Product activation

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Product activation is a license validation procedure required by some proprietary computer software programs. Specifically, product activation refers to a method where a software application hashes hardware serial numbers and an ID number specific to the product's license (a product key) to generate a unique Installation ID. This Installation ID is sent to the manufacturer to verify the authenticity of the product key and to ensure that the product key is not being used for multiple installations.

As a trial, Microsoft first used product activation in some versions of Microsoft Office 2000. Some copies sold in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United States required the user to activate the product via the Internet. After its success, the product activation system was extended worldwide and incorporated into all subsequent versions of Windows and Office. This practice has become a subject of debate, primarily because it was one of the first widespread uses of a product activation system in a general consumer product.

An 'unactivated' product usually acts as a time-limited trial until a product key is purchased and used to activate the software. Some products allow licenses to be transferred from one machine to another using online tools, without having to call technical support to deactivate the copy on the old machine before reactivating it on the new machine.


[edit] Transfer/Deactivation

Some companies require users to "transfer" activation when moving a product from one computer to another, or when replacing hardware or drives in an existing computer, or when reformatting a system hard drive. Transfer may involve deactivating a product on the old system before activating it on the new system. Users may be required to be online and to transmit the deactivation to the software provider.

[edit] Criticisms

Some major criticisms of product activation are:

  • If a computer is stolen or destroyed, the activations on it may be completely lost. It is only by the good will of the company to provide new activations. This makes backing up to guarantee prevention of substantial loss impossible.
  • Activations can force users with multiple computers to keep track of which purchased software instance is installed on which computer.
  • It can cause inconvenience for the end-user, particularly if phone calls are necessary to complete activation or technical problems, such as firewall blocks or activation server downtime, prevent the activation process from completing.[citation needed]
  • It can enforce software license agreement restrictions that may be legally invalid.[citation needed] For example, a company may refuse to reactivate software on an upgraded or new PC, even if the user may have a legal right to use the product under such circumstances.
  • If the company ceases to support a specific product (or declares bankruptcy) then that purchased product may become unusable, or incapable of being (re)installed unless an activation free copy/final patch that removes/bypasses activation is released. If this was not done, a user who wants to continue using the software might have to resort to illegal methods to bypass activation.
  • Although many activation schemes are anonymous, some are accompanied by mandatory registration which require providing user's address, phone number, and other personal information before the product is activated.[citation needed]
  • When a product has reached End-Of-Life, the company may no longer allow customers to re-activate their product, an example of planned obsolescence.[citation needed]
  • Product Activation may force paying customers to upgrade to new Operating Systems, or Software.[citation needed]
  • Many instances and Internet traffic indicate that Product Activation does not fully protect against piracy; pirates often find a way around activation or provide dummy codes. Many feel that Product Activation then only inconveniences or hinders the effectiveness of the software for legitimate customers. Additionally, pirated or randomly generated authentication codes can match legitimate codes, preventing legitimate customers from using software rightly paid for because the authentication code was already used, potentially branding said customer as a "pirate" in the eyes of the company.[citation needed]
  • In the event that a user has a hardware failure that requires a change in the system, the program might have to be re-activated by phone. Since the activation lines are not open 24/7 (example: Adobe Systems), users may find themselves unable to use the software for hours or days, waiting for the vendor to reopen and reactivate their product preventing them from doing their jobs and causing down time and lost productivity in the process.

[edit] List of products

The following products are known to require product activation:

[edit] Microsoft

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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