Windows Product Activation (WPA) for Windows XP

Jay Munro

Microsoft’s Windows Product Activation (WPA) for Windows XP has become one of the most hotly debated topics online, in IT departments and in the computer media. It has also generated an incredible amount of misinformation and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), and has sparked an increased interest in Linux as an alternative to “Paying the Piper”.

In this article, we’ll explain what WPA is about, how it works, and what effect it will have on your computing environment if you upgrade to Windows XP. In addition, we performed product activation scenario testing on the latest Windows XP Release Candidates (RC1 and RC2), and we’ll share the surprising results. While Office XP also uses product activation, our focus for this story is Windows XP.

Windows Product Activation (WPA) is a technology used to enable or activate a copy of Windows XP for a specific PC. Under the Microsoft End User License Agreement (EULA), users are allowed to install Windows XP on one machine

1. When you activate Windows XP, it analyzes key components on your computer and creates an internal value that is combined with your product ID code. This produces a 50-digit number called the Installation ID. The number is then transmitted to Microsoft in exchange for a 42-digit Activation ID that activates Windows XP. If you attempt to activate a copy of Windows XP from another machine, you will be denied activation.

If you do not activate, you will have up to 30 days to activate2. With the betas and release candidates, the grace period is only 14 days, but Microsoft has said the shipping version will have a 30-day period. If you install, and skip activation, you will get periodic reminders, and after the grace period expires, it will not allow you to do anything but perform the activation process.

Software activation is not unique. Other software companies such as Novell, Adobe, and Symantec have required registration and an activation key to use their products. Others like Quark and V Communications write information to installation floppies, restricting installation to a single machine. Numerous workstation applications require some form of piracy protection or product activation. With Microsoft, what sets it apart is the use of your machine’s hardware to uniquely identify it, and a periodic check for changes. If your machine changes too much, Windows XP requires reactivation. This is one of the real hot buttons, as many of the vocal opponents to WPA are people who upgrade frequently, keeping up with new hardware changes. According to Microsoft, legal users will be able to reactivate without a problem if their hardware changes.

Windows Product Activation is not registering. Unlike the other products mentioned here, Windows XP activation does not require you to divulge any personal information. When you go through the activation process, whether by phone or Internet, you are asked if you want to register, but it’s optional, and has nothing to do with activating your copy of Windows XP. If you want to activate anonymously, just say “no” to registration. The hardware information, while unique to your machine, does not give enough information to Microsoft for them to see what software or specific hardware you have installed on your computer. The most they can hope to glean from the Installation ID is that you might have a PC with a CPU, sound card, graphics card, SCSI adapter, CDROM drive, some memory (roughly), and an indicator of whether the system is dock-able.

WPA does not call home (back to Microsoft) periodically. The only time it actually contacts Microsoft on the Internet is during activation. Microsoft says they are using WPA to cut down on “casual copying” of Windows, and not as a way to track its customers or their system configuration, but people are nevertheless skeptical of this statement. However, if you choose to register, then you’re willingly giving them information that is more detailed.

Activating Windows XP takes only a minute or so when you have an Internet connection, or approximately 5 – 10 minutes depending on call volume if you phone in your activation. When you first install XP, you enter a 25 digit alphanumeric product ID code. This is the number stuck on the CD case, or possibly on the holographic sticker on the manual. On first boot, Windows XP asks if you want to activate, and gives you the choice of phone, Internet, or “ask me later”. If you say yes, the Activation Wizard will walk you through the task.

When you first install, Windows XP puts a key icon in the notify tray and an “Activate Windows” menu item on the Start Menu. If you choose to do it later, you will see the key icon in the notify tray and periodically will get balloon help reminder messages. Once you activate, the icon goes away, as does the Start Menu item. However, you can still get to the Activation Wizard through Start/Accessories/System Information/Activate Windows.

Phone Home?

When you activate by phone, you get a screen that displays your 50-digit Installation ID, and a toll free number. When you call the agent, you will be asked for the number and in return will be given a 42-digit activation ID number. Once entered, you are off the hook with Microsoft. However, doing phone activation can be somewhat inconvenient. We initially tried calling to activate XP at on a Monday night at 12:30 am, but found that the call-in hours are from 8am to 10pm EDT. We called the customer service center the following morning at around 11:00 am EDT. It took us about 4 minutes from the time it rang and gave us a recorded message, until we had a live person on the line. Our rep, Mary, walked us through the activation in about 5 minutes, which included a few typos on both ends of the line, and making sure XP activated correctly.

During your call, you read the service rep your Installation ID (derived from analyzing your system configuration), which is a 50-digit number, organized in nine groups–eight groups of six numbers, and a final two numbers. Unlike your alphanumeric product ID, the Installation ID, and the resultant Activation ID are all numbers. This is done to minimize confusion with accents over the phone. The Activation ID is a 42-digit number, contained in seven groups of six digits.

While we were on the phone, we asked Mary about the level of dissent, concern, anger, etc. from customers. We were told that the majority of people just did it and didn’t think about it. She said that she had gotten a number of people who complained, and said that most didn’t understand that software is licensed and not sold. The Microsoft customers felt that if they paid for the product, they owned it and should be able to install it on as many computers as they desired.

On another occasion, we got a message when activating on the Internet that our copy of XP (RC2) had been previously activated, and we had to phone the call center. When we called, there were no questions asked. We asked if the rep could tell that we were out of activations, and were told that yes, they could tell on their screen. They automatically activated us since it was during the beta period still, but we were not told what would happen after the product shipped.

To activate online, you only need an Internet connection, and Windows XP does the rest. If you choose the “Activate Windows over the Internet” option, you are asked if you want to register as well. We found it interesting that if you activate when you first install XP, and haven’t yet set up your Internet connection, a wizard helps you get set up before activating. Again, registration and transmission of personal information is completely optional.

There was a change between XP Beta 2 and RC1 in the user interface for registration and activation. Under Beta 2, when you stepped through the activation process, you were also asked if you wanted to register, and were presented with a form to fill out the usual personal information. In RC1, when you activated online, it asked if you wanted to register as well, but there was no personal information data collection form immediately presented. If you said no, Windows XP activated and you never saw a data collection form. Release Candidate 2 (RC2) has not changed RC1’s method. These changes were in response to feedback from confused Beta testers who couldn’t understand why Microsoft was asking for all the personal information if Activation was supposed to be an anonymous process.

The Internet connection to Microsoft sends the Product ID and Hardware hash values in binary form via SSL encryption, and is very quick, depending on your connection speed. It consists of a series of handshaking and data transfer exchanges, passing the 50-digit Installation ID to Microsoft, and receiving the 42-digit Activation ID in return.

According to Microsoft’s Technical Bulletin of August 6th:

There are three communications required to complete Internet activation:

Handshake request: Contains product ID, hardware hash, and request header data, such as request ID (for linking the handshake, request, and acknowledgement), and activation technology version–262 bytes total.

License request: Contains product ID, hardware hash, and customer data structure for holding voluntary registration information if provided. If registration is skipped, this structure is empty. Also contains request header data such as request ID and the PKCS10 digital certificate request structure. The PKCS10 structure can vary slightly based on the inclusion of voluntary registration information–about 2763 to 3000 bytes total.

Acknowledgement request: Contains certificate ID (returned to user’s machine after license request), issue date, and error code–126 bytes total.

If Internet activation is successful, the activation confirmation is sent directly back to the user’s PC as a digital certificate. This certificate is digitally signed by Microsoft so that it cannot be altered or counterfeited. The confirmation packet returned as part of Internet activation is approximately 9KB in size (the digital certificate chain accounts for most of the confirmation data packet size).

This goes along with the results we saw in our testing using Wild Packets’ EtherPeek. While we couldn’t read the encrypted data, the lengths and sequences were about correct.

Once the process is complete, you will receive a Thank You screen and your machine is ready to go. While there as been a lot of FUD from the tin foil hat crowd about Windows XP dialing up Microsoft behind your back, it just isn’t the case. The only time Windows XP contacts Microsoft is when you activate via the Internet. We configured XP to access the Web through a proxy server that logged all traffic from the machine. Though we could not run the proxy more than a couple of days due to our time constraints, we did not see any traffic to Microsoft other than our initial activation exchange.

What Information is Being Sent to Microsoft

The concept behind WPA is to identify a particular installation with a licensed copy of Windows XP. When you activate, Microsoft stores the Installation ID in a database at their location, and gives you an Activation ID.

The property of WPA that has sparked the most dislike is that once activated, if you change a certain amount of hardware components, you will be required to reactivate. The feature is intended to identify when a user has installed the product on another machine. When an XP machine boots, it checks the current hardware configuration, and compares it against the initial configuration. This feature alone is responsible for the most FUD, rightfully so, as Microsoft kept the actual components and number of changes that trigger a reactivation a secret. We’re going to explore this secret aspect in much more detail shortly.

One very important point to note is that if you reinstall Windows XP on the same PC, without hardware changes, you can reactivate as many times as you want, without question, without problem. While most convenient to activate by the Internet, you can activate by phone without question. If you do activate the first time by phone, and make a note of the activation key, you can reenter it when you reinstall later. Another option is to make a backup copy of the WPA.DBL file (see below).

Allen Neiman, Technical Product Manager for Licensing Technologies at Microsoft, told us that Microsoft certainly realizes from much user feedback that not knowing what or how many hardware components can change was a problem. Neiman says it’s difficult to state exactly how many changes it takes to force activation, saying the answer is “it depends”. He said not all hardware is equal in the eyes of Windows XP. Certain components carry more weight in the WPA algorithm than others, and certain changes will make WPA think XP is being installed on a new machine forcing a reactivation, and others will not trigger reactivation. If you just add memory, or swap a graphics card, the weight on these components may be low, and XP will keep chugging. Microsoft’s Technical Bulletin (mentioned above) shows how hardware changes affect reactivation.

The paper discusses much of what Fully Licensed discovered (See sidebar How WPA Works), but revealed that a network adapter carries more weight toward reactivation than other components. Our testing found that six changes were required, and generally, the Technical Bulletin seemed to back up our findings.

As outlined by both Microsoft’s and the Fully Licensed paper, Windows XP looks at a specific range of hardware. If you add a second hard drive, or a CD-RW drive, it does not affect reactivation (i.e. if the hardware was not present in the original configuration, it will not trigger a reactivation). If you just reformat your existing hardware, you can reactivate an infinite number of times. Likewise, if you change one component repeatedly, such as putting in a new graphics card five times, it only counts as one change. Microsoft has also announced that their activation clearing house system will automatically allow reactivation of a system that had substantial changes up to four times a year (this was originally stated as an MSDN feature, but seems now to be universal).

With RC1, we found if you swap a motherboard, graphics card, sound card, CDROM drive, and network card, but use the same hard drive, then XP assumes you just popped a clone of your drive into a new system and forces activation. However, XP seems to know when you are incrementally upgrading. In our testing, we found we could “sneak up” on WPA by swapping components one at a time. But our experiences were with our configurations, and could be different using a different set of parts. While we did not have RC 2 long enough for extensive testing, we found that it appeared to be more lenient than RC1 in terms of hardware swapping. We describe our findings in more detail below.

In addition to the explanation on what it takes to push XP over the edge, Microsoft plans to publish a “Tips and Tricks” paper for developers and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). One key tip is to back up the WPA.DBL file before making any changes. If you make hardware changes during testing of various products under development, and want to roll back, you just copy the WPA.DBL file back to the drive, rather than having to reactivate with the old configuration.

One thing to note, XP’s built-in restoration feature does not preserve the activation. If you trash your system and do a system restore, you will have to reactivate, even if you didn’t change your hardware. However, if you didn’t change your hardware, you can reactivate without any questions asked.

The WPA.DBL file resides in the Windowssystem32 directory and holds the hardware configuration information and activation state of the current Windows XP installation. The WPA.DBL file is actually an RC4-encrypted database of the expiration info of your installation, the confirmation of activation, the hardware configuration at activation time, and the current hardware configuration. When you first install Windows XP, this file is approximately 2K in size–not much more than a stub file. When you activate Windows, this file grows to approximately 12K-13K, recording the hardware status of your machine. At each boot, Windows analyzes your current hardware and compares it to the stored configuration information to see if it has changed. When you make hardware changes, Windows makes a note of the changes in the WPA file, but keeps the original configuration for reference. If you make too many changes, Windows XP will reset the WPA.DBL file back to its original non-activated (2K file size) state, and you have to reactivate.

As mentioned above, the WPA.DBL file can be backed up to permit activation if you reload Windows XP. You can also experiment with different hardware configurations, as we did in preparation for this article. You would back up WPA.DBL for each configuration change, so you can roll back whenever desired, similar to what developers may do frequently, as mentioned above. If you save a copy of the WPA.DBL file at each change of hardware, you can roll back to almost any state.

One caveat, from our testing–we found that the WPA.DBL was not protected similar to other system files. If you delete the file, you need to reactivate. The WPA.DBL is also not included in Windows XP’s system restore mechanism.

Developer Power

Regardless of their Justice Dept. troubles, and sometimes-questionable marketing tactics, Microsoft has always supported their development community well by providing tools and information needed for developers to get the job done. With Windows XP, developers who subscribe to MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Universal will receive special versions of the product. MSDN Universal subscription provides developers with monthly updates of almost any Microsoft product, changes, service packs, and betas. For the current price of $2500 a year ($2000 renewal), developers get all Microsoft operating systems, Office products, Back office products and servers, SDK’s, DDK’s, and service packs. It also comes with the full Microsoft Knowledge Base and an index.

Microsoft has said that they will be giving MSDN subscribers some slack on Windows XP. Microsoft has said the MSDN versions of Windows XP will have ten licenses, so a developer can install on ten machines with no questions asked. According to Microsoft’s Technical Bulletin, users will be able to automatically reactivate with new configurations (massive hardware changes) up to four times per year per license. Microsoft is preliminarily calling this “Time-based automatic acceptance of Internet Activation”. This allows the developer, as well as users, to make major changes to a particular system, and just automatically reactivate without requiring additional licenses.

A tip that Microsoft is telling its developers is to take advantage of the grace period. If you’re experimenting with a machine’s configuration, don’t activate the software. You’ll have 30 days to play. At this writing, Microsoft has stated that they are considering extending the grace period for MDSN subscription versions, but have not said what that new grace period will be. If the developer uses the SysPrep utility with Windows XP, they can reset an installation nearing expiration of the grace period, or has timed out, and start over. Last resort, the software can be reinstalled to reset the clock. While doing a reinstall can be inconvenient, it is also in violation of the license agreement.

OEM Power

When Microsoft releases a new operating system, manufacturers often rally behind it with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) versions, and Windows XP is no exception. Vendors, such as Compaq, will ship machines with their own OEM versions of XP, and most will be pre-activating the software so the customer is relieved of that chore. Vendors can activate by contacting Microsoft themselves before selling the PC, or will have the option of using a “System Locked Pre-Activation” or SLP method to tie the copy of Windows XP to the system.

The SLP uses OEM-specified BIOS information as an activation key for Windows XP. At boot time, Windows XP compares the PC’s BIOS with the SLP information, and if it matches, no activation is necessary. These versions will not require a hardware hash or contact with Microsoft. This allows the end user to restore a trashed machine using the OEM’s System Recovery disks without having to activate again. An additional benefit is that these versions will allow you to change every component on the machine with the exception of the BIOS without triggering a new activation. The user could even replace the motherboard as long as it was acquired from the OEM and had the correct BIOS identification. Allen Neiman says that most of their OEM vendors will be shipping Windows XP this way. Though he declined to say which vendors, he said at press time there were five to seven major vendors signed up.

Corporate Power

Recognizing the inconvenience and nightmare that upgrading dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of activated machines will cause, Microsoft will be offering volume licensing. Window XP volume license product keys (VLK’s) will not require activation, hardware checking, or limitations on using imaging for installation (Ghost, Drive Image, etc.). Corporate IS departments will be able to create a standard installation and deploy it using imaging, or remote installation, without requiring activation.

The German online magazine Tec Channel published an explanation of how to spoof WPA into believing a new machine was actually your old one, and thus would not require activation. As outlined in a white paper (described in more detail in our How it Works section below) by Fully Licensed GmbH (a German software licensing and security company), the authors used techniques such as rewriting the volume serial number on the new hard disk, telling XP that a desktop machine was a dockable machine, and changing the MAC address on the network card. We experimented with these changes, and it was possible to fake out WPA. Making one machine look like another may cause problems, such as having two machines on the network with the same MAC address. In addition, while their testing used RC1, Microsoft claimed they made changes to RC2 so that the same spoofing won’t work. Unfortunately, we received RC2 too late to replicate these tests again.

To find out what effects the activation process would have on an active computer hobbyist, we put a machine through a series of common hardware changes. The idea was to see at which point XP would require us to reactivate. Microsoft has stated that casual changes, one or two items, would not cause a problem. We challenged this statement. We tested using two procedures–the “one at a time sneaky attack”, and a “full frontal assault”, where we changed a number of components at the same time.

For the most part, we restricted our testing to seven components, motherboard/CPU, CDROM drive, memory size, network interface card (NIC), sound card, graphics card, and hard disk drive. We combined motherboard and CPU components together, because not many people actually upgrade processors alone anymore, and to get substantial performance improvements in an upgrade is best done with a new motherboard in addition to the CPU. Memory is an easy and common performance enhancer, and hard drive upgrades are hardly ever easy, but are common and typically add performance and capacity.

We did our testing on Windows XP Professional RC1, though right before we completed testing for this story, Microsoft delivered RC2. A quick check showed that RC2 behaved very similar to RC1 except that it seemed to be more lenient to most hardware changes (but not spoofs as mentioned above).

Several Scenarios Tested

We created several scenarios that we felt would represent an active enthusiast who upgrades frequently. We assumed that when we installed XP on a new machine, whether a clean install or an upgrade, it required activation. We also tried the simple process we expect many users might try–installing XP on a new machine, and copying the WPA.DBL from an already activated machine. Of course, this did not work–the new system still needed activation.

In our scenarios, we tried different approaches, such as the gradual upgrading of a machine’s major components, the changing of a number of components at one time, and the upgrading of a motherboard and memory without changing anything else.

In all cases, we started with a clean Windows Me installation and performed an upgrade to Windows XP. We did this to insure that the machine and components were working with a production version of Windows to rule out any glitches with XP’s hardware compatibilities. Our experience has shown that Windows XP upgrades very smoothly from Windows Me, compared to other versions of Windows.

Motherboard Upgrade Problems

One problem we found during testing with both RC1 and our limited time with RC2 was that when you changed the motherboard, Windows XP failed to a Blue Screen. What happens is that the drivers for USB, the PCI Bridge, and other motherboard components need to be present on a system during the upgrade, or they should be present during a fresh install of Windows XP. If you simply swap motherboards without reinstalling Windows XP, you get the Blue Screen.

In our scenario with motherboard swaps, we first upgraded Windows Me to XP and generated a WPA.DBL file. Once XP was installed, the motherboard swap failed as mentioned above. Our work-around was to revert to our Windows Me installation (a Norton Ghost Image). Windows Me was able to handle the Motherboard change, and installed the necessary drivers to work with the new Motherboard. Once Windows Me was configured and working, we upgraded again to Windows XP. When the upgrade was complete, we declined the activation, and copied our old WPA.DBL file. This gave us an activated installation with a WPA.DBL file that had all our hardware before the motherboard change. And subsequent boots of the system worked fine with the new motherboard.

Sneaking Up on XP RC1

This scenario was our gradual component change approach. We started with a basic machine configuration, and swapped out components one at a time, replacing them with upgraded components. Between each component swap, we saved our WPA.DBL file and rebooted the machine.

We used a system with two sets of components to swap back and forth.

System Specs

System 1

System 2

Intel 815 motherboard w/Gateway BIOS

IWill motherboard 266R w/Award BIOS

800 MHz PIII

1.2GHz AMD Athlon

256MB RAMg


IBM 20GB drive

IBM 40GB drive

Sound Blaster 5.1 sound

Aureal Vortex 3D

NVIDIA GeForce 2 graphics card

Elsa Erazor II graphics card

Linksys 10/100 card

3COM 905 network card

Hitachi DVD


Adaptec 2940UW SCSI


USB mouse

USB Mouse

Legacy IBM keyboard

Legacy IBM Keyboard

Our first test was with Windows XP RC1. We started with System 2 (see config chart) without SCSI, and swapped out the network card, sound, and graphics cards one at a time. Windows XP did not require reactivation, so we then added more memory, and swapped the hard drive. Again, still no reactivation required. We finished by changing the motherboard/CPU and memory size again. Because of the problems with changing the motherboard as described above, we saved the last WPA.DBL file before changing the motherboard, and restored it afterward. We kept the DVD drive constant, but everything else had changed, and we were still activated, without the need for reactivation.

Because we had imaged the hard drive from old to new, we checked and found that while the size of the hard drive had changed, our volume serial number had not. In total, we made five changes that included the motherboard, and were able to continue without a reactivation. That was truly surprising to us, and showed us that the process was also quite lenient for RC1, at least in our gradual upgrading scenarios.

Four At Once!

While our first set of tests changed components gradually, in this scenario, we replaced four components at once. To start clean, we returned our machine to its inactivated state by copying the original non-activated WPA.DBL file to our system32 directory. This forced us to reactivate Windows XP for a fresh start.

We shut down the machine and replaced the CDROM drive, plus the graphics, sound, and network cards all at once.. When we rebooted, we reinstalled the network card driver (Linksys) to make sure it was working correctly. When we booted back up, we forced the system to apply a new network card driver, which made sure we had a new Mac address. This time, when we rebooted, Windows XP RC1 wanted us to reactivate.

Changes with RC2

When RC2 arrived, we tried changing five components one by one. It did not reactivate. We then tried five components at the same time. We were still activated!! In our original configuration, we did not use a SCSI card, but we tried adding one to this test, with no change. The same scenario tested under RC1 did not trigger the same results under RC2.

Motherboard Change

Using RC2, we activated a fresh installation, and then changed the motherboard, CPU, and memory size. As mentioned previously, Windows XP would not work when we changed the motherboard, so we had to reinstall Windows Me and upgrade again. We copied the WPA.DBL file that we had activated from our initial installation, but Windows XP insisted on being reactivated. This was different from our earlier results with RC1 that did not require reactivation!

More Experimenting with RC2

Windows XP RC2 appeared to be more lenient when changing components other than the motherboard, so we tried changing more components. Starting with a freshly activated copy of RC2, we replaced six components and discovered that was the magic number! When changing six components at once, RC2 forced a reactivation. Then we tried the gradual approach. In order, we swapped out the hard drive, graphics card, removed a SCSI card we had installed initially, swapped the graphics card, then sound card, NIC, and lastly the DVD drive. We did these one by one, with reboots in between. It was upon swapping the DVD drive, the sixth component, that we had to reactivate.

Thinking that maybe it was the order in which the components were changed, we tried the same test, but started by changing the hard drive and DVD first, followed by the graphics card, the sound board, and network card. But not until we removed the SCSI card (the sixth change) did Windows want to reactivate.

Through our testing we found that many of the rumors related to being locked into a particular hardware configuration after initial activation were false. As our results demonstrated, changing a number of components did not require a reactivation. However, we also saw a change between RC1 and RC2 where it looks like Microsoft is honing the way that WPA works. In the first runs we tried with RC1, we were able to change a motherboard and CPU on a system (albeit in a very cumbersome procedure that had better be fixed before final release), while a similar test under RC2 forced a reactivation. We also saw that with RC1, four components changed at once, triggered a reactivation, while with RC2, it took six components at once or gradually (other than a motherboard) changing before we had to reactivate,

Maybe this sensing of the sixth change (let’s call it the “sixth sense”) is part of the XP reactivation algorithm, maybe not. By logical deduction, we’ll also assume XP requires reactivation when it sees dead people…:-)

After Windows XP ships on October 25th, we’ll retry our tests to see if anything has changed. As it looks with RC2, Windows XP is flexible enough for most hardware upgrades, while putting up a reasonable deterrent to casual copying. We think that most users who upgrade periodically will not have any major problems, and by backing up the WPA.DBL file when before they make changes, they can work around having to reactivate (though this is an annoyance for users, no doubt).

Finally, the conspiracy theories of how Microsoft is spying on your system will still abound, but from what we’ve seen, the information that keys the hardware to the Activation ID is innocuous. With one and two byte hash values, the information cannot be decoded into a profile of your machine aside from a very generic inventory of components.

With OEM versions of Windows not requiring activation and being keyed to the BIOS, thus allowing very liberal modification, WPA may run smoothly, and the glitches will be the exception rather than the rule. It will be more difficult for users to pass a copy to their friends, but for the average legal user, we think it’ll be a non-event.

No matter what we think–here are some scenarios for how WPA technology might play out, and we won’t estimate probabilities of any one scenario outweighing the others:

Scenario 1 – Windows XP ships on October 25th, and that date will come and go quietly just as January 1, 2000 did in the midst of the Y2K hysteria of doomsday cults, hoarding, and predictions of global chaos.

Scenario 2 – Computer enthusiasts rebel, and few will purchase XP upgrades for some time. But OEMs and retailers deliver XP on most new systems, corporations install XP with no major hassles, and eventually Microsoft gets its way with end users performing upgrades.

Scenario 3 – Users get so riled up worldwide as XP’s shipment date approaches that Microsoft makes a last minute downloadable patch that deactivates the activation process until they can figure out a better way to handle the process that doesn’t alienate so many computer users.


While using similar WPA technology, Office XP’s EULA allows two installations of the product– one on a desktop and one on a laptop, provided the two machines are owned by the same person or company. This license is to provide knowledge workers with the ability to use Office XP, a productivity application, in the office and on the road. XP, being an operating system, is not licensed the same way.

Office XP, as shipped, allows you to run the software 50 times before forcing activation. Starting any product within Office counts as a run. For example, you could use Word 2002 for 25 times, Excel for 15 times, and PowerPoint 10 times.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in ExtremeTech.

You May Also Like

Fossil To Ship Palm-Powered Wristwatch

Fossil To Ship Palm-Powered Wristwatch Fossil, Inc. and PalmSource, Inc. said Monday that Fossil has licensed the Palm operating system, p…

Speech Recognition For The Xbox

In Short: Speech Recognition For The Xbox Fonix Corporation announced Wednesday that it has signed a licensing agreement with Microsoft to…

Alias Makes Maya Personal 5 Free To Download

Alias Makes Maya Personal 5 Free To Download Mark Hachman Alias Systems Inc. said this week that it was making its Maya Personal Lea…

Weekly Spyware Alert: CoolWebSearch

Weekly Spyware Alert: CoolWebSearch Webroot Software Development Team Variants: This spyware is morphing at a rapid rate. Below, var…