Over the weekend I decided to download Windows 7 Build 7264, which is the latest build to have been leaked. This was considered to be an RTM escrow build, which meant that this would have been the version that gets shipped given that Microsoft didn’t find any show-stopper bugs. If Wikipedia is anything to go by there have since been 4 other RTM escrow builds since 7264 (now at 7268), but none of those have leaked.

Before you rush to download the latest leaked builds it’s important to know that they no longer accept your free Beta/RC product keys. This actually started occurring about a month ago when build 7229 was leaked, and users who decided to install the build were left with a 30-day unactivated copy of Windows 7. Should you manage to get it activated by other means, like a crack, it still doesn’t bypass the March 1st, 2010 expiration date.

Once I managed to get Windows 7 Build 7264 installed I wanted to see if the one activation crack I saw floating around actually worked, because if it did Microsoft would have a hard time trying to block it in the next week or two before RTM. If that were the case we could probably be running fully activated copies of the final Windows 7 release by the end of the month. Of course I’m going off the fact that it took merely a few days for the RTM copy of Vista to leak after it was complete.

So how well does the crack work? What’s nice about this crack is that it’s a one-click solution that doesn’t even require a restart. It took about a minute to work its magic, and after that my System properties were showing that I was running a fully activated and genuine copy of Windows 7 Ultimate:

windos 7 crack-1.png

That’s great news for the pirates of the world, right? Not so fast. I played around with it for a little while and everything was working great. I installed a program or two, and thought it was time to reboot. When my computer was starting up Microsoft decided it would be a good time to tell me that they caught me trying to steal a cookie from the cookie jar:

windows 7 crack genuine.png

Man, that cryptic message is sure to scare some people. I think all that was missing from it was a line saying “the FBI has been notified. Do not run, we will find you.” It’s worth noting that you don’t have to actually “reinstall Windows.” You are still able to get into your machine by pressing the red “X” or clicking the Cancel button, but your computer is treated as though it’s not genuine. And now when you go to the System properties instead of it saying “Windows is Activated” it now says that the Product ID and Activation Status are “unavailable”.

Now I’m not saying that there won’t be a crack for Windows 7 available, but there’s a good chance it won’t be ready when the RTM copy is leaked. It’s inevitable that some sort of crack/patch will be released… it’s just a matter of time. Until then I wonder if Microsoft will be able to sway any pirates over to the legal side of Windows.

I can’t let you walk away without a party gift though. One thing I like in these recent builds is the new “Harmony” wallpaper. Here’s a 1920×1200 version of the wallpaper for those of you who want it.