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New MS protection tech did go live in latest WinXP beta

Previous MS statements published in error, crackers put thinking caps on

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Despite earlier claims to the contrary made by, er, Microsoft in its beta newsgroup, the registry hack that allows testers to circumvent Product Activation has been removed from the latest external build of Windows XP, 2446. It appears that Microsoft initially posted the wrong rev of the release notes, and our informants tell us testers are now having heated arguments about withdrawal, editing and reposting of newsgroup messages.

John Gray of Microsoft yesterday confirmed to testers that the regkey allowing product activation to be switched off was no longer active, so as of this build of XP Microsoft's security systems go into live battle testing. Microsoft did say in the notes for the previous external build, 2428, that the regkey wouldn't be available in future builds, but despite this the actual decision to remove it from 2446 must have been relatively recent.

Microsoft does not as yet have worldwide call centre support up and running, as we reported yesterday and as the original 2446 release notes said, so testers outside of the US and Canada won't necessarily be able to activate the product. But Microsoft intends to have the system live for them by 10th March. Testers have 14 days from installation to activate the product, either over the Web or by voice, while the time limit in the finished product will be 30 days.

Build 2446 became available via the usual unofficial sources on the Web yesterday, but as yet nobody seems to be claiming a crack for the product activation system. Internally, Microsoft is at something in excess of build 2450 by now.

Related story:
MS gears up for public WinXP beta with interim external build

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