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Microsoft: Activation shift won't be a pain

Only pirates and their cohorts will bear the brunt of a restrictive update to the Windows Activation plan, the software maker promises.

Microsoft's plan to halt some Net activation for Windows kicked in Monday, with the software maker assuring customers that the antipiracy measure will not prove a problem for legitimate users.

As reported earlier, the updated program calls for the top 20 PC makers to activate Windows XP on every system before it ships. If a customer has to reinstall the operating system, as long as they use the restore disks from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), activation will be automatic, said Keith Beeman, director of worldwide license compliance for Microsoft.

"For users of genuine Windows who have gotten Windows from one of the larger OEMs or smaller OEMs, it should be zero impact," he said.

The change is the latest attempt by Microsoft to target software pirates who try to sell stolen copies of Windows XP or the certificates of authenticity that mark the software as legitimate. The company has a plan to check that people's operating systems are properly licensed before allowing them to download certain updates. The plan, known as the Windows Genuine Advantage initiative, was introduced in January.

Microsoft is aiming to cut down on the theft of the certificates of authenticity shipped with every system that has Windows preloaded. Microsoft customers had sometimes had problems because their certificate had been stolen and used to activate pirated copies of the operating system.

"We have had a lot of requests from our resellers to do this," Beeman said. "Many of them are trying to compete with groups that pirate Windows, and thus have an unfair and illegal advantage."

The people who will feel the effect of the program are those who loan their certificates to friends or those who are using a stolen certificate, he said.

"It is not a small number, but what we expect to have happen is the counterfeiters who are using these keys will realize very quickly that those don't work anymore," Beeman said. "They are going to have customers that are unhappy."

In those cases, Windows users will have to contact a Microsoft call center and answer questions from a Microsoft representative. They will, most likely, also be informed that they have a stolen copy of Windows running on their system, Beeman said.

Microsoft plans to extend the program to all its OEMs, he said.