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Hardware changes and Windows activation

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10 replies to this topic

#1
Octopuss

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I once read somewhere how Win activation works - certain components of the PC make a point score which is generated upon first activation, and with each new installation this is somehow compared with value in Ms database somwhere. This is, as I understand it, to prevent using one copy of Windows on more than one computer. Windows is not really THAT cheap, so what if I change half the components or even get brand new PC - will my license stop working or is there any workaround? Like calling the activation hotline and telling them "yeah it really is me, John Doe, I am terribly sorry for upgrading the PC, go ahead and let me use my legally acquired system"...
??


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#2
nitroshift

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It will definitely require a call to M$, I can tell you that. But it should activate ok if you change some parts, not if you try to put it on a totally different machine.

Please read the rules, folks!


#3
Tripredacus

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I have been unable to replicate this "feature". I had tried multiple ways to do it. I did this to test upgrading possibilities before deciding to get Vista myself. I have tried upgrading, replacing and removing hardware. Nothing I was able to do trigger activation. Here is my best attempt which failed to de-activate:

I started with just a hard drive and a motherboard. Installed Vista Business RTM and activated it. Then added a video card, tv capture card, a serial card, a cd drive, a floppy drive. No change. I reimaged the machine as is, activated Windows and then removed all those things, and disabled a bunch of the onboard devices in the BIOS. No change.

I'll believe this when I see it, to say the least.
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#4
Octopuss

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Try to physically change the cpu and MB then, I would say.

#5
Kelsenellenelvian

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Yeah you never really "Changed" hardware you just added and subtracted hardware.

I have had a simple bios update kick this feature in.

#6
Tripredacus

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Try to physically change the cpu and MB then, I would say.


I would never attempt to change the motherboard without sysprepping the drive image first.

Yeah you never really "Changed" hardware you just added and subtracted hardware.

I have had a simple bios update kick this feature in.


I did try changing video cards around. I think I had 3 of those and 2 capture cards (a Leadtek and a Pinnacle) during the early testing. I have also seen a BIOS update do that but... err I probably use a different version of Vista than you so a BIOS update for me (in some cases) would definately cause that to happen, but it would be fixable for me.
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#7
Octopuss

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Changing the VGA doesn't change anything. The biggest impact on the score has 1) CPU 2) MB
in that order, from what I heard.

#8
jaclaz

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Changing the VGA doesn't change anything. The biggest impact on the score has 1) CPU 2) MB
in that order, from what I heard.


Hmmm, don't think so:
http://aumha.org/win5/a/wpa.htm

What hardware gets checked?

The WPA system checks ten categories of hardware:

  • Display Adapter
  • SCSI Adapter
  • IDE Adapter (effectively the motherboard)
  • Network Adapter (NIC) and its 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 (VSN)
  • CD-ROM / CD-RW / DVD-ROM

It then calculates and records a number based on the first device of each type that was found during setup, and stores this number on your hard drive. Initially, this is sent to Microsoft in an automatic dial-up, together with the Product ID number derived from the 25-character unique Product Key used in setting up Windows.

If Service Pack 1 has been installed, the entire Product Key is also transmitted: This can then be checked against a list of known pirated keys

The hardware is checked each time Windows boots, to ensure that it is still on the same machine. Also, if you subsequently perform a complete format and reinstall of Windows, Microsoft’s activation center will have to be contacted again because the information held on the machine itself (the number previously written to your hard drive) will have been wiped out by reformatting the hard drive. If your hardware is substantially the same, this will be done by an automated call without your needing to talk to anyone.

What does ‘substantially the same’ mean?
WPA asks for ‘votes’ from each of these ten categories: ‘Is the same device still around, or has there never been one?’ Seven Yes votes means all is well — and a NIC, present originally and not changed, counts for three yes votes! Minor cards, like sound cards, don’t come into the mix at all. If you keep the motherboard, with the same amount of RAM and processor, and an always present cheap NIC (available for $10 or less), you can change everything else as much as you like.

If you change the device in any category, you have lost that Yes vote — but will not lose it any more thereafter if you make changes in that category again. So, for example, you can install a new video display card every month for as long as you like.

Note that it appears that if you boot with a device disabled (disabled — not removed), the device is not found in the enumeration — so if, say, you disable a network connection which uses the NIC and then reboot, you may be missing its three votes and find that a new activation is needed. If you are doing such things, take the Hint 3 in What about formatting a hard disk? below, and restore the files concerned once the NIC is back in service.


I underlined the part that both you and Tripredacus seem to have "missed".

jaclaz

#9
Octopuss

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cool! thanks

#10
uid0

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That page was about xp, I don't know if wpa is any different in vista?

#11
Tripredacus

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Changing the VGA doesn't change anything. The biggest impact on the score has 1) CPU 2) MB
in that order, from what I heard.


Hmmm, don't think so:
http://aumha.org/win5/a/wpa.htm

What hardware gets checked?

The WPA system checks ten categories of hardware:

  • Display Adapter
  • SCSI Adapter
  • IDE Adapter (effectively the motherboard)
  • Network Adapter (NIC) and its 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 (VSN)
  • CD-ROM / CD-RW / DVD-ROM

It then calculates and records a number based on the first device of each type that was found during setup, and stores this number on your hard drive. Initially, this is sent to Microsoft in an automatic dial-up, together with the Product ID number derived from the 25-character unique Product Key used in setting up Windows.

If Service Pack 1 has been installed, the entire Product Key is also transmitted: This can then be checked against a list of known pirated keys

The hardware is checked each time Windows boots, to ensure that it is still on the same machine. Also, if you subsequently perform a complete format and reinstall of Windows, Microsoft’s activation center will have to be contacted again because the information held on the machine itself (the number previously written to your hard drive) will have been wiped out by reformatting the hard drive. If your hardware is substantially the same, this will be done by an automated call without your needing to talk to anyone.

What does ‘substantially the same’ mean?
WPA asks for ‘votes’ from each of these ten categories: ‘Is the same device still around, or has there never been one?’ Seven Yes votes means all is well — and a NIC, present originally and not changed, counts for three yes votes! Minor cards, like sound cards, don’t come into the mix at all. If you keep the motherboard, with the same amount of RAM and processor, and an always present cheap NIC (available for $10 or less), you can change everything else as much as you like.

If you change the device in any category, you have lost that Yes vote — but will not lose it any more thereafter if you make changes in that category again. So, for example, you can install a new video display card every month for as long as you like.

Note that it appears that if you boot with a device disabled (disabled — not removed), the device is not found in the enumeration — so if, say, you disable a network connection which uses the NIC and then reboot, you may be missing its three votes and find that a new activation is needed. If you are doing such things, take the Hint 3 in What about formatting a hard disk? below, and restore the files concerned once the NIC is back in service.


I underlined the part that both you and Tripredacus seem to have "missed".

jaclaz


No man, I know it allows that, but I did whole-sale changes. Such as I'd be changing video card and capture card, plus disable the 5 or so devices in the BIOS. That would be enough I'd think.

Actually, we use OA2 for our licensing, I was really trying to get Vista to blow up its activation that way to see if I could reactivate it using our stuff. It was coming down to me making my decision to purchase Vista using OA2 VLK or using a retail disk, in order to ease upgrade issues. My idea was that if I could reinstall the OA2 license and unlock Vista again after it lost its activation, that would be the way to go for me. Except I couldn't get it to blow up so I'm still left wondering which Vista release I'd rather use...
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