It WASN'T the update, says Microsoft: Windows 7 suffers identity crisis as users hit by activation errors

Activation server fiddling on day of monthly update... really?

Microsoft has said that activation errors seen by Windows 7 users should not be chalked up to Tuesday's patch, but rather were an entirely different cockup.

Windows Activation Technologies is the Jiminy Cricket of Windows 7, chirping at you if it thinks you might not be paying for your licensing. Combining Jiminy with the Key Management Service (KMS) on Windows 7, as many enterprise customers likely do (even though Microsoft wishes they wouldn't), hasn't caused too many headaches.

Until this week.

A tweak to the Activation Servers saw happily licensed Windows 7 users suddenly presented with "Windows is not genuine"-type notifications from 10:00 UTC on January 8, surprising BOFHs already dealing with loss of folder sharing for some users thanks to the January update.

Even Microsoft was initially confused, before finally updating its known issues for the iffy update to insist that just because activation errors appeared to start happening just after the update was installed, it didn't mean that was the cause.

"The timing of this issue coincides with the release of the January updates (KB4480960 and KB4480970) that were released on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. These events are not related."

After a long day of head-scratching, someone at Microsoft had a lightbulb moment and at 04:30 UTC on 9 January, the activation server change was reverted, fixing the issue for many. Microsoft would still very much like enterprise users to uninstall the Jiminy Cricket update (aka KB971033) because it is aimed at consumers.

Borkage of the activation servers is nothing new in the Windows world. Lucky Windows 10 Pro users suddenly found themselves relegated to Home status last November.

However, updating the servers Windows uses to check it is the real deal on the same day that users get their important patches takes a special kind of planning. ®

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