Microsoft's New Windows 8 Activation Policy Aims To Curb Expected Piracy

Original equipment manufacturers wanting the latest version of Windows on their machines are going to find that things are a little different this time around. The new process should be more secure, cutting down on any piracy that may or may not happen.

In the past, many OEMs who were shipping PCs with the most recent version of Windows would often share the same activation key, but this made life easy for pirates and rogue OEMs alike. This time, Microsoft will be requiring OEMs to write a unique activation key into the BIOS of each machine and ship them with the operating system pre-installed. OEMs will also have to get all keys directly from Microsoft -- no ifs, ands or buts.

The new policy should tighten up a few loose holes that pirates have been exploiting for a while now. Of course, the whole change of policy is optimistic and assumes that people will be attempting to pirate the new operating system. In all likelihood, users who buy a new computer and are unhappy with Windows 8's tablet-like interface may very well look into pirating older versions of the OS. [Maximum PC]


    After the absolute pain in the arse re-installing Windows 7 was without the OEM media (tip: the key on the bottom of the machine doesn't count for activation, it's just a license sticker) I definitely welcome this.

    Hot tip: Asus will not send you media even if you pay, so an out of warranty hard drive death means they require you to post your machine to them for a factory re-install at a cost. I chose to "insert" an Asus OEM activation file into Windows instead.

      If you have a brain you will make your own disks when you buy the machine. Asus, like most other OEMs, offer step-by-step instructions.

        The Asus recovery didn't like the fact I'd installed a smaller SSD than their factory drive. This also only became a problem after Microsoft sent out an authentication update last November. Previous to that the key on the bottom of the machine did activate.

        But thanks for your concern idiot.

          This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

            Give me a break, it doesn't matter what badge is on the box, if the system ID changes due to upgraded (or downgraded) device, you're screwed.

        ^This. Years back I got burnt by not making my own. Then I started doing so and never had a worry again.

        Then I started getting my PC's built (and upgrading them myself) and buying OEM's from mates at a pc shop to install onto my hdd and never having to worry about company brand installation disks again...

          Not generally an option with laptops, which are now the dominant form factor. I've not used a desktop machine as my primary PC in 5 or 6 years.

            Since when are laptops the dominant form factor? What rock are you living under?

              Since about 2009. What rock are YOU living under?

                Walk into any large office. You don't see laptops on everybody's desks. You seem to forget that the majority of the computer market is in business, not home users.

                  Business buyers used to be about 55% of the market, but BYOPC is changing that - quickly. As a % of all sales laptops outsold desktops years ago - that takes a while to flow through to the % of installed base though - so can't comment on that (as some companies/govt departments keep PCs for over 7 years).

                  Laptops have been outselling desktops for years. Across all markets.

            It's not an option to buy OEMs for laptops??? CRAP!!!! *looks at the laptop he bought OEM's for*

            Oh hang on...

      Yawn. Nobody is going to be interested in pirating this os . What does it do better than Windows 7? Have Metro lamely tacked onto it? Please.

        Better USB3 support, better file copy/move/rename/delete dialogs, better support for ISO/VHD files, way better boot times, less power consumption, tighter security, UEFI decured boot support, native cloud drive support, less memory usage, much better task manager, mobile app style application hooks (charms), fewer restarts after updating, better setup time, automatic hard disk maintenance (particularly with ReFS), inbuilt bandwidth monitoring, app store, better IPv6 support, better printer drivers (especially going forwards) and better file backups.
        Probably more but that's some of the things Win8 gives you over Win7 if Metro isn't your thing.

      Oh god, dont get me started on ASUS and posting your machine. Years ago I had a pretty damn good ASUS laptop, but when the power connector died (as pretty much any laptop connector outside of apples magsafe is, its a mechanical stress point) the local ASUS support told me it would take "a few months" to replace the laptop, because it would have to be sent to all sorts of different places around the world. Needless to say after a friends glowing report about the apple store, I "switched". Well, I wont deny vista had a role in that too. Nothing like buying a brand new "vista certified" laptop and having it segfault on day one before anything is even installed. But yeah, back to the topic, ASUS where absolutely terrible with warranty repairs back then. Sounds like they still aint much better.

    Isn't the new interface something that you can turn off and then revert back to the old interface, in case you have a desktop or laptop???

      Yea... It's called Windows 7, if you really can't get off your anti-Win8 high horse.

        Wasn't on any anti Win8 High horse. I've seen Win8 running without the new interface but these were RCs though.

          The desktop is there for you to use. No need to turn anything off, the two things are quite separate and distinct from one another. If you look at the image above, you can see the desktop tile in the lower-left corner. Click on hat and you go straight to the desktop, where the only time you will see anything even remotely touch-friendly is when you press the Windows key. What you see on all the Win8 images is the Start Screen, which replaces the god-awful Start Menu in Vista/Win7. It works like pinned icons on the old Start Menu but is far more flexible and customisable. It is really good for anal-rententive types like me.

          This is where a lot of the hate is coming from. Instead of a start bar they have a start screen. A lot of people dont realise that the metro interface is only for the start screen. So every time you hit start that comes up instead of the bar in the corner.

          Its really not the end of the world. I personally hardly ever use the start bar, so if this makes it any more usable I suppose they have succeeded a bit.

            And how exactly do you launch programs then? cmd.exe? Give me a break.

        Yes, the traditional desktop is there behind the hideous squares that make Windows 8 (at least on the beta i tried).

        If OEMs can write the activation into the bios, why not include a Windows install disk on a ROM chip too. harder to pirate that, and you've always got it with you.

      I've seen plenty of reports that you can have Windows 8 RC boot straight into desktop mode. You wont ever get the start menu back though, you will always have the start screen instead.

      No, unfortunately not. If you install Windows 8, then you must use "The Interface Formerly Known As Metro". You do not get a choice, Microsoft has ripped out the old start menu code, so that no third party or reg hack could re-enable it.

        Why would you want the old start menu? It's terrible and something most would barely use in Windows 7 if they are using pinned programs properly.

          I use the start menu in Win7 all the time. I prefer to keep my desktop uncluttered, thank you very much.

            I also like to keep my desktop uncluttered, which is why the new Stat Screen is so great. I've got rid of all the krap that the useless Win7 Start Menu forced me to put on the desktop and/or Taskbar.

              What exactly did the the Win7 start menu force you to put on your desktop or taskbar? I've literally got 1 icon on my task bar (Firefox) and about half a dozen on my desktop, all of which I could probably also get rid of if I really wanted to. All of my shortcuts are in my start menu. Hence, no clutter.

                Anything that I didn't have room to pin to it. Once you have to go to "All Programs", the Win7 Start Menu is a complete PITA and there is only so much ordering of pinned icons that you can do. On any day I can use up 20 or more different applications, flipping from graphics work to doing music for my band and just the general krap we all do. The Start Screen is completely customisable. I have ordered my program tiles into several functional groups, each with their own headings - "Graphics", "Music", etc. - which only took a few minutes. It doesn't take up even one full screen, so no scrolling is necessary, and everything I might want to use is right there, where I can get at it easily. It's brilliant!

              Why uncluttered? Do you often sit there and stare at your background picture? The desktop is there to use, to have everything infront of you.

            This is the exact reason that I will never install Win8. I have photos as my desktop background. I want to be able to see my wife and children on our walk through the Daintree or my son's first ride on his bike without the training wheels, Not a bunch of icons.

              And you can do exactly that in Win8. The screen in the image is not the desktop, it is the replacement for the Start Menu. I see it for maybe 1% of the time I spend at my computer, probably less.

            So you're clearly not using pinned programs then? Next time you have your favourite program opened, right click the item on the task bar and pin it.

              You're not understanding what I'm saying. Why do I want my taskbar (or desktop) filled with icons when I can have them all neatly tucked away out of sight in the start menu? Sure, a pinned application can be opened in 1 click, whereas if they are in the start menu it takes 2 clicks. Big deal. That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make in order to keep things nice and tidy and organised.

              I've always been a bit of a sucker for tidiness on my computer though. Maybe it hearkens back to my DOS days of having everything in separate directories.

                I understand exactly what you're saying and I'm telling you that whilst it might serve your needs, it is next to useless for me, measurably worse than WinXP's Start Menu was. The Win8 Start Screen is way better, offering exactly what you want, only on steroids.

                  If they offered both then i would be happy. I would use metro if it was like a desktop widget that worked in conjunction with the win 7 start menu.

                  Why did you have to navigate the start menu? When opened it went straight to the search box, type the first few letters of what you want and bam. Super quick and all done in a little corner of the screen with whatever you were previously doing still open as well. Now you have to open a whole new screen, it's a disruptive workflow.

          I use it all the time! my desktop is highly uncluttered and its much easier to navigate then metro which is excessively cluttered. Also searching for programs that you might not know by name is very very hard with metro.

            Rubbish! There is no "navigating" with the Start Screen. Everything you want is right there. If, for some reason you want something obscure, like say a PDF or configuration tool that installed with an application, then you just go to "all apps" (via right-click) and find it much, much more easily than you would digging through several layers of sub-menus in the "All Programs" folder in the Win7 Start Menu. Have you even used Win8?

              I really want to know what all these "layers if submenus" are in windows 7 that you keep referring to. I mean I just click the start button and my most used applications are right there staring at me straight away. For the others I go to all programs and they are all right there, sorted alphabetically. I've organised some of them nicely into separate folders to make it easier for myself (eg all my games are under "Games"). Alternatively, I can hit the windows key and type the first few letters of what I want and bam. Control Panel? My Documents folder? Device Manager? Windows explorer? Two clicks and I'm there.

              There's absolutely no layers of sub-menus and it's certainly not an unorganised mess. I can find anything I want in about 3 seconds. I really don't understand your hatred of the Win7 start menu.

        While they might have ripped out the code which invokes the start menu, the start screen more or less functions the same way. The code that makes the start menu work is effectively still there, the only thing that's been removed is the start menu itself.

        You can also use something like Stardock's Start8 to bring it back:

        Of all these people knocking the new interface in Windows 8 though, I wonder how many of them have actually used it?

          Be very wary of things like Start8. I used it for about 2 hours, then got id of it. It is just as Metro-looking as the Start Screen, it just puts the button back on the end of the Taskbar and, in so doing, wrecks other functionality in Win8.

            I've never actually used Start8 so I'll take your word for it. I just found in it 5 seconds while googling for Windows 8 start menu, haha.

            I do still need to repeat the question though, how many people who are knocking the new interface have actually spent any reasonable amount of time using it?

            If you ask me, a change is well and truly overdue.

            Microsoft first introduced the concept of the start menu way back in Windows 95. At the time there were comments about how it wasn't "Windows" anymore, compared to Windows 3.1, which literally was just a bunch of windows with groups of icons in them. But fast forward to now and we've been using the start menu for 17 years, and people are now complaining they don't want to lose it. It's about time we let it die IMO. I think Win8 is a step in the right direction, although I'm still not 100% convinced that what they have done is the most ideal solution. Still, we'll see. A year or two from now I wouldn't be surprised if nobody misses the start menu to be honest.

          They may have ripped out code for it but it wouldn't take long for 3rd party devs to write code to put it back in again.. They'd probably do a better job anyway

    I've bought a couple copies of the Win 7 OEM from 'Umart' in the past because it's a lot cheaper, so does this mean you can't buy an OEM version of 8 now..? I'm going to buy the upgrade version of 8 for my wife's PC because she has a full copy of seven onboard. I however have an upgrade version of 7 on mine so I'm guessing that the upgrade of 8 won't work?

      You are legally only allowed to purchase OEM when buying new hardware such as a hard drive or CPU. I don't believe this would change as many game builders (for example) will continue to purchase parts and build their own.

    Microsoft's best move in preventing piracy of Windows 8 was to make it Windows 8, the OS that nobody wants.

      You can flog it all you want, but I think you'll find that you are in the minority on this subject. No one is forcing you to buy it, so if you don't like it (have you even tried it?) don't buy it. Just stick you're head in the sand..! Windows 8 runs smoother, faster and is less memory intensive than 7.

    "This time, Microsoft will be requiring OEMs to write a unique activation key into the BIOS of each machine and ship them with the operating system pre-installed. OEMs will also have to get all keys directly from Microsoft — no ifs, ands or buts."

    Wait a sec...

    What about those of us who build our own machines? It's pretty standard to be able to purchase an OEM copy of an operating system when you buy a new motherboard, but now it seems like we can't do this anymore...?

    So for system builders such as myself, we need to buy a boxed retail version of the OS? Wow, I really hope that's not true.

      For OEMs, such as HP, Dell, etc., not using the same installation key on all the machines coming off the assembly line, but giving a unique key to each machine. It shouldn't the average PC builder (unless you run an assembly line), but will probably affect the business world (who use the same image across multiple machines).

      "What about those of us who build our own machines?"

      As always , you will require a different type of licence (e.g. retail copy). OEM licenses ship with pre-built PC's and are typically a lot cheaper, which is one of the reasons they are only allowed to be used on that PC only. the license dies with the computer.

      If you have been sold an OEM licence without a complete system then technically it has been a breech of the licence, hence the labels on the licence alone the lines of "Not to be sold separately". Its not uncommon for this to happen though.

      You will use a different licence (e.g. retail copy) which lives forever, on any hardware as long as you have proof of ownership .

      It has always been the way, just not really enforced very much.

    My only problem with the windows8 Start screen is when i click on Internet Explorer i want it to go to the desktop version not the app version. Is there an easy way to do this? (i haven't really looked into it as i just click desktop then the pinned icon down where the start bar used to be)

      Don't use Internet Explorer ;)

        IE 10 is actually pretty nifty. I've avoided IE like the plague since the late 90s but I've not felt any need to install another browser since I updated to the Release Preview. Its not as full featured as my Firefox + add-ons was but it does the basics really well.

          So you openly admit Firefox is better but still continue to use IE? Mmmkay.

      You need to go into Program Files, find "iexplore.exe" and pin that to the Start Menu. I just use whichever one happens to fall to hand most of the time. They seem to share history, one knows what sites I've been checking on the other, so after a while they offer up the same options.

      I haven't tried this, but assume it *should* work - unless there's extra smarts:

      1) Pin the iexplorer.exe to metro for the desktop program.
      or 2) Create a shortcut to the desktop one and pin that to metro.

    I read these Windows 8 posts to watch MotorMouth fervently defend Windows 8.

    Not a fan of it myself. Will try it again when I upgrade my Wacom tablet to a Cintiq at the end of the year. Hopefully Windows 9 will herald the return of the desktop paradigm so people can get some work done! might be some people's saviour though

      I'm not defending Windows 8, I'm defending the truth. Anything I respond to is a misconception or plain BS and all I do is offer the reality of the situation. After more than 9 months with Win8, 6 of those as my primary OS, I think I probably have a better handle on it than anyone else here.

      FFS! The "desktop paradigm" hasn't gone anywhere. It is largely identical to Vista and Win7 and where it is different, it is improved. There is not one piece of functionality in Win7 that doesn't carry over to Win8, there is just a whole lot of new stuff for you to use if you want to. If you had really "tried it", as you intimate, you would have worked that out in about 10 seconds flat.

        Don't worry about it MM, you and I both know, that these blokes will never know what they're missing... People are scared of change or too lazy to spend 5 minutes to learn something.... And for Christ sake guys, it's the smallest learning curve you'd ever have to go through.

        Full screen apps are more my beef with it. Computing has come so far just to be thrown back to this simplistic BS. I realise that the desktop is still there, I realise that I can do everything I used to do, but I shouldn't have to be avoid these full screen, flat shaded atrocities at every turn. They ruin my desktop real estate. It's inefficient and frustrating. If I wanted fullscreen apps with difficult multitasking (or no multitasking) I would run DOS! (I realise you can run two metro apps at once- but that is frustrating and gimped functionality)

        I'm a System Administrator for a medium sized company, and there is no way in hell I'll be moving my staff to it. They struggled enough coming to terms with XP to Windows 7.

          Ok. Below is my reasoning how switching metro apps is absolutely no different then windows 7. Also, if you don't want the metro apps, simply don't use them. Uninstall the pre-installed apps and simply don't use the marketplace to get your software. Keep in mind - the metro apps ARE targetted for tablet computing - Do you know how much it sucks to use Win7 on a tablet? It's shit house.

          In windows 7:
          You can use ALT+TAB or move the mouse or simply move the mouse to the bottom of the screen and click a button

          In Windows 8 Metro
          You can use ALT+TAB or move the mouse or simply move the mouse to the left of the screen and click a button

      I'm thinking of writing a grease monkey script to remove MotorMouth's comments from these pages. Anyone interested???

        MM rocks. Don't like the new OS then stick with what you are currently using.

        Please let me know when complete.

    With the price of $40 upgrades, for most people its more probable that they will just buy a copy rather then pirate copies. At this prices it's piece of mind for little effort and cost, mind you with Aust. Tax its probably going to cost us $99 he he

      Except that MS have already said it will be $40 here, too.

    As bad as piracy is. . . Ive always believed MS kinda turned a blind eye to their OS being pirated. After all, pirate copies of Windows goes a long way to MS holding a 90% market share.

    This BIOS based info has been in Toshiba Laptops for quite some time now.
    This time however, it will actually be used as it was intended.
    It's mostly been MS themselves who have not followed their own "best practise" methodology.
    In older models, the info in the BIOS was largely ignored.
    On the newer models, if the BIOS info is not correct, youre recovery process (Windows re-install) will either bork, or leave you with a "This copy of Windows is not legit ... etc" message to deal with.

    The solution is so simple, I can't believe Micro$oft haven't implemented it.
    When the OS detects a keyboard, it loads a driver. If the keyboard driver loads, you use the 'classic' menu.
    No keyboard driver, you are obvious in tablet mode - you use 'formerly known as Metro'.
    Too simple? Perhaps.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    soooooo, what if you want to put Windoze 8 on a Mac? does this mean microsoft will have to write a unique ID in every mac bios? hmmmmm.. sounds funky (in a bad way!)


    Your appreciation of Win8 has finally convinced me to give it a go. I tried the Developers Preview ages ago (think it was the DP, was close to a year ago, maybe longer. Was one of the first public releases) I liked it, but didn't trust it to be stable (was a shared computer and others using it are next to computer illiterate)

    Have the latest version downloaded, never installed. Might load it tonight and see how it goes. Any suggestions? Will be loaded on an SSD.


    I think the biggest anti piracy method they are employing with windows 8 is not ripping us off like the last 20 years.

    It's funny reading all of the hate that I have read here and in other places about win8, in particular the start menu. I am yet to see somebody articulate why a new way of doing the same thing is such a bad idea apart from "but I have been doing this the same way for years and I really don't cope well with change."

      The generally accepted process for selling a change is to explain why it is better than the current way of doing things.

      I've yet to see or hear a convincing argument for the change that hasn't been refuted with an example of how you can do the same thing with the start menu.

      That said, I think the interface formerly known as Metro is aesthetically much more pleasing, and Windows 8 itself looks to be better than Vista/Win7. However, enterprises that have already made the move to Vista or 7 (and all the testing of the SOE that requires) are unlikely to make the jump to 8 because it is purtier and has racing stripes.

      And as for your comment on the user view that "I have been doing this the same way for years etc etc", anyone who dealt with the user backlash over the 'Ribbon' in Office 2007 and later versions could attest to why change can cause problems with user acceptance and productivity.

      It is worth noting that Microsoft Office 2011 for the Mac, which has the 'Ribbon', also has the menu system in the Mac menu bar. As others have noted, Microsoft could have left the traditional start menu as an option in 8, but chose not to.

        The reason for the change is simple... Microsoft realised a long time ago that the start menu didn't work on mobiles and tablets, so they built Windows Phone with Metro..... They also realised that having a single UI methodology, common code base and shared ecosystem was/is the only way Windows could stay relevant in the future.. You need to remember, Win8 is a version 1 product, this is only the beginning, but unfortunately there will be pain for sometime while people adjust and relearn... However, If they execute right, Microsoft will be the ONLY player in the market to have a single uniform OS that runs equally well on all devices with a single share ecosystem.. Apple realises this too, however they are going about it in a different way...

    lol, you're all too funny

    @MOTORMOUTH are you a Microsoft sales rep or just a full-time troll?

    For Windows 8 I used kmsnano, works easily enough, it emulates a windows server via a virtual OS! I have to do it every 180 days in order to keep the day count up on my windows activation. It's a very easy 1 click process and also takes care of Office 2013 at the same time. It does take about 1GB of RAM during this process, but no big deal. Works on 8.1 too I believe.

    When will Microsoft learn that activation complextion just hurts end users but not pirates?

Join the discussion!