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Piracy is a fact of life for Microsoft. Case in point: just two days after the company began distributing the finalized version of Windows 8 to partners around the globe, the code became publicly available across various file sharing sites. Microsoft declined to comment on the leak but, presumably, someone working at an OEM was responsible.
Previous products have leaked online as well, and while its very unlikely they’ll get rid of the problem altogether anytime soon, Microsoft is looking to close down a few of the loop holes that made life easier for pirates and rogue OEMs. In particular Microsoft is looking to change the way they deal with OEM activations for Windows 8.
OEM Activation (OA) allows PC manufacturers to ship systems with Windows preinstalled and already activated, so that customers don't need to take any additional steps to activate the OS when they first use a new computer. In the past, a single activation key was used by most OEMs to activate all of their shipped machines. However, going forward, manufacturers will be required to write a unique Windows product key into the BIOS of each new PC, based on each particular system’s hardware.
This key isn’t automatically generated by OEMs either. They will need to obtain it directly from Microsoft via electronic delivery and factories will be required to file production reports to Microsoft detailing their license compliance, thus making it harder to avoid paying licensing fees to Microsoft.
The new activation scheme hasn’t been officially confirmed by Microsoft -- details are based off a series of leaked slides obtained by The Register. According to the site, OA 3.0 will only apply to new PCs running Windows 8. Other versions, including Windows Server 2012, Windows 7 and earlier are not affected.
At this point it’s unclear what the move will mean for individuals buying OEM versions of the OS, or if the hardware based activation will somehow affect users manually upgrading their laptops’ storage or memory.
Microsoft has set a release date of October 26 for Windows 8. Upgrade pricing is set at $39.99 for those running legit copies of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Those that purchased a Windows 7 machine in the months leading up to Windows 8’s release, are eligible to upgrade for just $14.99.