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Author Topic: Windows Activation - When installing from an image  (Read 4318 times)

JoTo

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Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« on: April 23, 2007, 05:13:13 AM »
Hi DC,

today my boss came in and asked me, if my community i rave about every day, may know a hint for our "rollout" problem.

First let me say, that we are searching for an absolutely *LEGAL* solution!

We (our company) develop digital radiography apps and sell them to hospitals and doctor offices.

When we get an order, we normally have to ship a full system with many pc's. One server that runs under linux, and many workstations with Windows XP. On this Windows boxes we have to set up a lot of preferences (networking and other stuff) and install some client applications. Most of that "installing" is the same all the time, for all Windows-PCs we rollout. All the Windows-PCs are equally in hardware of course too.

So we, everytime we updated something (hard or software), install one "Master PC" with all settings and applications we need, and then make a diskimage from it.

On rollout time we then only write the diskimage to the new PC harddisks we need for this order, without, or at least with only very little, fiddling with installing and setup preferences.

OF COURSE WE SELL AND SHIP A SEPERATE LEGAL COPY OF WINDOWS WITH EVERY PC WE INSTALL THIS WAY!

Then, after installing the new PC this way, we expectedly have to activate the windows copy. So we enter the Serialnumber of the Windows-Copy we plan to ship with this pc and activate it.

That works fine and results in a fast rollout of many pc's.

But, that only works exactly 4 times for this diskimage. Then reactivation stops. We then have to set up manually a new master pc with another and new windows copy, take the diskimage again and then have the opportunity to rollout 4 pcs again. To be continued  >:(

Now my question:
Is there a way to prevent this "stopping after 4 activations", so we can rollout unlimited pcs with one master disk image and different licenses (serial numbers) of Windows XP? Installing only a pre-installed empty Windows is not an option, as we want to have our application and our needed preferences installed and setup ready "out of the diskimage box".

AGAIN TO BE CLEAR AND TO BE SURE THERE ARE NO MISUNDERSTANDINGS!
What we do is absolutely legal, as we purchase and ship with every new PC a seperate full paied version of Windows with its own license and serial number. The only thing what we do is, use one license to set up the master for the disk image, that we then copy to many pc's and activate this seperate installations with the respective serialnumber that is designated for this (and only for this) one pc. We dont look for a illegal, pirated solution. We only wanna know if we can do sth. legal to prevent the "4 activation restriction with one image".

Any hint appreciated! Help me to proof my boss that my community where i chat the whole day is worth to be online while working time.  ;D

CU and TIA
JoTo
« Last Edit: April 23, 2007, 05:24:16 AM by JoTo »

app103

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2007, 05:43:12 AM »
I am sure there has to be a simple, legal solution to this. I don't think big OEM's like HP or Dell have to deal with the "4 activation restriction with one image" problem.

What if you activate the master pc before making the image? Then on the pc's you roll out, you could use a key changer tool to change the serial to the one that is supposed to be for that machine.

I believe this would be a legal use for a tool that was originally made for illegal purposes. The illegal way to use a tool like that would be to use a key generator to come up with an illegal key you use with the key changer...which you wouldn't be doing in this case. You would be using legal keys instead.

I would suggest if you do decide to try this, that you find out how to make your own key changer...to eliminate the risk of introducing any malware to the pc's during the process.

Carol Haynes

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2007, 05:46:17 AM »
You can activate images by entering a new serial code.

Go to the activation page and when it tells you it can't be activated there is a link to enter another serial number. Once you have done that it should activate.

Alternatively create a new standard installation but when you are installing and it asks for the serial number ignore it and go on with the installation. The installed version of windows should run for 30 days before insisting on a serial number and activation. Once you have it all installed you can then image the installation and you have a clean installation which has not been serial coded or activated. After 30 days you will of course have to activate any new installation from the image immediately.

The other thing to consider is for this approach to work you really need all your PCs to have absolutely identical hardware.

Not sure if you can still do it but the old version of Norton Ghost had a method of rolling out new installations (CDs of Windows 98 used to ship with a Ghost Image) - when you restored your system to factory settings it asked for a serial number before installing Windows.

Maybe there is a rollout switch for the windows installer that allows this sort of thing to be automated.

One final thought - if you are shipping out server + lots of computers isn't this exactly what MS set up the corporate license scheme for? As I understand it with a corporate license each machine is not activated individually. It should be cheaper than individual XP licenses too.

app103

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2007, 06:02:14 AM »
One final thought - if you are shipping out server + lots of computers isn't this exactly what MS set up the corporate license scheme for? As I understand it with a corporate license each machine is not activated individually. It should be cheaper than individual XP licenses too.

Actually, that wouldn't be legal because a corporate license isn't for outside your own company. If the pc's were staying within the company in which joto works for, that would be fine. But shipping all pc's with the same corporate license issued to the compant joto works for isn't.

Another option that would work with corporate licenses and be legal, would be if you had an individual corporate license for each company you are selling pc's to. I don't know how easy it is to buy a corporate license on behalf of another company, though.

Joto: what your company is doing in essence makes it an OEM. There should be some type of support from Microsoft to OEM's for answering questions like this. Have you called Bill yet?

Carol Haynes

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2007, 06:33:17 AM »
One final thought - if you are shipping out server + lots of computers isn't this exactly what MS set up the corporate license scheme for? As I understand it with a corporate license each machine is not activated individually. It should be cheaper than individual XP licenses too.

Another option that would work with corporate licenses and be legal, would be if you had an individual corporate license for each company you are selling pc's to. I don't know how easy it is to buy a corporate license on behalf of another company, though.

That's what I meant - basically they are supplying to corporate institutions and providing installation support so they should be able to sell a corporate license with the boxes.

JoTo

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2007, 07:11:41 AM »
Wow, sorry for producing so much noise on the forum, but thank you both so much for your time and replies.

1. Corporate licenses
That wouldnt work, because each order/customer only have, say 5-20 Windows-PCs. That is too low for a corporate license, and we aren't free enought when the customer wants to exchange one PC later and then maybe with Vista a.s.o. I think we must stay with OEM Windows.

2. Called Bill
No app, not yet. :-) I thought DC is better than MS. So i asked here first. Only if i get desperate i'll give MS a chance.  ;D

3. HP + Dell
But they install an pre-installed empty windows. Without any setup preferences. And you need IIRC a special Windows Toolkit/Version and a contract with MS (was it VAR - Value added Reseller???) to get this to do this. And for that you must sell much more Windows than 100/Month or so.

4. Installing with no serial and Activation on Homepage
That both I'll try. Thanks for the hint! And, as i said in my first post, different hardware is no problem, because all our pc's are the same hardwareware components for mostly longer time periods. As we are working in the healthcare in germany there are laws that every device has to be proofed by law before its allowed to get involved in the healthcare business. And so every hardware change takes a lot of time, testing and money. So we only change the hardware when there is really a need for. And so all our pc's within this timeperiod are built with the same components.

5. Activate the Master and use Key Changer later
Hmmmm...maybe worth a try...but i hope i dont get in another hazzle later with that when the customer uses Windows Genuine Update Test or sth. like that. We'll try and see.

Thanks so far again. If there are other advices that would help, i am still looking forward to them.

TIA
JoTo
« Last Edit: April 23, 2007, 07:19:03 AM by JoTo »

f0dder

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2007, 07:26:30 AM »
For an imaging solution, I think you need some specific imaging software that supports changing the key - I wouldn't make an image of a windows that was already activated, and then try to change key after that, MS might think you're up to no good and eventually block keys >_<

If you were doing unattended setups instead of restoring from an image, I believe there's some kind of "answers file" where you can provide a list of {MAC, CDKEY} pairs (or something similar to that).

Alternatively, look up "deploy.chm" and "sysprep", which might be a viable solution. Never tried sysprep myself, but it supposedly works without corporate versions.
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JoTo

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2007, 07:37:06 AM »
Thanks f0dder!

Of course we dont activate the master! We only install it and our apps and setup preferences. Then image it and after the image is on the right pc we activate it. But nevertheless the 4-activation problem occurs.

I'll google for your suggested thingies and study them. Hope unattended setup is as fast as writing an image and also so easy to build the setup as configuring the windows for the image.

CU
JoTo

tinjaw

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2007, 07:41:38 AM »
JoTo,

I'm pretty sure I know how to do this, but before I send you astray, I am going to check with my sysadmin buddy here at work. They do this all the time. Let me see how they do it. I do believe they use Ghost and that Ghost has the functionality built in to it.

f0dder

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2007, 07:44:43 AM »
Of course we dont activate the master! We only install it and our apps and setup preferences. Then image it and after the image is on the right pc we activate it. But nevertheless the 4-activation problem occurs.
That might have something to do with the SID of the windows install, not being unique and all. Perhaps this tool will solve all your worries.

I'll google for your suggested thingies and study them. Hope unattended setup is as fast as writing an image and also so easy to build the setup as configuring the windows for the image.
Unattended installs are nice, especially if you got varying hardware, but you don't get any apps installed... sysprep should be nice though, I think it's what Dell and friends use where you're prompted for user details (and possibly serial number) on first login, but then have a full working windows with preinstalled apps etc.
- carpe noctem

tinjaw

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Re: Windows Activation - When installing from an image
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2007, 08:16:03 AM »
JoTo,

Here is my buddy's reply:

Quote
Can you ask him if they are using a copy of the Ghost Corporate Suite or some other type of method to image the drive?  Different methods for different replications.  I’m scanning for an answer that doesn’t require a software solution.  Keep in mind that he technically “is” violating the law because even though he ships each with a separate code, every four systems are sharing the same key.  This will probably end up causing more issues in the long run with genuine windows checks.