Vista activation "more an irritation to legit users than an antipiracy measure"

Those are the words of Brian Livingstone, a renowned expert on the inner working of Microsoft Windows: in a post on, he exposes a backdoor route around activation which effectively destroys activation as an antipiracy measure. That, in and of itself, isn't a particularly surprising development (we've already seentwo exploits that skip or bypass activation); no, the real story is the fact that the exploit was created by Microsoft itself. The "SkipRearm" process involves some simple editing of Registry files that can "extend the activation deadline of Vista indefinitely." This backdoor around WGA was created to help corporations keep machines working whilst they work under the heavy burden of prepping systems for Vista activation. If they can't do it within Vista's 30 day grace period, they can postpone activation by 30 days up to three times using the "sysprep /generalize" command: SkipRearm can be executed indefinitely. Specifically, Microsoft documentation says "Microsoft recommends that you use the SkipRearm setting if you plan on running Sysprep multiple times on a computer." Now that Windows Activation could potentially help pirates as well as annoy legitimate Windows owners, it's hard to see how Microsoft will be able to continue to justify using this ineffective, draconian system.

[Via ComputerWorld, thanks to everyone who sent this in]