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• September 24, 2004 •

Microsoft Trials License Validation

Microsoft has started running a trial on their download site, whereby to get access to select downloads, users must first complete a validation process, which checks if their copy of Windows is genuine.

Right now, the validation process is voluntary, but Microsoft says that it might be required in the future to access their download center.

Should it become required in the future, only users of Windows XP and Windows 2000 (client, not server) will be required to validate - according to Microsoft. Windows downloads will continue to be available, without validation, if you are running Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows Server 2003, and Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3.

The validation process itself does not require Internet Explorer to be used as your Web browser, and I have personally successfully validated using Mozilla's Firefox (RC1) browser.

Information Collected.

According to Microsoft, the validation process will collect information about your system, such as Windows product key, PC manufacturer, and operating system version, to determine if Windows is genuine. This process does not collect or send any information that can be used to identify you or contact you. This is the complete list of information collected:

Data Value Usage
OEM product key Web page flow, confirm user input, demographics
PC Manufacturer Web page flow, confirm user input, demographics
OS version Demographics
PID/SID Demographics
BIOS info(make, ver, date) Web page flow, confirm user input, demographics
BIOS MD5 Checksum Demographics

On the Genuine Microsoft Software Web site Microsoft promises that (successful) validation will benefit you greater reliability, faster access to support and an overall richer experience, while in the future it might be a requirement to get access to downloads from their Web site.

The validation process is strikingly similar to Windows Product Activation: your PC's hardware profile is matched up with the 25-character Product Key. If automatic activation is not possible, you will be asked to type in your Windows Product key (seems most OEM software users will have to do this. This is because OEM's usually use a single image (with a signle product key) to install multiple computers).

Now I really must ask why Microsoft think thinks is a wise thing to do. What will it solve? Do they really think that people who use Windows in illegal ways (using widely distributed random Windows product keys) are going to give a hoot about not being able to download from Microsoft? People will just start distributing the files on the file-sharing networks. And it leaves me as a "genuine" (I already start hating the word) customer feeling that I have to prove over & over again that YES, I did buy your software, now can I PLEASE get the update... Please? I already activated my Windows installations, so if that's not enough, Microsoft should just fix their activation instead of throwing up another hurdle legit users have to take!

If you want to try to validate without first finding a download, you can go to the Microsoft How to Tell Web site, and initiate a validation.

Also read: Microsoft Expands "Windows Genuine Advantage" Program

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