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Software piracy is the mislicensing, unauthorized reproduction and illegal distribution of software, whether for business or personal use. Protect yourself from the risks of software piracy with helpful tips how to identify counterfeit or other misuse of software.

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  • Microsoft Product Activation

    To ensure that Microsoft customers receive the product quality they paid for and rightly expect, Product Activation technology is being included in several Microsoft products. As a result of Product Activation, software piracy will be reduced.

    1-2-3 It's Easy

    • Microsoft Product Activation begins automatically when connected to the internet. As an alternative, End Users may choose to activate via phone.
    • Microsoft verifies the license.
    • The license is confirmed and the product is activated.

    The goal of Product Activation is to reduce a form of piracy known as "casual copying" or "softlifting". Casual copying is a form of piracy characterized by the sharing of software between people in a way that infringes on the software's end user license agreement (EULA). For instance, Windows is primarily licensed for use on a single PC and without purchasing additional licenses cannot be installed on other machines. If someone were to obtain a copy of Windows and load it on his or her PC, then share it with a second person who loaded it on his or her PC, this would be an example of casual copying.

    Most licenses allow for software to be re-installed and activated on the same PC an unlimited number of times. To ensure that you are using your license properly, please see your end user license agreement or product use rights for details on a specific product.

    Casual copying accounts for a large portion of the economic losses due to piracy. Over time, reduced piracy means that the software industry can invest more in product development, quality and support. This ensures better products and more innovation for customers. Ultimately, customers will benefit from the economic impact of reduced piracy through increased job opportunities and higher wages.

  • Windows Licensing
  • Activation Information

  • How Activation Works

    Software bought "off the shelf" or on new PCs sold by OEMs requires activation. Once activation is completed, most users will never have to activate their installation again.

    Easy and safe

    Product Activation is a simple and straightforward process. In most cases, the only information required to activate is an Installation ID created by the software. The information collected will not be used to personally identify you.

    Product Activation takes less than one minute when completed over the Internet, and in most cases requires little to no user interaction.

    Activation can also be completed by telephone using the automated phone system, or speaking with a Microsoft customer service representative.

  • Product Activation Facts

    Microsoft Product Activation is easy for users to accomplish and many users will only be required to activate once for the life of the product (some users may have to activate again if they move the software from one PC to another; or upgrade or change a significant number of components within their PC). Please refer to your end user license agreement (EULA) to determine what is permissible.

    Customers who acquire licenses for most products through one of Microsoft's volume licensing programs will not be required to activate those licenses.

    Microsoft Product Activation is entirely software based and requires no hardware dongles, external media, or other external tools.

    None of the information collected during activation will be used to personally identify you.

  • Customers may activate the product via one of two methods:

    1. Internet. Microsoft servers process the activation and silently activate the product.
    2. Telephone. Telephone activation can be completed by using the automated phone system or speaking to a customer service representative.
  • Activation requires each instance of a product installation to be activated with Microsoft.

    A unique Product Key is required for each installation.

    Activation call centers for telephone activations are located regionally worldwide.

    Customer service representatives provide local language support.

  • Mandatory Product Activation Data

    • The Installation ID is unique to each product.
  • Myths of Product Activation

    Activation is difficult to complete.

    Product Activation is actually very simple to complete. It requires just a few mouse clicks for those with Internet connectivity. For those who must activate over the telephone, the process with a customer service representative can be completed in just a couple of minutes. Most users' response is "that's it?"

    Users must have Internet connectivity to activate.

    Product Activation provides two methods to activate: Internet and telephone. The Internet method requires that the PC be able to make a connection to the Internet. The telephone method requires the user to provide information to a customer service representative over the telephone.

    Product activation is an invasion of privacy.

    Microsoft absolutely respects the privacy of its customers. None of the information collected will be used to personally identify you.

    Product activation will hamper customers' use of the software.

    Actually, customers should only be minimally impacted, if at all. Licenses acquired by customers through one of Microsoft's volume licensing programs will not require activation.

    So you’re not personally identifying me, but you are still requiring information about the make and model of my PC.

    To ensure the end user's privacy, Microsoft uses a one-way mathematical algorithm to create the hardware hash used by Product Activation to create the Installation ID. Once created, the hash information cannot be calculated back to its original values. Hardware information is sent through the algorithm in the software on the PC-not at Microsoft-to create the hash. The raw hardware information is not known or sent to Microsoft. Ensuring end user privacy is a No. 1 design goal for Microsoft with Product Activation.

    Counterfeiters are the real piracy problem.

    Software piracy comes in many different forms, some more widely known than others. Each type of piracy is unique and often requires unique protection methods.

    Counterfeiting is a common form of piracy. Others include hard disk loading, Internet pirating and casual copying, or softlifting. Casual copying is the sharing of software between people in a way that infringes on the software's EULA. An example of casual copying is if someone were to get a copy of Office XP and load it on his or her PC, then share it with a second person who loaded it on his or her PC, then share it with a third person who loaded it on his or her PC, and so on. This form of piracy is very prevalent and accounts for a large portion of the economic losses due to piracy. It is this form of piracy, casual copying, that Microsoft is primarily looking to reduce with Product Activation.

    Microsoft is addressing the other forms of piracy with other initiatives such as Certificates of Authenticity (COA) that accompany new PCs with genuine licenses, edge-to-edge holograms, education campaigns and, as needed, enforcement efforts.

    Product Activation keeps users from changing or upgrading their hardware.

    Not true at all. Users can change or upgrade their hardware. One of the forms of piracy that Product Activation guards against is hard disk imaging. Not all forms of hard disk imaging are illegal. In the case where a pirate copies data from one PC hard drive to another to illegally run the software on two PCs, Product Activation stops that by forcing the copied software to be reactivated. It does so by comparing the hardware on which it was activated to the hardware on which it is now being booted. If the hardware is substantially different, then reactivation is required. If it is the same or similar, then the software will continue to work. Those who upgrade their PC's hardware substantially may be asked to reactivate. Reactivation for this reason is easy and can be completed by contacting Microsoft to obtain another confirmation ID.

    Product Activation changes the way Microsoft software is licensed.

    The underlying principles of Microsoft's software licenses have not changed. Microsoft's end user license agreements have always stipulated the number of PCs that software can be installed on. Product Activation does not change that.

  • Volume Licensing and Activation

    Qualifying as a volume licensing customer is easier than many may think. Customers can qualify for Microsoft's Open Licensing program by purchasing as few as five licenses. More information on Microsoft Open Licensing and Microsoft's other volume licensing programs can be found at the business licensing Web site. It's important to understand that Volume License Agreements do not cover the full Windows Client operating system; Volume License provides for Windows Client upgrades only. Customers must first have a qualifying underlying operating system license before installing Volume License software on their computers. Those who acquire software licenses through one of Microsoft's volume licensing programs will not be required to activate those licenses. Microsoft understands the unique deployment requirements of businesses that need to acquire licenses in volume and provides product that does not require activation to those customers.