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WinXP activation bug zeros testers' trial period

Grief, is that the time already?

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Some traffic from the Microsoft WinXP beta news groups forwarded to The Register indicates that the company may be in deep doo-doo as regards the operation of Product Activation. It's fragile, it's triggering the termination of testers' eval periods, and Microsoft doesn't know why.

Given Microsoft's recent habit of sprinkling time-limited eval copies of its code around the world, this one could conceivably do a lot more than just hack off some beta testers, so you might reckon it's kind of important. According to one luckless tester: "I activated my desktop a few days ago, and now all of a sudden I get the following message after I type my password at the login screen: 'The evaluation period for this copy of Windows has ended. Windows cannot continue loading."

Finger trouble? Apparently not. Paul (surname withheld by our informant) from Microsoft asks: "From the time you started getting the expiration errors, have you done any of the following:
1. Flashed your BIOS
2. Changed the system clock in your BIOS
3. Joined the system in question to an existing domain
4. Done anything else that may have adjusted the system time"

Paul does sound like he was already a little bit aware of this problem, doesn't he? But it's more than just a problem of the eval period being zapped by a simple change of the system clock, as is clear from what else Paul has to say: "Also, if any of you have hit this situation and have not done anything that may have reset your system clock, you should bug the problem, with as much detail as possible."

So they know it's there, they're after it, but they haven't caught it yet. The likelihood is that the eval code and the product activation code are more closely tied together than Microsoft is letting on, and there's some kind of interaction there that's triggering expiry.

Paul suggests a couple of possible fixes, and these may provide an indicator of where Microsoft thinks the problem could lie:

"1. Boot to safe mode (no networking) and run an upgrade (note that you can upgrade to the same version you're currently running
"2. Boot to safe mode (no networking) and run 'sysprep -nosidgen - reseal'

"Note that neither of these two options are guaranteed to work, but, if they do, it beats the alternative, which is a reinstall."

Actually, we at The Reg don't entirely agree. In our experience so far, a complete XP reinstall seems to beat trying to fix whatever it was you broke, and it usually takes a lot less time. ®

Other good XP newsgroup leaks:
WinXP beta testers still in open revolt over product activation
MS testers shout 'Linux!' over Whistler copy protection

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