Not Like a Fine Wine: Windows Activation Still a Piece of Junk After All These Years

Posted on May 6, 2013 10:40 AM by Rob Williams

This past Friday night, I did the only thing any single, lonely male would do: I played my MMO. During a quest, Windows 8 decided to kill my character with a full-screen activation nag screen. For those unaware, everything in Windows you don’t expect to be full screen may very well be in Windows 8. At the time, I didn’t think to screenshot this prompt, because I didn’t anticipate what was to come.

Because I find it silly in this day and age to call tech support and A) Riddle off your credentials, B) Riddle off your 25 character product key and C) Listen to someone riddle off a 25 character key back, I opted to seek out cracks to solve my issues rather than do the “legal” thing. Two cracks later, I got nowhere. Perhaps they work for some people, but they didn’t for me.

At this point, I sucked it up and called Microsoft’s tech support. During the call, the lady on the other end told me that I was breaking up – despite having a 3/4 bar connection – and after moving close to a window, it was obvious that the call just wasn’t meant to be. I apologized, hung up, and shouted something (probably friendly) at my PC. As I moved to a new apartment at the start of the month, and my ISP/phone company cannot install my utilities until the 14th, it felt like there was just one solution:

Reformat my PC.

I had to stand back for a couple of moments and think this through. Was I really about to reformat my PC because of a stupid OS activation issue? For my legal copy of Windows 8? I sure as heck didn’t want to. But then I remembered that, via the install media, you can install a fresh copy of the OS while retaining your apps, settings, files and sanity. So, I mounted that ISO, took a deep breath, and went for it.

Windows 8 DVD Installer

After putting my product key in, I chose the option as seen in the shot above, and then the process soon got underway. In all, I’d say the entire install process took about 40 minutes. Afterwards, I was back at my Windows 8 desktop, with every single app in view via the Start screen, and generally speaking, the OS just the way I left it. Without the activation nag, of course. Small caveats included: A) Having to reactivate my Office install, B) Having to reinstall VMware and C) Having to reinstall my mouse software (SteelSeries).

Windows 8 is Activated

Side note: When you do this, Windows moves your old installation to “Windows.old” on your C:\, meaning it’s just hogging up space. When you’re confident you won’t need this anymore, you can run Windows’ cleanup tool (‘cleanmgr’ from the run line, then choose “Clean up system files”) and clean things out that way. My Windows.old folder was 25GB, which is a lot of space on an SSD.

So, the question has to be begged: what the hell was my problem? As it turns out, my issue directly stemmed from the free Media Center upgrade that Microsoft passed out a couple of months ago (something I mentioned in previous posts). Even though I had no immediate plans to use the Media Center portion of the OS, I installed it anyway because Microsoft had a scheme in place where if you didn’t use the key by a certain point, it would become invalid. At the time, I figured there’d be no harm, so I went through with it.

What I didn’t realize is that installing Media Center essentially changed my edition information. Instead of “Windows 8 Pro”, my OS became “Windows 8 Pro with Media Center”. As such, this rendered my original product key entirely invalid for that install. You can’t downgrade Windows 8 versions with this sort of granularity (as far as I can tell), so my only option at this point was to call Microsoft, or reinstall. Since I couldn’t do the former, I had to do the latter.

In Googling about, it became obvious that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, and every time, the solution was to call Microsoft. Here’s where I really become confused. Microsoft is one of the best-known tech companies out there. It’s modern. Yet, for some reason, it doesn’t offer online chat tech support. I’ve seen vacuum cleaner companies that have had online chat tech support, but Microsoft? The creator of the most popular consumer OS and billions of other software solutions? No, don’t be ridiculous.

Office Space Milton
Are you sure your product key is plugged in, sir?

There’s no doubt that my particular situation is unique, but had Microsoft offered me the ability to contact it via online chat, I would have been able to solve my issue quickly.  I wouldn’t have to recite my product key out loud and hold my breath while trying to listen to the person on the other end of the line give me a new one. If I was able to conduct that call, that is.

Let’s not avoid the main topic here: Windows activation has long been a piece of junk, and my experience this past weekend proved to me that nothing has changed. I’ve had activation issues with XP and Vista to such a large degree that I ended up (successfully) applying a crack to my Windows 7 installation before I encountered any issues. Isn’t it a little silly when things come to that? I’m a legal user, and I sure don’t like having to waste hours of an afternoon because of a needless issue.

As a tech enthusiast, I use my PCs a lot, and I’m not ignorant of that fact that I’ll likely run into a greater number of issues than the regular user. But the fact that I’ve dealt with activation issues with every version of Windows since XP tells me something has to change. Back in the Vista days, I encountered an issue where I couldn’t access my OS due to an activation issue, and as it was 2AM at night (this was a benchmarking machine), I was out of luck until the morning. To say I was enraged is a slight understatement.

So dear Microsoft, I ask you; Why don’t you have online chat tech support, and why must you have such problematic activation schemes for your software? When you give me a key to apply to my OS that months later causes me to reinstall the OS, that’s a problem. That’s a real problem.

May 7th Addendum

There’s quite a number of people accusing me of A) not understanding how to use Windows, B) not activating the OS in the first place and C) not using a legitimate copy. I’d like to address those concerns here, since not everyone is going to peruse our comments section.

First, I have a long history of using Windows. I started out on 3.1, and have used each consumer version leading up to the present. I’m also experienced with Linux, and software in general. I’m A) not going to be ignorant enough to whine about activation problems with an illegal copy of Windows, nor B) write a rant post about something I don’t understand. It’s that simple.

If anyone takes the time to peruse our other content, and preferably mine in our software section, any doubts should be quelled. Since the Windows XP 64-bit launch, we’ve received product keys from Microsoft’s press department, including this one for Windows 8. We have a good relationship with Microsoft and have no reason to write a hate post against it, much less one that involves an illegitimate copy of its OS.

  • Kondor999

    Bought Win7 Ultimate, then applied a crack to avoid activation nonsense and have never looked back. They should hire the guys who make the cracks if they’d like to learn something about ease-of-use.

    • Rob Williams

      I think on 7, I got bit exactly one times before I applied a crack and was done with it. Interestingly, before I encountered this issue, I moved my desk about five feet in the room. Maybe this is a case of Desk Rights Management ;-) Or it could just be a humorous coincidence.

  • neil
    • Rob Williams

      Cheers for the URL. In all of my searching (I even had help from another), I somehow couldn’t find that page. The best I found was a page with a list of countries, their support phone numbers and which ones had online documentation to peruse. Had I gone to the main Microsoft site instead of, it would have jumped out at me easier. It’s difficult to miss “Chat or call”.

      That solves one problem, but it doesn’t solve the one where activation issues are prevalent with every version of Windows since XP.

    • jim

      Yeah, because an online chat is just what you need when you can’t even start Windows.

      • Rob Williams

        In my particular case, I actually had full use of Windows, which is one improvement of later versions over XP. If I recall, XP locked you to the login screen. What I dealt with was a reverting of some settings until I activated. I am sure it would have locked me out eventually, but I didn’t even wait a full day to tackle things.

      • videmus

        “I wish they had online chat support”
        “They do”
        “Pfft, online chat is stupid”

  • Mark Wolf

    Now, I’m not trying to invalidate your experience, and I can understand how frustrating things can be when they present themselves all of the sudden. However, with all the PC’s I’ve purchased, built and applied the OEM versions of Windows XP Pro, Windows 7 Pro, Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade, and Windows 8, I’ve never had the problems you describe.

    I’ve actually had a WORSE time with Windows XP than I did with any of the others.

    Considering that your activation popped up on you, means that you were not aware that your license of Windows 8 wasn’t activated yet. Since the days of Windows XP, the OS will give you constant reminders that your version of the OS is not activated yet. The fact that you decided to ignore it or were oblivious to it makes me question your experience with Windows or whether you truly had a legit license to begin with.

    However, your comment about a chat feature is pretty much dead on. Out of all companies, you’d expect M$ to be the forerunner in easy to use technical support options. Then again… Look at Google. Everything’s beta and even if you have business software like Google Earth Pro, fat chance if you can get immediate personalized support. No wonder Europe is suing Google for not providing better end-user support.

    Kind of shitty how in Europe the people actually get QoS regarding companies. Here in the US we’re treated like shit for keeping a company afloat by buying their products.

    • mikeswierczek

      That’s a fair criticism of Google. But at least for Google’s consumer products, there is no activation process. If only Microsoft worked that way. More seriously, most of their profits come from Office, Server, SQL Server, etc… you would think they would make Windows 7 and 8 free, in order to keep people locked into their software ecosystem. I admit, I would have never tried Linux if Windows was free. Making Windows free would really hurt Linux adoption at home and drive Windows Server use at work. As a Linux fanboy, I’m pleased Microsoft executives are not smart enough to do this.

      • Rob Williams

        That assumes that most people who use Linux use it because it costs $0.00, rather than because it’s free (as in freedom). I don’t think that’s the case. Some people just don’t like being tied into Microsoft’s ecosystem, or locked into one like it.

        • mikeswierczek

          I got started as a Linux user ten years ago because it was free as in currency. At the time I didn’t know anything about open source software or its value (in terms of freedom, not cost). Now I use Linux because of the freedom. I suspect many other Linux users have a similar start.

          • Rob Williams

            I have no doubt to that being the case. I guess I started out a little different. I had an interest in alternative OSes once I discovered Red Hat 7 at a friend’s school. Not long after, I found a copy of Caldera OpenLinux 2.3 at a local retailer (for like $10, if I recall), and so I picked it up. I dabbled with Linux on and off after that, but didn’t install it permanently to a machine until 2004 (openSUSE, on the laptop), and in late 2005, I learned Gentoo and have considered that “home” since.

            I didn’t get into Linux because it was free, or because I hated Microsoft (I don’t). It was just because I liked using a different OS… maybe I felt like a rebel. What really hooked me over time was the sheer level of flexibility. Especially with a distro like Gentoo, Arch or Debian, you can fine-tune things to such a large degree that each install really is unique.

            You can of course customize Windows to a large degree with add-ons as well, but I never had the same feeling of excitement from it (did use WindowsBlinds back in the XP days though, it was awesome). And yes, I concede that the fact it’s free can invoke a good feeling as well.

          • mikeswierczek

            I started out interested in Linux because I worked at a small company that was using Windows Servers and Linux servers but was too small and too poor to hire Microsoft consultants to set up our Windows licensing. We spent an enormous and infuriating amount of time navigating the legalese and instructions around Terminal Services licensing at the time – imagine if Cthulhu and a huge pile of IRS forms got together and had a baby. Eventually it got bad enough the executives gave up and spent umpteen tens of thousands of dollars paying someone else to manage licensing (in addition to the cost of the licenses themselves).

            I don’t think there was malevolent intent there, technically speaking. But I think at least at the time Microsoft intentionally obfuscated its license management rules for the specific purpose of selling consulting services. That business model – lock the customer in with product and then make it purposely hard to use to sell lucrative support contracts – is legitimate capitalism but morally repugnant.

            Microsoft makes some outstanding software and has contributed many useful things to the computing world. I’m also a huge fan of the Bill Gates foundation charity. But the company history is almost a ready-made storybook for explaining why everyone should be using free software.

          • Rob Williams

            Your experiences make me curious about the potential hassles with Linux… not with licensing, but with things like consulting and support. Could there be be such hassles caused on the Linux side? I have zero experience in IT, so I truly don’t know. As much as I’d like to claim Linux is the be all end all there, I only have experience with it on the desktop.

            That said, I -have- heard a lot of horror stories like the one you mentioned, but I that could have more to do with the fact that I barely know anyone in IT who deals with Linux. I think a lot of companies started out as Microsoft shops and just never bothered to evaluate the alternatives and transition.

          • mikeswierczek

            At the first company half the business model was selling devices running Linux, so we had all the expertise we needed in house. I worked on Windows at the time, but learned from my colleagues and on my own. At this company, I’m 50% of the IT department and do 75% of the system administration, so if I’m comfortable with Linux servers, that’s what we run.

            That’s not to say we’re headache free. We have problems, stuff breaks, and I make plenty of mistakes. And at the end of the day, a problem is a problem and a cost is a cost whether it’s licensing headaches on Windows or gaps in my knowledge of Linux that drives it. But even if the costs are the same, I feel far better trying to fix something that’s purely a technical issue versus an artificially created problem.

            That said, I do suspect this has been cheaper than proprietary alternatives.

          • Rob Williams

            Ahh, good insight, thanks. And yes, like any OS, Linux is going to cause hassles just like any other ,especially where networks and configuration is concerned. I’ve dealt with a bit of that because of the site, but that’s not even remotely to be compared to something like what you deal with on a daily basis. Networks and services are complex beings.

          • Mark Wolf

            I think it comes down to feature sets. Hard to beat the Active Directory/Domain environment or the fact that most of the time it just works. I can’t say that for running Linux. The problem with linux and other open source software is that one is reliant on a community that is a bit snobby and if you ask a fairly simple question you’re bombard with “you’re an idiot” or “i can’t believe you are bothering to run this software” type responses. That’s a really great way to promote a highly UN-supported product that has huge potential.

            As far as other reasons people go M$ is just productivity software. You won’t find the same features in M$ Office compared to OpenOffice of OfficeLibre… not even close… and I think that’s a huge problem for companies that rely on document production.

            In all my years, since DOS 5.0 and DOS Shell, of M$ OS use, I think I’ve had 1 activation issue and it was because of me reinstalling Windows 7 Pro and using the upgrade DVD to Win 7 Ultimate and not having a license key. The phone support actually provided me with a whole new key because they could verify by a code on the DVD that I had a physical license. So, I can’t really say I’ve had a bad time activating Windows Products, though that doesn’t mean that problems don’t exist for other folks.

          • Rob Williams

            I haven’t experienced that kind of reaction from others in the Linux community, but it could be that I’ve been lucky. I -have- heard about those issues from others, though, and you’re right… that’s hardly going to make anyone feel welcome.

            As for feature sets, it don’t think that’s so much of an issue if you are familiar with Linux. If you are already familiar with Windows, then of course you’re going to know which tools to use, but I’d be hard-pressed to believe that Linux is lacking anything in comparison. Active Directory replacement? Beats me, but I feel confident that something like it exists.

            Of course again, I am not in IT and never have been. I handle Techgage’s Web servers, but admittedly we have few packages (typical LAMP setup, really). We don’t even have an FTP server because I try to keep things as slimline and the least bit vulnerable as possible.

            I agree on LibreOffice. Although I’m not a huge Office user to begin with, it has a lot more flexibility, especially with chart-creation, and the end result tends to always look better. For free though, it’s hard to discredit Libre too much. For document creation and spreadsheets it’s fine.

            Regarding activation, admittedly the majority of issues I’ve experienced have been on bench rigs, where I swap hardware often, but I’ve still had issues on every version of Windows dating back to XP on my main rig, which rarely sees any hardware change. I’m not sure what it is… it’s just an issue I never seem to avoid. The only time I haven’t experienced activation issues was on my notebooks. Probably not much of a surprise though.

    • Rob Williams

      “I’ve actually had a WORSE time with Windows XP than I did with any of the others.”

      Yes, I concur. I had to call Microsoft more for XP activation hassles than with all of the other OSes to follow it combined.

      “Considering that your activation popped up on you, means that you were not aware that your license of Windows 8 wasn’t activated yet. Since the days of Windows XP, the OS will give you constant reminders that your version of the OS is not activated yet. The fact that you decided to ignore it or were oblivious to it makes me question your experience with Windows or whether you truly had a legit license to begin with.”

      First off, if I didn’t have a legit license, I don’t think I’d have the gall to write a post fibbing about it. Second, with regards to my experience, I recommend taking a moment to peruse our software section and check out some content I’ve written. I’ve been using Windows since 3.1, and have good experience with each version up to 8.

      After I installed 8, I activated it. I looked at the confirmation… “Windows is activated.” Again, I wouldn’t be dumb enough to write a post about this if A) it wasn’t activated or B) I had an illegal key. Since XP 64-bit, I’ve received all of my Windows licenses through Microsoft directly (as press).

      As I mentioned in the post, my Windows seemed to finally clue into the fact that my original Windows 8 Pro key didn’t match the current “Windows 8 Pro with Media Center” – an upgrade I received from Microsoft itself (but as far as I can tell, that MC key is NOT a full OS key, but rather an upgrade key. I have no clue why the OS suddenly decided to complain about the misinformation).

      “However, your comment about a chat feature is pretty much dead on. Out of all companies, you’d expect M$ to be the forerunner in easy to use technical support options.”

      Well, as someone else mentioned above, apparently they DO have online chat, but I was oblivious to it. Either it’s actually not that obvious to find, or I had a major brain fart. All I know is that after looking for 10 minutes I wound up on a page that listed worldwide phone numbers and which countries had online tech support (not chat).

  • Tim Reynolds

    Why does this page do a full refresh every few minutes? To get more ad impressions?

    • twobuck40

      ads? what adds? still using IE?

      • Rob Williams

        It’s not a big Hasselhoff to enable ads on sites that don’t shove them down your throat.

        Had to get that pun out of me somehow.

    • Rob Williams

      Competitors who do the same thing drove me to recently implementing that. I’m going to remove it because this is just validation that it’s not ideal.

  • FF222

    In other news: “Moron tech writer activates his (supposedly legal) Windows copy with illegal (probably infected & bug-ridden) cracks, then blames problems caused by that on Microsoft”

    • Rob Williams

      My Windows 8 key came straight from Microsoft’s press department. And these cracks had nothing to do with this problem. It’s a known issue as mentioned in the post.

      • FF222

        I don’t care where your key came from. You admitted in the second paragraph that you tried to activate the system (or skip the activation) by using a crack. Not one, but two of them, actually. For one, this seems highly illogical and unlikely to me if at that point you really already owned a legal product key. But that’s not the point here.

        The point is that after two failed attempt to crack it your system was most likely left in an undefiniable and unsupported state. Nothing what happened after point can be blamed on Microsoft, because you know, you (and your cracks) tampered with the system, and have most likely at least partly messed up the activation process and data.

        Yet, you still think you’re in your rights to blame Microsoft for every hassle encountered, whereas the only thing you’d have had to done was to enter the legal product key (instead of trying the cracks), press active, and 5 seconds later sit back and enjoy your game again after a successful activation.

        Because you know, that’s how flawlessly, fast and convenient activation works for all of us, who just enter our products keys and don’t try to download and run various cracks on our perfectly legal copies of Windows.

        • Rob Williams

          As I stated in the post, I used system restore post-crack, so I’m not exactly sure what you’re on about. I also experienced the -exact- same issue pre and post-crack. It wasn’t until I reinstalled the OS to its original pre-Media Center edition state that the install accepted the key and successfully activated.

          “For one, this seems highly illogical and unlikely to me if at that point you really already owned a legal product key.”

          Why is it you make it out to seem that owning a legal Windows key is so special? There was a period of 3+ months where a license cost $40…

          I don’t use a single piece of pirated software. Not -one-. Not Windows. Not Photoshop. Not VMware. Not (fill in the blank). Hell, not 3ds Max for our benchmarking. I have proof of all of it. If you happen to pirate even a single piece of software, you should think twice about accusing someone else of it.

  • bob

    why didnt you activate it first thing?
    why did you use phone activation instead of online if you have google and ability to download cracks?
    why did you talk to someone instead of use the automated phone activation?
    why did you proceed with a faulty install if you knew that the WMC was the cause of hte issue, instead of going back to a plane install and an online activation, and then layering the WMC on top?
    This is just a peice of MS bashing written by a non-techie on a “tech” site no one has ever heard of trying to get click revenue by getting posted on /. and reddit.

    • Rob Williams

      As soon as I received Windows 8, I activated it. About a month later, when I got the Media Center key, I activated it. I’ve heard of people who’ve been affected by this who didn’t activate their base install first, but that didn’t apply here. As for phone activation, I had to talk to customer service since the OS refused my original product key, there would be no way to generate another one on the phone when the Windows 8 edition now differed.

      Why I went with a faulty install instead of just back-tracking is that I didn’t want to reformat. That was until I realized that with 8 (any maybe 7, I’m not sure), you’re able to retain all of your apps, sans any issue.

      I started Techgage in 2005, wrote 600 articles and thousands of news posts. Your bar for techie is quite high. I respect that.

  • Truthspew

    First thing I do with any new machine, once it’s configured is make a bit for bit copy of the partitions on the drive including the MBR. I use Macrium Reflect for the purpose.

    And then once a month I do state dumps of the partitions. I keep 90 days of rolling backup just for the purpose. Still running a well patched XP box at the current moment because Vista left me wondering why MS screwed it up, and Win7 won’t run on this machine.

    • Rob Williams

      That’s all it takes to reverse the activation “aging”? I’m a little surprised.

      • Truthspew

        No – the aging is based on the system clock. However if time isn’t important you can always mess with the clock to prevent it.

        • Rob Williams

          Oh, I understand. I’ve had issues with our benchmarking PCs before where the BIOS would reset, as would the date. When that happens, craziness begins to happen (Windows Update won’t work, namely). But I guess that’s to be expected if your BIOS says 2005 and it’s 2013.

  • Hard Little Machine

    People who complain about tech support have never tried to deal with their own insurance or credit card company. Now those people deserve to be chopped into pieces with power tools, acid and fire.

    • Rob Williams

      I can’t disagree (as someone who experienced quite the debacle with their CC company). Been fortunate to avoid insurance hassles.

      • Hard Little Machine

        The biggest issue with tech support, is, and always has been 1) they’re just order takers & aren’t in the business of fixing anything, and 2) language and accent issues coupled with very poor phone sound quality.

        • Rob Williams

          Spot-on. The main reason I avoid calling tech support at all costs is that I tend to have poor hearing when trying to understand the characters that are being recited to me. On this particular call, I tried to spell out my email address, and after multiple attempts, she said it back differently. I just gave up. And that’s just an email address… it’s too frustrating trying to A) say and B) hear large product keys over the phone.

  • Chris

    please explain to me why I require a 56 digit key when the damn key for
    the software is 25 digits, and why the confirmation key can be shorter
    you are at 81 digits then you have to type out another 56 digit key to
    confirm something that could have been authenticated online. 137 digits
    later. I wonder if this is acceptable due to twitter and its 160

    • Rob Williams

      I guess it’s been longer than I thought since I last had to call customer service… I forgot all about the super-long keys you had to recite back. We used to have a staffer who had to call up on a regular basis… and he seemingly had no problem at all having to go through that ordeal. Me on the other hand, I did everything to avoid it.

      I’ve had extremely pleasant customer service calls for activation issues with Adobe and Autodesk, vs. Microsoft. Those didn’t require me to riddle off massively-long product codes (Autodesk’s was longer than the actual product key, but it was only like 20 or so characters, not 50). And for what it’s worth, those activation issues were actually my fault (formatting too many times without deactivating first).

  • Deryk Barker

    “call tech support and A) Riddle off your credentials, B) Riddle off your
    25 character product key and C) Listen to someone riddle off a 25
    character key back,”

    I am extremely tempted to ask exactly what you think the word “riddle” means?

    Or maybe you do mean it: “Can I have your activation key please? OK – My first is in Windows but not in Linux;my second is …..”

    Of course, you could always just stop using windows,

    it’s worked for me for at least 15 years…

    • Rob Williams

      Riddle is my (apparently) not-so-creative word to replace “say”, “give” or “utter off”, or what-have-you.

      If I could live in Linux, I probably would. I’m a big gamer. But to be fair, while I’ve never had an activation issue in Linux, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had a number of other OS-halting issues. No OS is perfect. Far from it.

      • peted66616

        I think you mean “rattle off”. At least, that’s the commonly-understood colloquialism.
        You’re of course free to try to make up your own. But comprehension by others may be limited. :)

        • Rob Williams

          “Rattle off” indeed sounds MUCH better. Consider “riddle” replaced! I -swore- I’ve heard the term “riddle off” before, but a Google search has told me I’m wrong. I’m not sure how it ever got into my head.

        • Stetson

          I believe in this case he was referring to the riddling that occurs when one tries to accurately relate characters over a phone due to the difference both dialectically and phonetically in the way that even native English speakers.

          (The letter H, and the different ways you pronounce just on both sides of the Atlantic is hilarious)

          Riddle2 – Vintr 2

          And if he wasn’t, he should have been.

          • Rob Williams

            That was basically it, but I couldn’t figure out how to properly state it. Riddle to most people involves an actual riddle, so I can understand the confusion.

          • peted66616

            What’s the point of the dictionary link you provided? There’s nothing there that supports your usage of “riddle” in that context. It only has the normal definitions English speakers are used to (such as “puzzle” or “to perforate”).
            I dispute your claim that “to accurately relate characters over a phone” in any way is a valid definition of “riddle”.
            FWIW, the conventional way to convey letters and numbers over an audio communications link (phone, radio, whatever) is to use a phonetic alphabet. E.g. “Able, Baker, Charlie…”, “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie…” etc. Those of us accustomed to using phonetic alphabets don’t say that we are “riddling” when we do.
            Anyway, Mr. Williams has already indicated that he believes “rattle” was in fact the word he was looking for. It’s an easy mistake to make…I myself often have trouble remembering precisely the word that I have in mind, occasionally substituting a similar-sounding, but entirely-incorrect word for the one I want.
            It’s not a big deal at all. We all make mistakes. Let’s not make a mountain of a molehill by inventing new definitions for a word, with the goal of pretending the original mistake was in fact not one.

    • Kisai

      Try working for a computer store that doesn’t give a care. They use the same keyless disc on every machine (HP OEM,) and once in a while they have to service a non-HP machine and suddenly have to call Microsoft and play this game with the representative using the key affixed to the chassis.

      • Rob Williams

        Ahh, that doesn’t surprise me at all. Someone I know has worked at a computer store for nearly 20 years, and I remember in the WinXP days, one of the employees was accused of using the same “FCK” cracked installs on all of the new builds. I think Microsoft would quicker catch onto that today.

  • Brett Thomas

    As much as I see all the “OMG MS BASHING U PIRATE IDIOT” going on, I find it amazing that many of these same people cry for the heads of the games companies that design/impose DRM into their materials. Why is it Rob’s skill that is wrong, and totally OK for MS to design a system that can revoke your user rights through a legal, MS-provided update…but a game company can’t provide software “protection”? Windows Activation and Windows Update have BOTH been thorns in the side of legitimate users due to the complex and often faulty licensing algorithm and checks.

    Rob’s inconvenience points to a bigger problem with the idea of SAAS and EULAs – your rights as a *legitimate* consumer can be easily (and completely accidentally) removed, while those who pirate nowadays end up with less hassles and issues than the paying customers. Whether it be MS or EA or Sony or (insert vendor here), these DRM schemes are too easily turned against the legal user while rarely providing their intended protection from the illegal ones.

  • RegLinUsr

    First off, I have to agree with you that the Micro$oft activation scheme can be a total nightmare. And, it is a long, drawn-out PITA process via the phone!

    Second to this… why is it that you, like so many others, haven’t figured it out yet that you should skip Windows versions? Win3.11 was fairly solid (after tweaking the crap out of it), Win95 was flashy but problematic, Win98 was pretty solid, WinMe was a complete fiasco, WinXP started off a little rough but became quite polished, WinVista… are you kidding me, Win7 has been pretty solid and finally, Win8… what a joke! Not sure how it is that so many people have yet to pick up on this, still to this day.

    Have fun!

    • Rob Williams

      Aside from this activation issue, I’ve had little to complain about regarding Windows 8. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s the most stable and feature-rich OS Microsoft has ever released. I hated the Start screen at first, but I’ve gotten used to it enough that it doesn’t even stand out to me anymore. There’s still things I don’t like, but their importance is so minimal that I just don’t think about them except for that one time a week that I encounter them.

      As for Vista, it was the fall after its launch where I hit my current record of 80 days uptime in Linux. Enough said.

      • Michelle Sullivan

        I haven’t (knowingly) used Windows since XP, I spotted your intent about the new key made it a different version. All the software I have is 100% legitimately purchased, all of it have had cracks applied to stop them reporting back anything about *me*. I pay enough for damn software to give corporate bureaucrats more money through marketing my information.

        [michelle@gauntlet ~]$ uptime
        10:37AM up 570 days, 19:22, 4 users, load averages: 1.23, 1.26, 1.26

        michelle@scorpion:~$ uptime
        8:40PM up 880 days, 37 mins, 1 user, load averages: 0.08, 0.07, 0.07

        Do I need to say more?

        (and before any weenie comments about the times, one of those machines is in Australia, the other on the East Coast USA)

        Somewhere around I have Windows pre-version 3.0 as well..

        • Rob Williams

          “All the software I have is 100% legitimately purchased, all of it have had cracks applied to stop them reporting back anything about *me*.”

          Someone gets me. I don’t crack legal software for quite the same reason, but I understand where you’re coming from. For me, it’s entirely about convenience – or rather, the lack of convenience that’s brought forth if I -don’t- crack a piece of software.

          For me to actually want to crack a legal piece of software, I have to get burned pretty badly; I either need the software right there and then, or I -really- don’t feel like ringing tech support and dealing with a back and forth of trying to understand each other (or waiting on line for that matter; just got off the phone with my ISP, and was standing near the window for 40 minutes because I had to for any sort of reception).

          Simply put, if I didn’t encounter issues like the one I laid-out in this article, I would never have to use cracks… ever. I don’t crack some software, like mIRC, PowerDVD, SyncBack Pro, VMware and Acronis True Image, because I’ve never had an issue with multiple activations or activations that suddenly disabled themselves. If tech support is smooth, then sometimes I just suck it up and go that route. Calling Adobe’s never taken me more than five minutes, but the last time that happened was in the CS3 days (I’ve gotten smarter about deactivating first before formatting).

          As for your uptime, that’s quite amazing. Even our Web server can barely ever hit six months because we either have unexpected downtime or patch the server and need to reboot for a kernel upgrade. The reason I hit 80 days on my main machine is because it was a period where I wasn’t gaming much at all; what stopped me was a kicking of the power cord. =/

          Thanks for the comment!

  • peted66616

    Not only is the anti-activation rant spot on, it’s just one example of many of why copy-protection schemes are horribly misguided anyway. They never stop the real pirates, and they do interfere greatly with the use of software by legitimate users.
    Personally, I refuse to purchase most software that includes copy-protection. Unfortunately, I’m not able (for a few different reasons) to avoid Microsoft’s flagship programs like Office and Windows, so I’m still stuck putting up with the nonsense there. :(

    • Rob Williams

      Thanks for being one of the few to say something positive about the write-up. Of all things, I’m surprised no one pointed out the Office Space reference.

      That aside, I couldn’t agree more. Over the years, I’ve written up a number of DRM rants. One involved STALKER: Clear Sky, where the same night I bought it, I lost access to it (I benchmarked five GPUs in a row). The irony is that I purchased it through Steam… so it already had a form of DRM with that layer.

      Pirates generally REALLY don’t want to pay for something, so if they want it for free, it’s going to happen. So why punish legitimate folks?

  • Mats Svensson

    – 8…7…H…4…C

    – 8…C?

    – No, 8…7

    – 8…11?

    – No; 8…7!

    – 8…7…….8?

    *sound of shotgun*

    • Rob Williams

      As sad as it is, this is pretty accurate. While on the line with Microsoft, the email the lady gave me back started with a “g” instead of a “t” (as in, techgage). I knew it was a lost cause at that point. It’s not her fault. If I knew all the army codes like the back of my hand I am sure I could have made that smoother.

  • Jón Frímann

    Why did Windows 8 want a re-activation? If it was already activated before.

    • madmatTG

      That’s the question of the day, isn’t it? That’s why he says that Windows activation is broke.

    • Rob Williams

      After looking back at the article, I guess I should have been more clear that the OS was in fact activated before I ran into this issue. It was activated like four months ago when I installed a new SSD, and it’s worked just fine up until this point. I explained in the article that the edition changed and that’s what I’m confident was the sole issue.

    • Mark Wolf

      Reinstall requires reactivation.

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