Thursday, January 08, 2009

WPA - Legal Kill

Among the many complaints computing support types have against Microsoft Windows is the product activation system. Windows Product Activation, or WPA, is intended as an anti-piracy measure by requiring Windows Xp, Vista, and eventually Windows 7 users to activate their copy of Microsoft Windows over an internet connection, locking their version of Windows against the hardware manifest. However, WPA has done little to stop actual pirates, as bit-torrent collectives suggest multiple cracks, patches, and full ISO's with no activation needed.

At the same time, WPA has largely passed by the notice of the average consumer. For many consumers the thought of re-installing Windows is a foreign concept. They'll pay a computer tech or a factory authorized service representative to go through the motions of re-installing Microsoft Windows if that step is deemed necessary for computer repair.

As a repair technician then, little torques me off more than somebody who responds to somebody asking how to turn WPA off by making statements that anybody who wants to turn WPA is a pirate. The reality is that there are an increasing number of cases where disabling Windows Product Activation is a requirement for proper troubleshooting and computer repair. As Microsoft finishes up Vista Service Pack 2, better known as Windows 7, there seems to a concerted attempt by Microsoft to force users to upgrade or relicense their existing Windows installation. Within the past 72 hours I've had 2 clients with factory installed versions of Microsoft Windows recieve messages that they needed to activate their Microsoft Windows machines. I've spoken with other computer repair techs as well who've also had the problem... and the reason why I went looking around for help is that I have a computer with a Microsoft Windows OS installed from a vendor recovery disc which was locked out due to Windows Product Activation.

In my own case, the system in question is a Microsoft Windows Xp Home edition system. However, the system cannot be activated because according to Microsoft, the system has already exceeded the allowed number of re-activations. The only way to legally turn a fully functional computer with a legally purchased Windows Operating System back-on... is to pay Microsoft for another license.

However, by cracking and removing Windows Product Activation, I could return a usable computer with it's legally installed Operating System back into a functioning unit. In such a case, however, according to Microsoft's EULA, such un-authorized re-activations are illegal... or are the EULA themselves illegal by restricting a consumers rights concerning property ownership?

The larger issue at hand is that various cracks for Microsoft Windows Operating Systems can assist consumers in carrying out and implementing their rights as consumers to use their property how they wish. For some repair technicians, cracking WPA is sometimes the only viable solution they can give to a client.
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