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Office 2k reg. bug in code used to block registrations

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The source of the Office 2000 SR-1 Registration Wizard bug striking corporate PC users around the world appears to have been identified as glitch in code incorporated in the software to prevent requests for product registration after 15 April 2003.

Instead, the bug displays the Registration Wizard, forcing users to continually re-register their product, or dismiss the dialog by clicking its Register Later button. Alas Office 2000 SR-1 only allows you to do this 50 times before forcing you to register the product. if you fail to do so, Office enters what Microsoft ominously calls "Reduced Functionality Mode".

It's a glitch that's particularly galling to corporate customers who bought volume licences specifically to avoid having to deal with this sort of thing.

Officially, Microsoft acknowledges the problem and is "actively pursuing" a fix. As to the cause of the glitch, it has no comment to make.

However, according to support documents seen by The Register, the bug arises from "a problem in some code designed to turn off registration requirements". Why? Because come "May 2003 Microsoft will no longer be accepting Office 2000 registration information".

Microsoft has said it is working on Office 2003, the successor to both Office 2000 and Office XP, and already offers a beta 2 release of the product. The official line is that Office 2003 is due "mid-year". It may not ship in May 2003, but Microsoft clearly expects it to do soon afterward, and it's retiring Office 2000 in plenty of time.

And the problem isn't restricted to volume licensees, its seems: "This problem has invoked the registration mechanism for SKUs of Office 2000 that previously did not request registration. The registration prompt is being generated on existing boxes which were either already registered, or should never be required to register from volume licence media installations such as Select and MSDN."

We have also received comments from readers who have experienced the problem with Office XP, and on systems other than Windows 2000, such as XP.

Fortunately, not everyone faces the '50 strikes and you're out' issue. As the Microsoft support document notes, and a number of Register readers have confirmed:

"The registration prompt can be presented in two forms, mandatory and voluntary.

"Voluntary registration will prompt the user with a Yes/No dialog. If the user chooses Yes the Registration Wizard will be launched. If the user chooses No, then no wizard is presented and the application will continue. If the user has administrative privileges on the machine the prompt will not be seen again. If the user does not have administrative privileges then necessary registry information cannot be written and the prompt will continue to be displayed on each launch of an Office application. However the application should launch and function properly and not enter into Reduced Functionality Mode.

"With mandatory registration the first dialog presented will be the Registration wizard. The user must have administrative privileges and continue through the wizard or the prompt will be repeated upon the next launch of an Office 2000 application. If the prompt is displayed 50 times the application will enter into Reduced Functionality Mode."

Finally, a number of readers have asked about fixes. Well, there appear to be three choices: wait for Microsoft's solution, use its work-around and set the system clock back a couple of year, or, as reader Scott Packard notes, "use StarOffice". ®

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