(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
drm, windows vista

Windows Vista Copy Protection Cracked

from the yeah-we're-shocked-too dept

More than a year after Windows Vista was introduced, hackers have finally developed a clean crack of Windows Vista. There have been a variety of workarounds for Vista's copy protection before now, but this is the first time someone has figured out a way to install a cracked version that would pass all of Microsoft's various anti-piracy checks. It seems that certain OEMs found the activation process too burdensome and persuaded Microsoft to provide them with a way to bypass it in order to save their own customers the hassle. Hackers figured out how to activate this special "no activation" mode on cracked copies of Vista. I think this is one of the biggest reasons copy protection schemes fail: they almost always creates serious inconveniences for customers, and irritating customers hurts the bottom line. Companies may talk a tough line about fighting piracy, but when push comes to shove, they're not willing to cut off their own nose to spite their face by insisting on enforcing a copy protection scheme that would put their product at a disadvantage in the marketplace.

Of course, the obvious question is why companies implement copy protection schemes in the first place if they invariably wind up compromising them. The reason, I think, is that these trade-offs are almost never made explicit to corporate decision makers ahead of time. When the copy protection plan is being pitched to management, its developers only talk about how great it will work. Only later, once it's actually being implemented, do people start noticing that it will also cause a lot of problems. But by that time, the copy protection system is too far along the development process to be canned, so instead exceptions are added. These exceptions prevent the copy protection system from crippling the product, but they also undermine its effectiveness as an anti-piracy measure. So customers have to deal with annoying restrictions and the product still gets pirated.

Update: Uh oh! As some readers are pointing out, it looks like this story is actually from March 4, 2007. Somebody submitted the story to Slashdot, and I foolishly linked to it without double-checking the date. My apologies for the oversight. In retrospect, I should have been more suspicious, because if Vista really went more than a year without a crack, that would probably have set some kind of record.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:39pm

    It is not in my interest to encourages my competitor to make a superior product.

    I will talk a tough line on "piracy", but will actually do nothing about it.

    Instead, I'll give them the source code, among the freedom to sell it at any prices they want, etc. There is no doubt that it will pleases my customers tremendously.

    By encouraging Business Software Alliance to prosecute people and similar organizations, I hope to capture customers from BSA's members.

    Yep, it is an evil opportunistic, dirty plan.

    But the only people who benefit from fighting piracy is companies that doesn't do anything about it. I am simply encouraging them so I can benefit from their foolishness.

    But I am not evil enough to go through the plan, anyway. So it will never happen.

    If someone actually does that, I don't know whether to say if they are evil or just opportunistic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    fact checker, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 6:50pm

    someone needs to realize

    that this is OLD!

    over a year old to be exact!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Taylor, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 7:05pm

    fact checker reporting.

    The source's time is set wrong. Check out the Slashdot article.

    Notice in the url 08/03/03?

    @Editor: By the way, can I say you hit the nail on the head with this piece. To me this stuff isn't rocket science but it's all perspective I guess. I'm speaking about our copyright system being in need of dire reform. But alas there will be no action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 7:09pm

    a scheme to increase market share?

    So it's a well-known fact that free e-books lead to increased book sales; free music leads to more CD's sold; and free software leads to bigger market share. Could it be that the marketing folks at Microsoft are SO brilliant that they created this amazingly complex "Genuine Product" scheme to satisfy some of the lawyers, but knew all along that it would frustrate their customers... they would then work closely with the developers to create a workaround that would surreptitiously "leak" to the hacker community, leading to a clean hack that would perpetrate the market, thereby satisfying their main goal of market share increase??

    They could then end up eventually claiming a far greater market share than they earned, simply due to their ability to speak out against piracy...


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Lucretious, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 7:28pm

    It always seemed exceedingly greedy to me that MS controlled the majority of the worlds PC OS market yet they still felt they had to charge for it (and charge a LOT).

    unfortunately rather than do an about face I'm sure they'll attempt to muck up the works by adding even more draconian security measures that will likely just piss everyone off who actually paid for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    OM, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 7:43pm

    ...Tim, you're under a slight misconception. The decision makers at M$ *are* made aware of the trade-offs up front. The problem is that these same decision makers quite simply don't give a flying frack about whether or not they piss off customers. They're under the belief that *they* set the rules, -not- the consumers, and if the consumers want to use Vista, then they play by M$' rules. And that includes any and all inconveniences encountered installing, reinstalling, or upgrading the system enough to trigger the revalidation process.

    CIP: When I worked for that big computer company with the four-letter word for a name, the company right down to the college dropout founder fought tooth and nail to convince M$ not to require OEM Windows after 2000 to be "BIOS-Locked". In the end, our founder got a direct call from Steve Ballimer telling him to "cease and decist all efforts" in this regard, or they'd refuse to license Windows as an OEM product to our company. Said founder called Gates directly, and was told "Hey, whatever Steve says, I'll back up. It's his job to make these decisions."

    ...Another thing to consider is that M$ also has told all OEMs, as well as the "Mom & Pop" resellers that sell licensed OEM versions that *they*, and not M$, are the first line of contact in these revalidation issues. The problem there is that unless they've been given that "legal crack" tool, there really ain't jack shit they *can* do but send them to M$, where they have to deal with some idiot in India who most likely was panhandling on some street in Calcutta the week before, and probably won't be able to help you in any case.

    ...In any case, I'll be getting a copy of that tool for my own use. Currently I'm not running Vista - I'm not that much of a masochist - but if I ever make that plunge I want to have it on hand just in case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    silverwolf, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:15pm

    Old Crack

    The story may or may not be old, but the crack mentioned is quite old.

    I first saw this crack a few weeks after the Vista Launch. And Microsoft has already stated that Vista SP1 will break this crack.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    John, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:36pm

    Is this really surprising

    that someone found a crack for a microsoft product? Not to me... who really cares anyways, some people will by the product, others pirate the product. Either way it increases microsofts bottom line on market share right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    ratn9ne, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 8:46pm


    Not only is this crack very old, but some of these still work on SP1 RTM.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 9:10pm

    Manufacturer's Keys

    Used Belarc Advisor recently on my dell inspiron 1501 before I reformatted to Linux so I'd have detailed hardware specs.

    Found out the key for Vista that was on my machine was _not_ the one Dell gave me. It's the key the use to setup the machines in the factory.

    I don't know if it is the same on all laptops, or all dell inspiron 1501's, but if it is then it is a key that you can use over and over _and_ register it.

    Because when I registered vista I didn't have to put in any info. And the CD that Dell gave me hasn't been registered.

    Course if i'm wrong i can just use one of these as old as Vista cracks to get around it.

    But who would want to crack Vista anyways? XP is so much better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Matt, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 9:38pm

    Old Old Old Old

    Why has this story popped up again - this crack has been out for ages.

    I don't understand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    david b, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 9:39pm

    doesn't seem true blue

    while i don't agree with the policy of treating one's customers like criminals, i'm not that impressed with this hack. it seems to me that true vista hack would start with a off-the-shelf disc image, not an OEM special version. seems more like another work-around to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Quantity Surveyor Man, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 10:12pm

    Oh goody!

    They've learned to make counterfeit copies of feces!

    Even if MS gave it away for free, it still wouldn't be worth having.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Tamara, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 11:40pm

    It's a disgrace

    Copy protection schemes are a disgrace. We recently upgraded our systems to Vista and the amount of pain the arse trouble that Vista causes with it's product activation is inexcusable. We make sure to let all of our partner companies to avoid going anywhere near Vista.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 11:57pm

    This IS legit, I have an electrical engineering colleague living a few doors down who is using this very version of Vista on his computer right now (in addition to dualbooting linux, of course).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    rob friedman, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:56am

    re: not checking dates

    Engadget decided to follow your lead too.
    Unfortunately they did not post an update to the story as you did, I'm sure this is further mis-leading people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    bobbknight, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:45am

    MS and Vista and the crack

    I think it interesting that MS just had a small internal promo where you bought one and got one free on Vista Ultimate and now is reducing the price on Vista. I got my BOGO, I was a registered Beta user.

    Now as to the Crack just look for a paradox, lol paradox-icly you will find a Vista Activator.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    StopTheAnnoying, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:57am

    Hacker Cracks Vista

    The idea of someone hacking in to crack Vista is a story all by itself. However, the idea that someone would want to pirate this OS is laughable. Vista sucks!! Where would you like to go today? Anywhere Mr. Gates will allow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 3:41am

    It may be old but it's ALWAYS a good time to point out Microsoft's shortcomings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Johan Gustavsson, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 7:31am

    I know that already....

    I have just downloaded a release of win vista from team BiE, which works just fine... And it also has sp1 integrated!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    John, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 4:24pm

    Do companies create pirates

    Here's a question to think about: do companies create more pirates by burdening paying customers with more complex "protection" schemes?

    For example, which would you do:

    1) Download an illegal copy of Windows Vista, install it, and start working.
    (Never mind the argument that an illegal copy is illegal and so on.)

    2) Purchase Vista at "brand name store", take it home, install it, and then spend the rest of the evening fighting with the "protection", such as:

    "Could not install your modem driver. Please call this 800 number and give the operator the following 32-character key. You will then be given a 64-character challenge key which you must enter into the space provided. Then give the operator the correct 16-character challenge-response key. Your copy of Windows will now be activated.
    Please call between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm. Please talk slowly and clearly since your call be routed to our call center in India. Please pay very close attention to the information they read back to you in their very thick accent. It is very important that you enter the exact codes or this copy of Windows will not work and you won't be able to get back to answering e-mail."

    I forget where I read it, but I remember people talking about how they would purchase a legit copy and then download and install the cracked version just because it was easier to deal with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Dumb person, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 6:43pm

    Re: Do companies create pirates

    Do the same at the store..

    1) put a product in your pocket and walk out

    2) get product and go the register. wait in line give them credit card which the number of can get stolen. or pay them cash which you can get killed for once outside the store.. Such a hastle....

    I mean I've sean people buy something in the store.. and then if they need another item they just take and it walk out without paying its so much easier to deal with.,,,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    GOback, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 6:46pm

    Re: It's a disgrace

    Go back to DOS its great

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    bgates, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 11:02pm

    Re: Re: It's a disgrace

    No. Apostrophes are great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    spiderwebsystem, Dec 20th, 2008 @ 4:09am

    That Is Crazy Record Time

    They crack stuff before it ever even comes out now. With as much as Vista Sucks, they should have saved their time though. PCLinux Rocks. Hey, to make some serious money online, check out http://thespidersystem.ws

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    tunji, May 7th, 2011 @ 10:39am


    Help me to update my computer

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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