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Windows XP

• March 3, 2005 •

Microsoft Changes OEM Activation

By: Arie Slob

At the start of this month, Microsoft made changes to the way that Windows XP can be activated on Original Equipment Manufactures (OEM) PC's. OEM PC's are those of large computer manufacturers, such as Dell, HP and others.

According to Microsoft, Internet Activation will no longer be available for systems bought from the top 20 computer makers starting this month. In the next quarter the ban on Internet Activation will be extended to include all pre-activated Windows PCs.

Microsoft explains this as a measure against piracy. The problem is that OEMs can install Windows XP, and bypass product activation (via an approved method). But the Certificate Of Authenticity (COA) labels on these PCs could easily be copied and used to activate another copy of Windows XP using Internet activation.

COAs have also been reported stolen, and sold on to other (smaller) PC manufacturers, and unscrupulous PC makers have also been known to use one COA on multiple systems.

So now when a user of a pre-installed Windows XP wants to re-install his OS, they will be redirected to call Microsoft customer support, who will ask a number of questions to check if their copy of Windows XP is legitimate.

I don't think this will be a problem for most users. The larger OEMs are authorized by Microsoft to customize their branded re-installation and recovery media so that if Windows XP is re-installed on the hardware it shipped on, it will not require end-user activation. This policy change also doesn't apply to the "retail" version of Windows XP.

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