I would say that Microsoft once again threw down the gauntlet when they announced that Vista SP1 will deactivate machines using OEM BIOS cracks and other methods used to circumvent activation. After over a dozen emails about the topic I decided that I would check out for myself whether Vista SP1 RTM really causes piraters as much trouble as they say it will.

My intention is not to condone piracy with this article, but the OEM BIOS cracks are among the most complex hacks available for any piece of software and they are pretty intriguing. What they do is actually trick Windows into thinking that you’re running a licensed copy of the operating which you purchased from your PC’s manufacturer. It therefore never asks you to activate the machine, and Microsoft even considers it to be “genuine.”

To test out the cracks I installed a fresh copy of Vista Ultimate (without SP1) in a virtual machine. I then used the Paradox OEM BIOS emulation to crack Vista, and it worked without hesitation. After that I installed Vista Service Pack 1 on the computer, and about an hour later I was presented with a deactivated Vista Ultimate SP1:

Vista Deactivation 

My initial though was that Microsoft did it, but like any other pirater I wasn’t about to give up. I tried reapplying the Paradox OEM BIOS crack, but it just wouldn’t work. Within minutes of searching I found another OEM BIOS emulation called Vista Loader. I deactivated the previous crack that I had just tried and fired up Vista Loader. I restarted my computer and you can imagine how surprised I was to see this:

Vista Reactivation

That’s right, my machine was not only fully activated but it was also “genuine” according to Microsoft. That means all of the Windows Updates and the Ultimate Extras were available to me. For those doubting my results here is a screenshot with all the details:

Vista Activation Status

Here are the things that I’ve highlighted in that screenshot:

  • The build number 6.0.6001.18000 indicates that I am indeed running Vista SP1.
  • The “Vista, OEM” shows that the operating system is recognized as a valid OEM version.
  • The partial product key is the last 5 characters from the key that I entered in. When you download the crack it is also accompanied by a list of serial numbers, and I’m sure that you’ll see a key containing “932CC” in that list.
  • The License Status is normally where it would indicate how much time I have left to activate, but it shows that I have a licensed (a.k.a. activated) copy.

I applaud Microsoft for trying to crack down on piracy (pun intended), but it looks like they couldn’t break all of the existing hacks that are out there. It seems like a lot of hassle to try and keep up with all of these cracks so I’ll definitely be sticking with my legal copies.

Note 1: Links to any cracks in the comments will be removed.

Note 2: There’s no sense in me blurring out the Product ID since this isn’t a legal copy of Windows anyway.

Note 3: The virtual machine that we had running this has already been taken down.

There Are 15 Comments

  1. I will honestly say that Microsoft is happy to have people who like Vista enought to pirate it. They would prefer to have them pay for it so I think a pop-up now and then telling you your copy is not genuine is the best not to alienate potential buyers.

    If you’re too hard they’ll switch to Ubuntu,
    [me2bz4u.com]~jkenscoff/blog2/2007/11/ubuntu-710-a-week-later/

  2. Wow…..weird that this article was posted today considering what I did yesterday…. 8O

  3. Yeah… As far as I know use any other BIOS hack than Paradox and it does work :)

    And what comes to Ubuntu… well that screenshot in a later article shows menus. Graphics -> Calculator. WTF? And someone calls that quality :|

  4. Microsoft is supposedly not going to put Vista into limited mode beginning in SP1 if I remember right. So even if it’s not activated, people won’t have to worry about their computer not working. It seems Microsoft may be taking Linux as a true threat. Maybe they are also learning that alienating their customers by making their lives harder with the new copy protection in each new version may be having a negative effect on their bottom line. And the only way we the customers can make a difference to a big corporation like Microsoft is to hit their bottom line.

  5. Windows Vista Rocks

  6. leland wrote:
    Microsoft is supposedly not going to put Vista into limited mode beginning in SP1 if I remember right. So even if it’s not activated, people won’t have to worry about their computer not working. It seems Microsoft may be taking Linux as a true threat. Maybe they are also learning that alienating their customers by making their lives harder with the new copy protection in each new version may be having a negative effect on their bottom line. And the only way we the customers can make a difference to a big corporation like Microsoft is to hit their bottom line.

    I think that Microsoft is just trying to retain their marketshare no matter the cost. As Phoenix3PK pointed out, Microsoft would obviously love to see the customers pay, but they also don’t want to lose people to alternate operating systems.

  7. dell oem version of vista works fine with vista sp1 rtm leak
    89580-OEM-7332132-00141

  8. Where can I download the dell oem version of windows vista?

  9. Patrik wrote:
    Where can I download the dell oem version of windows vista?

    No download links will be provided here.

  10. you shouldnt be trying this if you dont know what your doing. first just install any windows vista on your pc without typeing in a key just click next instead. then do this after.

    this is like people donwloading torrent and then asking how to unrar them lol.

  11. I own about 6 non-functioning computers in my workshop (in the basement) all with legal copies of WinXP. Not a single one running. The main computer that I use has a legal version of XP that I ‘had’ to pay for. How ironic. I should be allowed to have a free version of XP, being that I have 6 versions that I can’t use..

    Anyhow, I tried the Vista as mentioned above…. …and it works! I did all of the updates at Microsoft’s website and no problem.

    I don’t like VISTA much (for now). I feel like I have lead chains on my hands when navigating around it. I think I’ll stay with Xp for a while.

  12. What do you mean? you can use those xp’s machines you have in your basement. All u need are the keys. whatever the tag says (say Xp Home OEM) download that version. i’ve download an 8-in-1 From web and use it all the time with dead xp installs. just take the key. If the pc is truely dead and Web activation fails, call ms and explain that the motherboard indeed is dead!

  13. hello,
    thanyou for my reducting a tension. but, i dont know the procedure for vista loader (how to activate)

    please help me

  14. lol. How do you even know that Vista loader really works? It could be putting up a fake message saying Windows is activated, when in reality it is not. Just try turning your clock ahead 15 days and see for yourself. I haven’t tried it, but I have seen cracks like this for Windows Server 2003 and all they did was cover up/hide the text that said “evaluation copy”, but turn the clock ahead 180 days and Windows stops working.

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