On July 18, Microsoft's WGA team promised to send me a disk with a product key from their blocked list. It was supposed to arrive via overnight service, but it was never sent. After several follow-up messages, I was assured on July 26 I would have something by the end of that week. The package finally arrived the next week, on August 1. It contained a CD-R with a handwritten label that read "Windows XP SP2 – VLK," and a 25-character product key on a small slip of paper.
Over the weekend, I hoisted the Jolly Roger, cleared a partition on a test machine, slid the CD into the drive, and prepared to join the ranks of Windows pirates. Unfortunately, the product key that Microsoft had sent me didn't work. Instead of a smooth installation, I got an error message: "The Product ID which you entered is invalid. Please try again." I fired off a request for assistance to my contacts at Microsoft. Nearly 72 hours later, I still haven't received a response other than a note that confirms my message was forwarded to the correct person.
No problem, I thought. I'll just do what any red-blooded pirate would do and Google for a working product key. It took me about 15 minutes to find a web page containing five volume license keys that had reportedly been posted on September 9 2004. Surely if I can find a leaked VL key on a search engine, Microsoft can too, right? If these keys have been floating around the Internet for two years, surely they've been tagged as stolen by Microsoft, and I'll get a WGA failure that I can show the world.