Microsoft has slammed the door on the Windows 8 Media Center activation flaw

A few weeks back we reported that there was a loophole in Windows 8 that could turn a pirated copy of Windows 8 into a legitimate install by downloading the Media Center add-on. For those of you have no remorse about stealing $40 software, this was a golden ticket to a free copy of Windows 8.

However, it looks like Microsoft has finally patched this simple exploit as the workaround is reportedly to no longer be working. It is being stated that individuals who are trying to use the exploit to turn their illegal copy of Windows 8 into a legitimate install are being met with the following error:

Activation error

Unable to activate Windows 8 Pro with Media Center. (Error code: 0xC004C4AA)

What it means and how to fix it

You might see this error after you used the Add Features to Windows 8 app to upgrade your current edition of Windows. The Windows 8 Pro with Media Center edition can only be activated on PCs that had Windows preinstalled, or Windows was purchased on the Windows website or at a retail store. To fix the problem, you need to install Windows with the product key provided to you in an email or with the DVD. If you think you have received this message in error, contact a Microsoft Customer Support representative.

As of now, it looks like if you obtained a key using the method that is now patched, it appears that the copies are still active and have not been blacklisted by Microsoft, yet. We don’t know if they plan to go back and try to hunt down all the users who stole their copy of Windows 8 using the trick mentioned above or if they will simply write-off the loss and not bother spending the man-hours trying to identify the individuals.

So, if you were planning on using the exploit to obtain a free copy of Windows 8, you are out of luck. Seeing as this was such a simple work-around to obtain a free copy of Windows 8, we do wonder how Microsoft missed this exploit during QA testing.

Thanks for the tip Faikee! | Piracy keyboard image via Shutterstock

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37 Comments

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I find it very amusing how people cannot get it. It's a marketing strategy that works for Microsoft. Its like fishing. Throw in the free stuff , give a little time then take a big scoop. So now whoever had try windows 8 pro will most likely not downgrade. So whats the best solution for all you pirates… buy the OS. Ha ha ha

i dont' know wheteher its true or not, but can anyone help me????
if i purchased a win8 metro app, installed it, but after some time due to some error in my OS if i clean format my computer with win8 again, then how could i get back my app which i paid for again???
when i sign in with the same account with which i purchased, it IS NOT showing that "i own this app" rather its askng for purchase again

jd100 said,
Microsoft steals from customers every day. They get what they deserve.

Really if you're going to steal stuff just accept it's your decision and don't try and justify it with hyperbolic statements.

"slammed the door?" I think it's been re-opened again, the 'flaw' has a new 'flaw' in it that has already been exploited! looks like there is going to be a lot of door slamming in the near future

Yup. People are having success with another method. You need correct data.dat which does not have KMS activation bits and the one which has previously Activated Retail Pro/ProWMC bits in it.

Edited by d5aqoëp, Dec 13 2012, 2:35am :

What happens with those who activated it before this patch? Will they still be able to use Win 8 normally or will it detect them as not genuine?


We don't know if they plan to go back and try to hunt down all the users who stole their copy of Windows 8 using the trick mentioned above or if they will simply write-off the loss and not bother spending the man-hours trying to identify the individuals.

taken from this story (2nd last paragraph)
in other words no one knows whats gonna happen *yet lol

personally i have strong doubt they will do anything, i bet they will ignore people who got in on it before they stopped it.

I am Not PCyr said,

taken from this story (2nd last paragraph)
in other words no one knows whats gonna happen *yet lol

personally i have strong doubt they will do anything, i bet they will ignore people who got in on it before they stopped it.

yeah, Xactly, i was also trying to convey the same as u said right here, in my above comments. bt seems like u goy confused from my statements. well, apologies for the confusion created(if any, by me)

I actually bought a copy of windows 8 last week online, and requested one of the free keys. at the time, which is around 9 days ago.

At the time it said it would take up to 72 hours to provide a key... the key never turned up so one can only assume Microsoft was mid-way through fixing the issue back then.

I think they were just bombed with requests. I requested two for the two legit copies I have and it took me well over a week to get them.

they were saturated with greedy pigs..

everyone i seen was admitting to requesting 5-10 keys at a time
and if that is what people were admitting i wonder what the true number is/was

the original time on the web page went from 48hrs to 3days because people have no concern for others and are selfish greedy pigs.. if each person requested one key i bet it would have stayed at 48hrs turn around time.
not surprising though.. open the gates your gonna get over run..

I'm activated forever. I was lucky enough to... well let's just say, what did ET do? lol... I'm NOT going to be upgrading my hardware anytime soon either, lucky me.

and M$ won't be able to see your previous KMS activation in your Data.dat and blacklist you if the choose to ?
You'll find that many people have been taking extra steps (not mentioned here)
to create a "clean" Data.dat file
Worth pointing out for those that havn't heard of that.

For anyone curious no i didn't do this but i did apply for a key but never used it etc
And i have not installed any pirated copies of Windows 8 either, just read about it online.

i dnt think so that microsoft will be able to detect that, you see, not only me, but many people didn't even needed the KMS activation to permanently activate the OS.
for me, i just had to convert my image of win8 pro into win8 pro with WMC using DEPLOYMENT TOOLS, and then even though the new os was not activated at all, using the WMC key directly while installation activated the OS, which means microsoft was not recording the previous method of activation, as inmy case it directly got activated using the WMC key(without kms activation).

i dont know whether i am wrong or right, but what i feel is that upon activation, the newly licesed file overwrites with the previous license(u may check it using ms licensing tools or ATMs). now even people who had genuinely purchased their copy and upgraded to win8 pro with WMC, even for them too, their license got overwritten.
its just that some people were LUCKY enough to convert their illegal copy into a legitimate copy and no further loopholes frm now on.

nd suppossingly if the copy got blacklisted, then also no worries for pirates, they can use their copy just like a pirated copy of win7

your reply is confusing to say the least..
for starters yeah they can detect anything they want and a legit install will look a certain way just by checking that one file alone never mind anything else on the OS regarding windows activation.

and all i'm gonna say next is you shouldn't have been able to install using an upgrade key anyway because thats what the wmc key is an UPGRADE ONLY key there should be no legal way of doing that unless you went and learned how to modify the OS install to accept upgrade keys.
which means you used a loop hole obviously to bypass activation rules..
and yeah I was completely aware of how to do this before i replied to your comment.. MANY people are doing this already and finding info on how to do is found in all the usual places..
That means nothing though and i wouldn't get too cocky about it.
And Windows 7 Loader's users should consider themselves lucky so far M$ hasn't wiped their activations out or worse.. their tools ocasionaly detect flag and remove the windows loader .exe and it would be trivial for them to stop bad oem activations (which is how the windows loader by daz works)
1 way they could do this is by looking for trace of the loader being launched on the OS and then flag'ing you and taking action.. but they don't, they turn a blind eye to it all (aside from increasing OS release times and patching the loop hole on the next win version lol)

i see there is no worries for pirates a lot and its bs.
like idiots posting MAK keys on Pirate Bay and saying M$ can't do anything about it and i'm and expert and a admin/mod at TPB so i know everything lol
And all i think is uhhh google search it **** and see how they HAVE blacklisted plenty of MAK keys and activations in the past as well as volume keys activations and KMS servers etc..
So they CAN and they WILL (deal with pirates)
and being an ignorant pirate is one thing but when you spread BS on the net cause you you think something is unlikely that does not = concrete fact.

think what you want it has little bearing on what M$ decides they want to do with skilled computer users they employ. we're not talking about some noob with a copy of visual studio in the basement at mom's house.. we're talking about power house company that employs some of the smartest PC techs on earth with power to do anything they want.. But hey if people they think they are smarter than roll the dice lol

Crisp said,
Well as soon as my copy gets "black listed" I'll be going back to 7.

Oh no Microsoft lost a sale.. oh.. hang on..

someone please correct me if i am wrong!!!
"The Windows 8 Pro with Media Center edition can only be activated on PCs that had Windows preinstalled, or Windows was purchased on the Windows website or at a retail store"

does it means that windows has finally stopped allowing upgrading of windows media center for win8 for KMS activated users?????
its just because what i guess is using the KMS activation was actually illegal, but the copy is not illegal, as it used the GVLK key provided by the microsoft itself, people just somehow activated it and extended their activation till 180 days.

apologizes for my unclear enquiry.
what i meant to ask was that-->earlier for using this WMC key, people had to get their copies ACTIVATED no matter it be of 2 days, 30 days or 180 days or may be permanently activated.
so now, is it that the keys can only be used on a system who have a permanent activation of win8????(as earlier people didn't needed any such activation stuff)

easy, they didn't have the media center bits for public testing.. that's why. Had they released MCE components with consumer preview this may have been found earlier..

keys were handled by a 3rd party..

kinda like how when Valve had their Cafe account data hacked and put online that included bank info, cafe user info + cc numbers etc as well as various cafe certs and web site files and what not. Same situation there how it was all handled on a 3rd party web site.

If I put myself in SDET's shoe, my guess has to do with marketing.

Now, I'd imagine in the spec, we would assume that Media Center to be a paid product. Meaning if you paid for it, and assume your existing Windows 8 is activated as well, what is stopping you from upgrading to Media Center?

But someone higher-ups got clever, decided that marketing needs to promote the sales of Windows 8 by giving out Media Center away for free.. They would think the only difference is that Media Center is free...and everything else should still work. Apparently, they do, and work too well.

That's my 2c guess.

spudtrooper said,
easy, they didn't have the media center bits for public testing.. that's why. Had they released MCE components with consumer preview this may have been found earlier..

Except they did release the MCE components with the Consumer Preview, I had them installed when I had it installed in a VM.

Well in answer to the question I posed at the beginning. I actually think your all right in one form or another. Systematic error before release.