versions which came with a XP key pre-embedded and pre-activated. This made it fairly easy for Microsoft to detect as a small number of keys were used by such a high proportion of individuals. With Vista, the copy protection systems have become far more technical and so to have the manners in which they are circumvented, the question of whether Microsoft can even detect the majority of these pirated installations needs to be asked.

As an interesting aside, Microsoft have announced they will be removing their ‘feature’ which allows them to badger non authentic (or non activated) copies of Vista and even disable said systems. An interesting side effect is it means that, after SP1, Vista would become (essentially) freeware. Someone wishing to pirate Vista would be able to run it indefinately without being either nagged or having their system disabled. Is Microsoft that desperate to increase market share that it is handing Vista out on a plate?

Of course I should chalk onto the end of this post that I neither support nor encourage piracy, I am citing references for academic completeness.

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