The day after Vista was released to consumers, we presented you with a workaround that would allow you to postpone Vista activation for up to 120 days. Now there’s a new workaround that I think you’ll enjoy. I just got done going through a webcast with Brian Livingston from WindowsSecrets.com who introduced a new way of bypassing Windows Vista activation that, when used in conjunction with slmgr -rearm, can get you by with one year of activation . This trick uses a registry key called SkipRearm which Microsoft’s own TechNet document says:





All licensing and registry data related to activation is either removed or reset. Any grace period timers are reset as well.

So what’s the trick? It’s actually unbelievably easy…

—Extend Vista Activation To 120 Days—

First off, Vista gives you a 30–day grace period to activate Vista if you don’t enter in a product key during the installation process (just press Enter when asked for a key to bypass it). Then at the end of each month right when your grace period is about to end you can get an additional 30 days by using this small trick that was discovered about a month ago:

  1. First you need to start a Command Prompt as an administrator. You can do this by clicking the Start button, enter cmd in the Search box, then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter. You may also do this by finding the Command Prompt option located in your Accessories folder:
    Vista Activation Step 4
    If asked to approve a User Account Control prompt, please do so and provide an administrator password if needed.
     
  2. At the prompt type the following command and press Enter:

    slmgr -rearm

    Every time you run this command it will add 30 days to the amount of time you have to activate Windows Vista. However, it will only be effective up to 3 times. If you add this time onto your original grace period it will give you 120 days total.
    Vista Activation Step 5 
     

  3. Reboot the PC to make the Vista activation deadline get pushed back.
    Vista Activation Step 6
     

—Extend Vista Activation Another 240 Days—

So what do you do after the 120 days is up? You could either purchase a product key from Microsoft, or use another method to extend the activation grace period another 8 times making it a total of 12 months (the initial 1 month + 3 months from above + 8 months = 1 year). Just like before, this uses the slmgr -rearm command, but it also uses a registry setting to allow the command to run another 8 times:

  1. Click the Start button, type regedit into the Search box, and press Enter.
    Vista Activation Step 1
     
  2. Find the SkipRearm key in the Windows Registry that you just opened which is located in the following “folder”:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows NT \ CurrentVersion \ SL
    Vista Activation Step 2
     

  3. Right-click on the SkipRearm and select Modify. Change the “Value Data” to any positive integer, such as 1. Press OK and close the Registry Editor.
    Vista Activation Step 3
     
  4. Now you need to start a Command Prompt as an administrator. You can do this by clicking the Start button, enter cmd in the Search box, then press Ctrl+Shift+Enter. You may also do this by finding the Command Prompt option located in your Accessories folder:
    Vista Activation Step 4
    If asked to approve a User Account Control prompt, please do so and provide an administrator password if needed.
     
  5. At the prompt type the following command and press Enter:

    slmgr -rearm

    Every time you run this command it will add 30 days to the amount of time you have to activate Windows Vista. Each time you run this command it will reset the registry key you modified in Step 3 back to the original value of 0.
    Vista Activation Step 5
     

  6. Reboot the PC to make the Vista activation deadline get pushed back.
    Vista Activation Step 6
    You can always use the command slmgr -xpr at a Command Prompt to have it show when Vista will expire to ensure that the trick has worked.
     
  7. Every time you do the steps above it will essentially reset all activation information on your computer. You’re really starting from a clean slate each time (in terms of activation) which means you will need to repeat these steps every 30 days.

Note: All of my PC’s are legally activated so I didn’t try this trick out for myself.

We are in no way condoning piracy, but we wrote about this because it was something that seemed just too easy and only utilized tools already found in Vista. After watching the webcast I was shown just how easy it was to extend the deadline. This is still quite a pain though, because at the end of each month you’ll have to make sure to reset the activation system. Your calendar would look something like this:

  • Start of month 1: Install Vista without a product key (do this by pressing Enter during the installation setup).
  • End of months 1 to 3: Use the first set of steps outlined above to extend the activation grace period.
  • End of months 4 to 11: Use the second set of steps outlined above to extend the activation grace period.
  • End of month 12: Reinstall Vista.

This could really spell disaster for Microsoft because hackers will probably come out with some little program that will automatically extend the period every 30 days, and then it will prompt you to reboot your computer. It sounds so simple and it really is…I could whip up a quick program in just a few minutes that would do everything that you needed to.

The real worry for Microsoft comes when someone figures out where the slmgr limitation is stored. There is obviously something in Vista preventing a user from abusing the command more than what has already been demonstrated above. Once someone finds out what’s the limiting factor, there is going to be a whole can of worms opened up.

—Why can users postpone activation in the first place?—

Microsoft implemented a new Volume Licensing system in Windows Vista to hopefully stop widespread piracy that occurred with previous versions of Windows. In Windows XP Microsoft provided a single product key for corporations that wouldn’t require that Windows be activated at all. This caused a huge dilemma so Microsoft sought out another solution…and the result was Volume Licensing 2.0.

This new licensing system requires all computers be activated which can be an unweilding burden for administrators with 1000’s of computers to activate. Microsoft offers several different ways for these computers to be activated, but all of them are still time consuming. Therefore Microsoft implemented the command slmgr -rearm that would push back the activation period 30 days at a time for up to 120 days. That way administrators would be given more time to get all of their systems activated.

There is one small catch though, this was originally intended for business use but also worked on home versions of Vista. Since then Microsoft appears to have patched all retail versions of Vista Home, but it should still work for Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, and Vista Ultimate since those were the intended operating systems. Of course, pirates would probably be downloading Vista illegally from torrents and they would undoubtedly go for the Ultimate edition since it packs the most value.

While this can easily be done, it is surely no fun having to watch what patches are being downloaded in your Windows Update…and using cracks created by anyone else but yourself is just asking for trouble. Who knows what information those cracks could be sending to some unknown source! Now I’m left wondering what kind of update Microsoft will push through to try and correct this issue.

Thanks to Brian Livingston for inviting us to be part of his demo!

Note: Our last post about Vista activation resulted in a lot of cracks being posted in the comments. Do not post any cracks, patches, or key generators in the comments as they will be removed.