Volume license key

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In software licensing, a volume license key (VLK) denotes the product key used when installing software licensed in bulk, which allows a single product key to be used for multiple installations.[citation needed]

This form of licensing typically applies for business, government and educational institutions, with prices for volume licensing varying depending on the type, quantity and applicable subscription-term. For example, Microsoft software available through volume-licensing programs includes Windows Vista, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Office 2007 and many others.[1]

Use of volume license keys[edit]

Volume licenses are not always transferable; however, some types of Microsoft volume-license can be transferred provided a formal transfer-process is completed which enables Microsoft to register the new owner. A very small number of software vendors specialize in brokering such transfers in order to allow the selling of volume licenses and keys. The most notable of these, Discount-licensing.com, pioneered the sale of Microsoft volume licenses in this way.[2]

MAK & KMS[edit]

Starting with Windows Vista, Microsoft replaced VLKs with Multiple Activation Keys (MAK) or with Key Management Server (KMS) keys. Hosts activated via a KMS have to report back to that key server once every 180 days.[3][4]

KMS and ACPI_SLIC requirements[edit]

Microsoft's licensing for volume license products requires that volume licensing be an additional cost or license, applied over the top of an existing qualifying Microsoft product license. Windows license data is stored in the computer's BIOS in an area referred to as the "ACPI_SLIC", so that KMS can detect the use of previous Microsoft products even with the storage device removed or erased.[5]

KMS licensing of a client device will be refused if licensing entries for a prior qualifying Windows license either do not exist or are corrupted in the ACPI_SLIC table. KMS client refusal can also occur if a properly qualifying Windows license was previously installed but the motherboard manufacturer did not correctly enable ACPI_SLIC in the BIOS.

In the event that the KMS server rejects the client device due to problems with the ACPI_SLIC data, the only way available to apply a volume license key is with the MAK product key.[6] Problems with ACPI_SLIC can be diagnosed with the Microsoft MGADiag tool.

Unauthorized use[edit]

Volume license keys that have been abused have been blocked by Microsoft, starting with Windows XP Service Pack 1. Microsoft argues that it does not need to cater to the needs of those who did not pay for their software.[citation needed] Microsoft even developed a new key verification engine for Windows XP Service Pack 2 that could detect illicit keys, even those that had never been used before. Several security consultants have condemned the move by Microsoft, saying that leaving a large install base unpatched from various security holes is irresponsible because this unpatched install base can be leveraged in large scale Internet attacks, such as Trojan horses used to send spam e-mail. Others have come to Microsoft's defense, arguing that Microsoft should not have to provide support for illegal users. After much public outcry, Microsoft elected to disable the new key verification engine. Service Pack 2 only checks for the same small list of commonly used keys as Service Pack 1. Users of existing installations of Windows XP can also change their product key by following instructions from Microsoft.[7]

Notable keys[edit]

A volume license key that was commonly used to bypass product activation in early versions of Microsoft's Windows XP operating system was FCKGW-RHQQ2-YXRKT-8TG6W-2B7Q8.[8] This key was part of the first warez release of the final version of Windows XP by a group called devils0wn, 35 days before the official retail release on 28 August 2001.[9] The key is now obsolete, as it has been blacklisted by Microsoft since August 2004, and affected computers will display a WGA notification.[10] It was made famous partly because it featured in a popular image circulated on the Internet before the retail launch of Windows XP. In the image, the key is written on a CD-R containing the leaked operating system and held in front of a digital Microsoft sign counting down the days until the release of Windows XP.[11]

Users using these keys will receive an error message when they install the latest service pack, and such users are told to obtain a legitimate license and change their product key.[12]

Unauthorized KMS licensing[edit]

Any client machine with the correct KMS client setup keys can authenticate against any KMS server. KMS client keys are well known and documented publicly by Microsoft.[13] KMS servers require a minimum of 25 clients to properly activate, but also stop counting additional licenses beyond 50, and automatically accept any client key once reaching the 25 client threshold.

Businesses operating KMS servers are required to properly shield the KMS server behind firewalls so that it cannot be reached from the Internet, and be used to authorize illegal use of KMS client keys by the general public. Public exposure of a KMS server can result in Microsoft revoking the server key, thereby disabling all attaching clients.

External KMS server access is desirable for devices on long-term leave away from the corporate network, as KMS client activation will expire after six months of not being able to contact a KMS server. For this situation, a business can make it accessible through an encrypted VPN tunnel known only to the devices outside the corporate network.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Microsoft. "Microsoft Volume Licensing". Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  2. ^ Out-Law.com: Second-hand software licenses for sale (and they're legal)
  3. ^ Top 7 Things You Should Know About Activation and Genuine Windows (PowerPoint, referred from Windows Activation | Genuine Windows 7, Vista, XP | TechNet)
  4. ^ Windows Activation Technologies in Windows 7
  5. ^ "Windows 7 Activation Can Fail Due to BIOS ACPI_SLIC table Issues", Aug 3 2010, Softpedia, http://archive.news.softpedia.com/news/Windows-7-Activation-Can-Fail-Due-to-BIOS-ACPI-SLIC-table-Issues-150415.shtml
  6. ^ "You receive an error message when you try to activate Windows Vista or Windows 7 on a computer that was obtained from an OEM", Microsoft Knowledgebase article #942962, http://support.microsoft.com/kb/942962/
  7. ^ Microsoft Help and Support: How to change the product key at the time of activation
  8. ^ bit-tech.net: Microsoft outlines Vista piracy plans, Published on 5 October 2006 by Wil Harris
  9. ^ "[iSONEWS] Microsoft Windows XP Corporate Ed. *MISLABELED - NOT CORP. by DEVILS0WN". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. 
  10. ^ arstechnica.com: Windows Genuine Advantage for dummies By Matt Mondok | Last updated 29 November 2006 6:19 PM
  11. ^ Harsh J: More on the FCKGW-RHQQ2-YXRKT-8TG6W-2B7Q8 at the Wayback Machine (archived April 23, 2014)
  12. ^ TechRepublic Get IT Done: Change the product key on Windows XP
  13. ^ Volume activation: Plan for volume activation: Appendix A: KMS Client Setup Keys, Published: August 24, 2012, Updated: July 16, 2014, http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj612867.aspx

External links[edit]