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(De-)Activation of Windows 7 Portable Virtual Machine RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hi,

    I am developing a piece of software that enables a portable virtual machine whose virtual hard drives are stored on a USB flash drive. On PCs it runs with VMware and VirtualBox. The OS on the VM is Windows 7 Home Edition (Boxed Retail). Currently the solution is fully working but I am not sure about the Windows activation.

    When I change the virtualizer vm from VMware to VirtualBox the Windows 7 activation state in the VM is changing to "you have three days to activate" mode. This make sense as the emulated hardware is significantly different.

    What happens when I stay with the same virtualizer, let's say Virtualbox? Even though the virtualization abstracts most of the hardware, the CPU is still 'passed through' IOW Windows 7 on the guest vm always sees the CPU of the respective host. As far as I understand the hardware tolerances, the CPU is one of the 10 components that are considered for determining how my hardware configuration has changed. According to this doc (written for volume licenses) there is a cumulative score and a CPU change is weighted with a three, with a cumulative score of 25 triggering a de-activation.

    1. Am I correct in assuming that the same hwid scoring mechanism that applies to volume activation also applies to retail?   

    2. A common use case would be that a user regularly switches between three to four host systems. Does every change of a host move the user closer to the critical threshold of 25 or is there a concept of 'remembered' profiles and the score is not increased if Windows 7 already ran on that hardware config? 

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    Kind Regards

    Arend

        

    Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:02 AM

Answers

  • Think of the weightings as flags.  Once an item's flag is set that flag is not affected by further changes until reactivation is required.  Then all the flags are reset to zero.  Changing the cpu sets that flag but unless reactivation is triggered by the change, changing the cpu again leaves the flag as previously set.  A common change made by users is to play around with a vm's memory.  The first memory change (of at least 250MB) sets the memory flag but subsequent changes have no effect until all the flags are reset.  Changing the motherboard is enough to trigger reactivation.  Not all hardware items have an effect.  A second virtual hard drive, virtual NIC, or optical drive isn't part of the hardware hash used for activation.

    The real concern is the license.  Each vm must have its own license so you cannot simply clone vms containing a retail copy of Windows 7 Home Premium and distribute them.  That is a clear violation of the licensing terms. 

    You must use SysPrep.  Microsoft has this warning for this kind of deployment:  "if you don’t run Sysprep, every copy of the image will have the same security ID (SID) and the same computer name."  This is particularly important if two copies are run in the same network.  It is also important in providing a unique product key for each vm.

    Microsoft does have a lengthy document for preparing and distributing XP Mode vms in the manner you describe, But XP Mode contains a free copy of XP Pro SP3 and since it uses an OEM license unique product keys are not required.  There is no similar "Windows 7 Mode" so you should consider very carefully the cost of providing a Windows 7 Home Premium license for each virtual machine you plan to distribute.  I think you should talk to a Microsoft sales representative before proceeding.

    If your clients are business users then you should use Windows 7 Professional and not Home Premium.



    Colin Barnhorst Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on DIY with 6GB ram.



    • Edited by CbarnhorstEditor Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:17 AM
    • Marked as answer by adittmer2 Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:25 AM
    • Unmarked as answer by adittmer2 Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:26 AM
    • Marked as answer by adittmer2 Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:43 AM
    Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:10 AM
    Answerer

All replies

  • Think of the weightings as flags.  Once an item's flag is set that flag is not affected by further changes until reactivation is required.  Then all the flags are reset to zero.  Changing the cpu sets that flag but unless reactivation is triggered by the change, changing the cpu again leaves the flag as previously set.  A common change made by users is to play around with a vm's memory.  The first memory change (of at least 250MB) sets the memory flag but subsequent changes have no effect until all the flags are reset.  Changing the motherboard is enough to trigger reactivation.  Not all hardware items have an effect.  A second virtual hard drive, virtual NIC, or optical drive isn't part of the hardware hash used for activation.

    The real concern is the license.  Each vm must have its own license so you cannot simply clone vms containing a retail copy of Windows 7 Home Premium and distribute them.  That is a clear violation of the licensing terms. 

    You must use SysPrep.  Microsoft has this warning for this kind of deployment:  "if you don’t run Sysprep, every copy of the image will have the same security ID (SID) and the same computer name."  This is particularly important if two copies are run in the same network.  It is also important in providing a unique product key for each vm.

    Microsoft does have a lengthy document for preparing and distributing XP Mode vms in the manner you describe, But XP Mode contains a free copy of XP Pro SP3 and since it uses an OEM license unique product keys are not required.  There is no similar "Windows 7 Mode" so you should consider very carefully the cost of providing a Windows 7 Home Premium license for each virtual machine you plan to distribute.  I think you should talk to a Microsoft sales representative before proceeding.

    If your clients are business users then you should use Windows 7 Professional and not Home Premium.



    Colin Barnhorst Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on DIY with 6GB ram.



    • Edited by CbarnhorstEditor Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:17 AM
    • Marked as answer by adittmer2 Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:25 AM
    • Unmarked as answer by adittmer2 Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:26 AM
    • Marked as answer by adittmer2 Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:43 AM
    Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:10 AM
    Answerer
  • Thank you very much for your reply. This is great info that probably a lot of other people are going to appreciate as well. I could not find this anywhere.

    The real concern is the license.  Each vm must have its own license so you cannot simply clone vms containing a retail copy of Windows 7 Home Premium and distribute them.  That is a clear violation of the licensing terms. 

    Absolutely agree and was not planning on distributing clones. Every flash drive will be activated separately and will be sold with a genuine license. Great point on the SID and computer name. I need to look into using sysprep.

    But XP Mode contains a free copy of XP Pro SP3 and since it uses an OEM license unique product keys are not required. To your earlier point ... I don't think that the fact that unique keys are not required makes it legal to distribute an XP image. Even if it did, I would assume that users will be legally limited to running this image on a Windows 7 host. I need to support other host platforms as well.

    There is no similar "Windows 7 Mode" so you should consider very carefully the cost of providing a Windows 7 Home Premium license for each virtual machine you plan to distribute.  I think you should talk to a Microsoft sales representative before proceeding.

     The latter is easier said than done. I am in the Bizspark program but the guy I talked to was less than willing to even get me in touch with the right people telling me that it is not worth it.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012 2:43 AM
  • I don't think that the fact that unique keys are not required makes it legal to distribute an XP image.

    Incorrect.  Microsoft itself provides the documentation and tools for distributing XP Mode.  XP Mode is not just an XP image.  It is a virtual machine preconfigured with an OEM SLP copy of XP Pro SP3.  The only requirement for running XP Mode is that it is run on Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, or Ultimate.  Third party providers are permitted to customize and distribute XP Mode images.  Why not?  XP Mode is free anyway. 

    Even if it did, I would assume that users will be legally limited to running this image on a Windows 7 host. I need to support other host platforms as well.

    Please clarify.  Microsoft permits XP Mode to be run with any virtualization solution, including Virtual Box and VMWare.  VMWare Player and Workstation even have a special menu command for importing an XP Mode virtual machine into a VMWare XP Mode virtual machine.  Of course XP Mode needs to be installed on the host in order to do the importation so the host would have to be running a Windows 7 business edition.  In any case, discussion of XP Mode was to clarify the different circumstances that arise in virtualization.  Of course its platform limitations do not apply to Windows 7 virtual machines of your own design.

    I am in the Bizspark program but the guy I talked to was less than willing to even get me in touch with the right people telling me that it is not worth it.

    You need to ask for escalation.  If "the guy" was your BizSpark lead then ask for his manager.


    Colin Barnhorst Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on DIY with 6GB ram.


    Saturday, February 18, 2012 3:11 AM
    Answerer
  • Microsoft permits XP Mode to be run with any virtualization solution, including Virtual Box and VMWare.  VMWare Player and Workstation even have a special menu command for importing an XP Mode virtual machine into a VMWare XP Mode virtual machine.

    I did not know that. I see and appreciate your point that if I limited the product to the host platforms you mentioned I could offer it a lot cheaper. I am striving for broader host platform support though including OSX. The product is an appliance. Plug-in, autodetect VMM, if necessary install VMM, boot ... all with max. five clicks.

    Good point regarding the escalation. The individual I am referring to is with the 'Emerging Business Group |Microsoft Corporation' and a short face to face was discouraging to the point where I just gave up :(. Thank you again for your help.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012 4:10 AM
  • You're welcome.

    ...if I limited the product to the host platforms you mentioned I could offer it a lot cheaper.

    I didn't mean to leave that impression.  Limiting the platforms does nothing to reduce the cost since you propose to use Windows 7 and not XP Mode.


    Colin Barnhorst Windows 7 Ultimate x64 on DIY with 6GB ram.

    Saturday, February 18, 2012 4:31 AM
    Answerer