Microsoft to nix some Net product activation

Starting with software on PCs from the top 20 makers, the company plans to allow Windows activation over the phone only.

Robert Lemos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Robert Lemos
covers viruses, worms and other security threats.
Robert Lemos
2 min read
Customers who find themselves reinstalling Windows XP should be ready for a headache: Microsoft will no longer support activating the product over the Internet for PCs which have Windows pre-installed.

Intended to curtail the stealing and selling of certificates of authenticity, the new security measure will start at the end of this month. At first, it will be limited to the Windows XP software preinstalled on systems shipped by the top 20 PC sellers.

"The main reason (for the change) is to address piracy in this area," a Microsoft representative said on Thursday. "Microsoft has found various people selling the labels of authenticity that they have copied or have pulled off other PCs."

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.

Starting Feb. 28, Microsoft's product security will require that customers who need to reinstall their operating system call a customer service representative to get a code that will reactivate their Windows XP system. New systems shipped from the top 20 PC makers, also known as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), will be preactivated, stated a memo posted to the blog Aviran's Place. The Microsoft representative said the memo was authentic.

"To reduce the illegal trafficking of these OEM product keys, Microsoft will 'disable' the ability to activate these direct OEM Product Keys over the Internet," the memo stated. "When a customer or reseller tries to activate using a Product Key found on the list of 'disabled' keys, the online product activation wizard will instruct them to call Microsoft, where a customer service representative can assist them further."

The customer representative will ask several questions, such as where the person bought the Windows XP system, to find out whether the certificate is authentic, the representative said.