The war, Microsoft vs China
When it comes to piracy, no country can hold a candle to Asia. For China it is a multi-billion dollar industry. Loses are said to have reached upwards of $568 million in China alone. 96% of all software sold in China is pirated which leaves a mere 4% of software being legitimate.
Microsoft is always thinking of ways to make sure their software doesn’t get pirated. Recently Microsoft has added a new anti-piracy feature that is exclusive to areas that are overly high in software piracy such as China. They call it the black screen of death. It doesn’t interrupt a user’s functionality within the operating system. Every hour the user’s desktop background turns black with a short reminder to get a legal license. Users of the operating system in China are offended and don’t understand why Microsoft is doing this. Some even say that the company is invading their privacy.
Between Windows XP Activation and the Genuine Advantage program and the new anti-piracy measures, Microsoft can be connected to your computer 100% of the time. Users in China find this very upsetting . . . upsetting enough to sue.
A Chinese lawyer recently sued Microsoft for an invasion of privacy. Not only did he bring China’s Microsoft Co. Ltd., he also brought Microsoft Corporation to court. Another program that was mentioned in court was the “WGA Notification”. The WGA Notification was put in place by Microsoft to help combat piracy and to check if the users’ license of Windows XP was genuine. However, during the time that Microsoft was connected to your computer to run this program, it could gather any information that you have saved on your computer. Passwords, bank statements, files . . . anything stored on the computer could be seen and recorded by Microsoft. Lu Feng, a Peking University student, stated that he felt it was a threat to the information on his computer and that it ignored his right to privacy of his personal property on his computer. Despite the lawsuit, Microsoft is still employing tactics similar to these.
However, Microsoft has done more than just create these programs to prevent anti-piracy. The cost of Windows operating systems have been decreased substantially in most regions of Asia. In China the cost of a Windows XP operating system costs almost more than what the average Chinese person makes in a months’ worth of wages.
Even with the lowered cost of the Operating System you have to look at the numbers and the dollar amount (or the renminbi). You either save for two months to buy a legal copy for 1000rmb (approximately $145) or pay 5 rmb (almost $0.75) and you have a no-brainer.
Here in the US we don’t have to deal with this issue. Software piracy isn’t as big of an issue compared to Asia. Typically, those in the US only deal with Windows XP Activation. Windows XP Activation is a mystery to most people. Chances are if you purchased your computer from a retail store you have never even seen or heard of this. Typically when you install Windows XP for the first time after you boot into the operating system a small window will pop up in the bottom right of your start bar telling you to activate your copy of Windows XP. If you do have an illegal version of Windows XP, the operating system will let you know.
What is the purpose of Windows XP Activation?
Windows XP activation serves one purpose, which is to stop or hinder software piracy. Software piracy is the act of illegally distributing and reproducing software. I am sure we all know by now how easy it is to burn a CD full of music. Most retail computers today are often equipped with two CD/DVD ROM drives which make it easy to burn copies of virtually any CD. Pirates will often make a copy of their Windows XP installation CD and either freely give it away or sell it for a profit. This is, of course, both illegal and an act of piracy.
But you bought Windows XP with your own money. Why can’t you do whatever you want to do with it? You may know that resale is illegal, but why can’t you just make a copy and let a friend use it? In actuality, you don’t even own Windows XP. When a person purchases a copy of Windows XP it doesn’t mean they own that copy of Windows XP. It comes with a license key which allows a person to use the operating system for personal use. So in essence you are paying to use or borrow the operating system.
So how do you stop someone from pirating software such as Windows XP? Microsoft feels that they have found a solution. The license key that comes with it is used when you install your operating system. The license key is input during the installation and checked for validity during the activation. After the installation of Windows XP a user has 10 days to freely use their computer before Windows will “lock them out” of the computer until they activate it. The screen looks similar to the windows log in screen but instead displays a message informing you to activate your copy. It stays at this screen until you have successfully activated it. This feature was introduced in Service Pack 1, which further helps to prevents illegal usage.
Activating Windows XP also entitles users to download software updates. These updates will often contain security updates that will help keep your computer and the information stored on it a lot safer.
Aside from needing to activate Windows XP after installation, there is one other time that you may be asked to re-activate. If you make a big change to your hardware, such as a new motherboard, graphics card, or new CPU, you might be asked to re-activate. However, that is based on 10 different pieces of hardware and their settings. Typically you can get away with changing out 5 pieces of hardware without having to reactivate it. But if you’re doing a complete system overhaul, you will undoubtedly have to re-activate.
How To Activate Windows XP
There are three ways to activate a copy of Windows XP. The first two are relatively the same, activated through the internet, but are done a different way depending on your internet connection type. The first option is to activate it over an internet connection that is always connected, such as a broadband connection. This is the most common and easiest way to activate it. The second way is essentially the same thing but is done over a modem. If you remember, in the days before broadband we were forced to use a dial up connection. If you choose to activate through a modem then the computer will dial into the Microsoft activation server through the good old phone line. Lastly, if for some reason you just can’t connect to the activation server with the aforementioned methods, or you receive any type of error when you tried the other methods, you can pick up your phone and do it the old fashioned way.
Don’t be afraid, activation by phone only takes about 5-10 minutes and is very quick and painless. Having done this several times I can say that you might not even have to talk to a real person. Most of the call is done with a machine.
The following will tell you the low down on what is going to happen, just to give you a heads up.
Once you have selected the option to activate by phone you are brought to the following window . . .
Go ahead and fill in Step 1 with the country you are using the computer from. Step 2 gives you the phone number you need to call. Once you make the phone call a machine will pick it up and ask you to tell it the installation ID that is shown on Step 3. After you have told it the ID it will read the ID back to you and ask you if it was correct. It then proceeds to step 4. At this point the machine will recite number and letters for you to input in the corresponding section. If you look at the picture and focus on step 4 you can see seven white boxes labeled A-G. Each box holds up to 6 characters. The machine will go through each box and then verify them individually with you. After you finish filling in all the boxes you can click the next button at the bottom of the window. If done correctly you should see the following, “You have successfully activated your copy of Windows.”