Hacking Vista by guessing a product key

Tech Culture

Fighting Windows Vista's piracy protection? Perhaps trying to guess a product activation key will solve the problem.

A "brute force" key generator that randomly tries a variety of 25-digit codes until it finds one that works is now available, according to KezNews, a Windows news Web site.

The tool, available for download from KezNews, can use up quite a lot of computer processor resources and will check about 20,000 possible keys an hour, according to the Web site. One user reported finding three usable product keys in five hours.

Microsoft beefed up its piracy protections for Vista. The software maker wants people to buy its software, not steal it. So, if Vista isn't activated within 30 days, users are effectively locked out of their computer.

The key guesser is only the latest attempt to break through Microsoft's antipiracy technology. In December, the company issued an update to Windows Vista to thwart another way people tried to use pirated versions of the new OS.

UPDATE (Saturday, 3/3/2007, 11.00 am pt)--There are some suggestions on the KezNews forum that the brute force key generator is a fake and that it doesn't really work. I'll ask Microsoft if they have looked into this.

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