FYI - How does XP validation & reactivation work? re-activation license

Discussion in 'Windows Guest OS Discussion' started by twoods, Jun 25, 2007.

  1. twoods


    For those interested I found this on MS site concerning XP's licensing activation scheme.

    The full information, and related information, can be found at:

    Technical Activation Details
    What data is Microsoft gathering as part of activation?

    The only information required to activate is an installation ID (and, for Office XP and Office XP family products such as Visio 2002, the name of the country in which the product is being installed). The only purpose of the installation ID is to facilitate activation. It is made up of two components: the product ID generated from the product key and a hardware hash generated from the PC's hardware configuration (for Windows XP SP1 and later only, a third component, the product key itself, was added to deter pirates). Microsoft Product Activation uses a hash algorithm to generate the hardware identifier and does not scan the customer's hard drive, detect any personal information, or determine the make, model or manufacturer of the PC or its components. For example, let's assume that a hash of the PC's color is used as part of the installation ID. The hash could be the high four bits of the color. That color would always produce the same high four bits, but you could not use those high four bits to determine the color. For users who activate over the Internet, the installation ID is sent electronically. For users who activate by telephone, the installation ID is converted to decimal format (versus digital format) and displayed to them in the product's user interface. The telephone installation ID must be read over the telephone to the customer service representative.

    What is an installation ID?

    The installation ID is the required activation data. The installation ID is a code that is provided to Microsoft as part of activation, either electronically, if activation occurs over the Internet, or verbally to a customer service representative if activation occurs over the telephone. The installation ID is made up of two components: the software's product ID and a hardware hash value. The product ID is unique to that software installation and is generated from the product key used during installation. (For Windows XP SP1 and Office 2003 installations only, the product key is also sent as part of activation in order to deter product key cracks). The hardware hash value is a nonunique representation of the PC on which the software was installed. It is called a hash value because it has no direct correlation to the PC and cannot be backward-calculated to the original value. When displayed to a customer for a telephone activation, the Installation ID is displayed as a 50-digit code (54 digits for Windows XP SP1 and Office 2003 activations).

    Do the Installation IDs differ for different PCs?

    Yes, the Installation IDs are different when generated from different PCs.

    How does Microsoft identify the computer's hardware?

    Microsoft Product Activation detects the hardware configuration on which the product is being installed and creates hash values for that configuration. A hash is a value mathematically derived from another value - in this case hardware configuration values. Product Activation does not scan the customer's hard drive, detect any personal information, or determine the make, model or manufacturer of the PC or its components. Microsoft uses hash values out of respect for users' privacy. A hash value cannot be backwards calculated to determine the original value. In addition, Microsoft only uses a portion of the original hash values. Together, these hash values become the complete hardware hash that is included in the installation ID.

    Can hardware components be changed and upgraded?

    Product Activation is able to tolerate a certain degree of change in a hardware configuration by allowing a current hash value to have a degree of difference from the hash value that was originally activated. As a result, users can change their hardware without the product believing it is on a different PC than the one it was activated on. If the user completely overhauls the hardware making substantial hardware changes (even over long periods of time), reactivation may be required. In that case, users may need to contact to contact a Microsoft customer service representative by telephone to reactivate.

    How does product activation determine tolerance? In other words, how many components of the PC must change before I am required to reactivate?

    Common changes to hardware such as upgrading a video card, adding a second hard disk drive, adding RAM or upgrading a CD-ROM device will not require the system to be reactivated.

    Specifically, product activation determines tolerance through a voting mechanism. There are 10 hardware characteristics used in creating the hardware hash. Each characteristic is worth one vote, except the network card which is worth three votes. When thinking of tolerance, it's easiest to think about what has not changed instead of what has changed. When the current hardware hash is compared to the original hardware hash, there must be 7 or more matching points for the two hardware hashes to be considered in tolerance. If the network card is the same, then only 4 additional characteristics must match (because the network card is worth 3, for a total of 7). If the network card is not the same, then a total of 7 characteristics other than the network card must be the same. If the device is a laptop (specifically a dockable device), additional tolerance is allotted and there need be only 4 or more matching points. Therefore, if the device is dockable and the network card is the same, only one other characteristic must be the same for a total vote of 4. If the device is dockable and the network card is not the same, then a total of 4 characteristics other than the network card must be the same.

    Are the changes cumulative? In other words, if I change one component today and one tomorrow, is that two component changes?

    The changes are cumulative; however, if a user is asked to reactivate, the hardware profile is reset to that new configuration.

    What are the 10 hardware characteristics used to determine the hardware hash?

    The 10 hardware characteristics used to determine the hardware hash are: Display Adapter, SCSI Adapter, IDE Adapter, Network Adapter MAC Address, RAM Amount Range (i.e. 0-64mb, 64-128mb, etc), Processor Type, Processor Serial Number, Hard Drive Device, Hard Drive Volume Serial Number, CD-ROM/CD-RW/DVD-ROM.

    Does product activation deter hard disk cloning by comparing these hard disk hashes?

    One of the forms of piracy that Product Activation guards against is hard disk cloning. Not all forms of hard disk cloning are illegal. However, by comparing the hardware hash originally activated to the current hardware hash, hard disk cloning can be deterred by requiring re-activation if the hardware hashes are substantially different.



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