Activation flaw gifts pirates legitimate Windows 8

Thanks to a flaw in Microsoft's various activation methods for Windows 8, pirates are able to receive a free, legitimately activated copy of Windows 8. Through a combination of an illegitimate KMS activation followed by a free Windows Media Center upgrade, anyone is able to receive a fully activated "legitimate" copy of Windows 8 with very little effort.

The basic method involves first installing Windows 8 with any key (even one already in use), and then following up on this by using a KMS (key management system) server that accepts any key as valid. This will give you an illegitimate installation of Windows 8 for 180 days, as KMS activations need to report back to the server every 180 days.

To turn this into a legitimate copy of Windows you simply need to apply the free upgrade for Windows 8 Pro that adds Windows Media Center, which during the installation apparently doesn't check if the current key in use is valid. Each Windows Media Center upgrade key is unique to the system it's installed on, and replaces the previous key for a fully and permanently activated copy.

The free upgrade to Windows Media Center is a limited time offer that only lasts until January 31, 2013, so there is only a few months for pirates to use the method assuming Microsoft doesn't close the holes before then. Plus, with the relatively cheap cost of upgrading to Windows 8, there's little reason to use a potentially dodgy activation method like this.

Via: WindowsWave
Source: Reddit | Piracy keyboard image via Shutterstock

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78 Comments

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So since I purchased a genuine copy of windows 8 pro and got the upgrade for free did my key change? I was never notified. Do I need to use a key grabber to grab my new key? Should I have to re-install windows (which I do about every 6-12 months) I'd rather not have to pay for a media center upgrade. Thinking about this while typing though you'd think there would be some background check into previous purchases b/c then everyone re-installing windows would have to re-purchase media center which wouldn't make any sense.

Im intersted in where hackers get a KMS CDKEY from. From my understanding you need to go to MS website login and get your KMS server CDKEY to which you apply it to your windows server.

THE_OBSERVER said,
Im intersted in where hackers get a KMS CDKEY from. From my understanding you need to go to MS website login and get your KMS server CDKEY to which you apply it to your windows server.

Google 'KMS keys' - you'll have your keys in 1 second flat.....

Well, i'm glad because it lets us people who can't buy an legitimate copy (third world country, you know) have a go at the latest technology out there.

*my friend* used this method, also on his fathers laptop. worked fine and everything seems legit and working fine.
Wonder if they will patch it. Doubt they can tell who had a legit key before upgrade or not though?

So hopefully my friend should be okay since he used this before it was made public.

microsoft would have to pay me to use windows 8! I'll stick with windows 7 x64 sp1 until microsoft releases an update to disable metro and bring back the start menu and to boot straight into it.

I usually pirate but for $15? Might as well go legit. I remember when XP Pro used to cost nine bajillion dollars.

If Microsoft was legitimately giving away Windows 8 I would treat it just like I have Linux on the desktop -- PASS. It is a **** OS, and MS knows it. Trust me, they are not going to be hurting any more from this little mishap than they already were. Merging a touch OS with a desktop OS == FAIL!

Erm.... I find it odd that you have basically given me information on how to crack a copy of Windows 8 into a legit copy.

Shikaka said,
Erm.... I find it odd that you have basically given me information on how to crack a copy of Windows 8 into a legit copy.

Actually in my case I was given the information that I could get the media pack for free instead of paying 10 bucks for it.

The real tell of Win8 is that even pirates don't want it. Torrents/downloads of Win8 are very light compared to Win7. There just isn't that much interest.

fuzi0719 said,
The real tell of Win8 is that even pirates don't want it. Torrents/downloads of Win8 are very light compared to Win7. There just isn't that much interest.

maybe if you say it enough, one day it might come true.

I read this thinking it said ACTIVISION, I was really interested to see how they'd managed to buggar up a game so much (was thinking COD: BO2) into giving people windows 8 for free

I'm confused - Is NeoWin supporting this behavior? Plus, if the Microsoft servers deem a copy as legit, but the methods used to activate it were not legit, that does not make it a legit copy.

I did not know I could get a free Media Centre Pack, this added to my $15 upgrade makes it a more than worthy upgrade

sweet - as long as its free, might as well take advantage of it , and i don't mean to pirate Windows 8, I already own it, but free WMC could be handy

I'm going to be honest here: I'm kind of tempted to try this method out. I want to buy a Windows 8 license, but I have yet to see Windows 8 for sale in my country, apart from an offer for new computers (I want to buy it separately).

Andre said,
A good way to get more people to switch to W8, exactly what MS wants.

Exactly, MS is in no hurry to fix this loop hole, they want to increase W8 market share also, not very likely from people who pirate, but who knows a tiny fraction might just buy some apps form the store and so forth.

in the article "Plus, with the relatively cheap cost of upgrading to Windows 8, there's little reason to use a potentially dodgy activation method like this."

of course there is. in the majority people doing this "activation" are doing it because they are upgrading from a illegal windows 7.

jingarelho said,
in the article "Plus, with the relatively cheap cost of upgrading to Windows 8, there's little reason to use a potentially dodgy activation method like this."

of course there is. in the majority people doing this "activation" are doing it because they are upgrading from a illegal windows 7.

It's possible to get a legit Windows 8 upgrade key directly from MS using a pirated copy of Windows 7.

thechronic said,
Bad idea posting the method. Simply saying there was a method would have been better.

Indeed, this would have been deleted from the forums if anyone had posted it.

thechronic said,
Bad idea posting the method. Simply saying there was a method would have been better.

The internet is full of it. Microsoft knows it. Just they don't seems to react yet. Might be they are interested in expanding number of installs for Windows 8. Because with latest activation tehnology it was impossible to pirate Windows 8, the 7 way. So I have to presume that for the moment Microsoft has offered this "replacement" voluntarely. And as I've said before, this metod is already exceeded. But starting February... who knows...

Great, so instead of the being a rather limited thing with a small community of people abusing it, thanks to this article and a few others it's now much more widely spread and now Microsoft will begin to lose even more money in the process.

Do you article writers realize this ends up being the result of you "outing" such information as this, or what? And please, don't take the "people need to know" tract on it either - the less that people knew about this the better, now the cat's out of the bag as the saying goes.

Is there no common sense left in this world?

Outing exploits tend to motivate 800lb slow moving Gorillas to close vulnerabilities faster. This is what has made Windows more secure over the years.

I'm surprised that MS didn't have the Windows Media Center download to a Legit check on Windows.
As far as I remember, pretty much anything you downloaded and installed from Microsoft check for a legit copy of Windows, for many years now, and if not legit, the software didn't install.
I'm sure MS will be fixing this ASAP!!!

LUTZIFER said,
I'm surprised that MS didn't have the Windows Media Center download to a Legit check on Windows.
As far as I remember, pretty much anything you downloaded and installed from Microsoft check for a legit copy of Windows, for many years now, and if not legit, the software didn't install.
I'm sure MS will be fixing this ASAP!!!

Because there is no download. MC exist in the packagem but hidden. If you enter the upgrade serial it will be installed. Using Microsoft Deployment Tools you can even made in few minutes an Windows 8 install wich already contains the MC in the package and install directly. Just need some command lines. Of course, it will ask for serial and activation.

when I read the title I thought it was about the new micro KMS local servers which activates Windows 8 without an internet connection...

"Pirates" must be rejoicing at the free generous offer even though the majority will disable the WMC after the permanent activation...

I am Not PCyr said,

yup..

don't want a legal version even free ..no thanks

And yet you seem to take the time to complain in virtually every Windows 8-related thread and article on here. <snipped: Please don't attack other users. -Anthony>

Edited by Anthony Tosie, Nov 21 2012, 3:04pm :

Hahaiah said,
Free and many of us still don't want it. Somewhat telling.

It really isn't free. The quote "Thanks to a flaw in Microsoft's various activation methods for Windows 8, pirates are able to receive a free, legitimately activated copy of Windows 8." is very misleading. Just because there was a flaw in the activation that allows you to install it without a hacked ISO image doesn't mean it is legitmate. Before Windows XP there was no activation at all, anyone could use a CD and install Windows 2000 using a CD key they found on Google. That didn't mean it was a legitmate copy and neither are these.

If you read that quote again carefully you will see that it states that the actual activation is free and legitimate,not the copy of the OS.

I'm sure Microsoft are cool with that, especially when it comes down to reporting Q4 Windows 8 sales numbers, I'm sure they'll take into account the 'number of serial numbers issued' stat. ;-)

Breach said,
I'm sure Microsoft are cool with that, especially when it comes down to reporting Q4 Windows 8 sales numbers, I'm sure they'll take into account the 'number of serial numbers issued' stat. ;-)

Incorrect. It's actually a different type of key and does not figure into the stats for OS licenses sold.

Shane Nokes said,

Incorrect. It's actually a different type of key and does not figure into the stats for OS licenses sold.

This was irony to begin with, but then again, how shall I understand that then?

"Each Windows Media Center upgrade key is unique to the system it's installed on, and replaces the previous key for a fully and permanently activated copy."

The article reads as if the key one receives when purchasing the media pack allows an activation of 8 and replaces the original one?

I have Windows 8 Pro. I did not know I could have Windows Media Center for FREE. BUT is Windows Media Center any good?

Aletheia said,
I have Windows 8 Pro. I did not know I could have Windows Media Center for FREE. BUT is Windows Media Center any good?
It's good enough for daily uses I guess. The main reason (besides pirating) for Media center pack probably would be DVD support.

Aletheia said,
I have Windows 8 Pro. I did not know I could have Windows Media Center for FREE. BUT is Windows Media Center any good?

It's pretty much the same from 7.

link6155 said,
It's good enough for daily uses I guess. The main reason (besides pirating) for Media center pack probably would be DVD support.

Thanks.

kjordan2001 said,

It's pretty much the same from 7.

I didn't use it when I was using W7. Because I was just using media player, so I didn't really use WMC. I didn't know they were different.

link6155 said,
It's good enough for daily uses I guess. The main reason (besides pirating) for Media center pack probably would be DVD support.

Or you can turn your PC in to a PVR, my HTPC has a quad DVB-T2 tuner in it, can record 4x HD channels at once

Aletheia said,
I have Windows 8 Pro. I did not know I could have Windows Media Center for FREE. BUT is Windows Media Center any good?

If you happen to have TV tuner then WMC is a must have. I tried to find replacement for it having Windows 8 DP/CP, but nothing ever worked even remotely as good as WMC.

x.iso said,

If you happen to have TV tuner then WMC is a must have. I tried to find replacement for it having Windows 8 DP/CP, but nothing ever worked even remotely as good as WMC.

Also... look at the Media Browser plugin for it

Aletheia said,
I have Windows 8 Pro. I did not know I could have Windows Media Center for FREE. BUT is Windows Media Center any good?

The upgrade also includes the mpeg2 codecs if you need to play DVDs.

LAMj said,
why are there two right ALT buttons on that keyboard?

The latest version of VIM (the preferred l337 text editor) requires 3 ALT keys...

xfx said,

The latest version of VIM (the preferred l337 text editor) requires 3 ALT keys...

Rofl. 2 ALT keys weren't ALTernative enough now. Oh the hippies...

LAMj said,
why are there two right ALT buttons on that keyboard?

MS might created another hidden way to activate Windows using special two-right-alt combination..

LAMj said,
why are there two right ALT buttons on that keyboard?

People are noticing the 2 ALT buttons and a 'missing' right WinKey, but nobody sees the Enter key has been replaced by a red 'pirate'-key? ;-)

rvdv said,

People are noticing the 2 ALT buttons and a 'missing' right WinKey, but nobody sees the Enter key has been replaced by a red 'pirate'-key? ;-)


Doesn't every keyboard have that? Its dead handy you just type in the name of the program you want and then hit the red pirate key and it downloads it and installs the app for free <yar har har>

LAMj said,
why are there two right ALT buttons on that keyboard?

It's an international keyboard. The ALT on the left is cropped, and really is the ALT GR, which lets you enter additional letters in different alphabets.

^ There is also another method which allows setting up of a rogue virtual KMS server that can activate Vista > 8 Enterprise, Server 2008 > Server 2012, Office 2007 > 2013.

Doh!

You probably said something bad against Microsoft and NeoWin applied the smackdown for it...

sanke1 said,
Why was my post deleted? Hypocrisy much?

Anyway..

NeoPogo said,
You probably said something bad against Microsoft and NeoWin applied the smackdown for it...


No I didn't. Maybe I posted an activation method which was better than what Neowin has posted here.