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arstechnica.com/,......Vista volume license keys to be tagged and neutered

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27 Jun 2006 12:35 PM
Vista volume license keys to be tagged and neutered

6/27/2006 11:29:42 AM, by Jeremy Reimer

"Corporate Edition" versions of Windows have been the blessing of both IT workers and casual pirates since the days of Windows 95, when the operating system first started asking for a license key on installation. Large firms and OEMs who did not want to go through the hassle of typing in a CD key for every install received Volume License Keys (VLKs) that could be used on as many installs as necessary. Microsoft relied on the honor system to ensure that companies did not abuse this privilege, but it looks as if with Vista this system may be ending:

"We are making changes to the process to Vista and a new approach to VLK licensing," Mike Sievert, corporate vice president of Windows client marketing for Microsoft told CRN during a recent interview. "We're training our enterprise customers and we'll do some key management for customers that's more automated and makes reporting easier."

The exact details of the "new approach" to VLKs haven't been made clear, but Ward Ralston, a senior technology product manager at Microsoft, has confirmed that the company is "introducing the notion of a key management server" for Windows Vista Server. This program will require licensed customers to check in their keys and Client Access Licenses (CALs) every 30 days, via an automatic reporting process. The procedure for the Vista client will likely not require a key management server, but may also "phone home" periodically to report on the status of various VLK installs.

Microsoft has been slowly introducing more and more antipiracy controls with its software products ever since CD keys made their debut with Windows 95. Windows XP introduced product activation (WPA) that combined CD keys with a hardware hash generated at install time. Corporate editions did not require activation, and when pirate groups leaked corporate VLKs into the wild, Microsoft decided to attack the problem from the other end. These VLKs were marked as "invalid" and new keys issued to the corporations and OEMs that originally used them. This didn't affect pirated copies of XP that had already been installed elsewhere, so Microsoft came up with the idea of Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA).

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