Product activation

As the company that sells envious amount of software, Microsoft has vast interest in fighting piracy and unauthorized use of its software. Since Office XP they introduced product activation. In the nutshell, this means that apart from required product key, you must activate the software with Microsoft in the first 30 days or 50 starts or something similar. Activation can be done over Internet or telephone.

It’s doubtful how effective this really is, since product activation can be voided with cracks. PA sounds like a good solution since it should prevent users of pirated software to do thing like automatic updates, but even that can be circumvented. I have no idea what impersonation routines Microsoft uses. I would expect AU service to ask for the product key and some sort of PA id which should not be easily faked or could be checked in some sort of internal database. This could also be nonsense.

But the locking of activation down to your computer innards - that is plain stupid. If you change any internal part - graphic card, hard disk, whatever - you need to repeat the activation. Death blow to the whole concept comes with the limited amount of activations per product key.

Let me illustrate…

I have installed Office 2003 simply because it was the latest, and was available (my company has MS Partner status so we have those in packs). I counted on the fact that it is the latest and it should have long enough life that I wouldn’t have to think about upgrading for years. I use it rarely, mostly to read the Word files sent from clients and few newbie-level uses of Excel tables. Precisely, I use Excel to track the amount of daily work hours.

Few days ago, I changed the memory, replacing 512MB with 1GB. Just memory. And entire Office was deactivated thus I couldn’t update my timesheet file anymore. I went to the Internet, went to activation and was greeted with the lovely message that I have reached the limit of activation for my product key and that I should call the Microsoft representative by telephone.

Jolly. It’s Saturday, 9pm. I can kiss the call goodbye. The software which is payed-for, is rendered utterly useless.

The most ironic part: if I have cracked the software with widely available tools on the Internet, I would not have any problems. So what MS did is screwed-up its own customers, while pirates are not touched at all.

Draw your own conclusions.