What Is Windows Activation?

Windows "Activation" was introduced with Windows XP, primarily as an anti-piracy measure to stop people just copying Windows installation disks and handing them out (or selling them) to all and sundry. The activation process, which can be done online or by phone, is a form of DRM (Digital Rights Management) and requires that the product key for the Windows product is valid. It also registers some hardware information with Microsoft, so that you can't normally use that Windows product with another computer as well. This can lead to some problems if a user upgrades their computer - if the hardware changes are significant enough, the activation may balk, and the activation process may need to be done again. In Windows XP, an unactivated copy of the operating system will eventually stop working until it's activated. HowToGeek has a good overview of the process with Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8 here.

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