Thursday, October 25, 2007

Vista deludes itself into thinking driver upgrades are major changes

A FEATURE in Microsoft Vista means that something as small as swapping the video card or updating a device driver can trigger a total Vista deactivation.

According to APC mag, minor upgrades to your desktop will result in your PC going into "reduced functionality" mode, where you can't do anything but use the web browser for half an hour.

You'll then need to reapply to Microsoft to get a new activation code.

Hack, James Bannan noticed the flaw when he swapped over the graphics card on his Vista Ultimate box. A few days later he got a Windows Activation prompt and had to speak to a Microsoft customer service representative before he got all his functionality back and the feeling in his toes.

Wondering why he got the shut down request, Bannon obtained some tools from Microsoft which listed all the hardware changes on that machine since activation. Vista thought his disk controller had changed, so the graphics card change was the final change which tripped deactivation.

But Bannan had not changed his disk controller, all he had done was upgraded the Intel Matrix Storage Manager application. Vista reported this driver upgrade as a major hardware change event.

It appears that Microsoft Vista designers had not worked out that if you change device drivers it does not necessarily mean you have changed your hardware. It could be, as in Bannan's case, you have updated or changed the drivers and not the hardware.

This is quite common as some of the drivers which ship with Vista are out of date or not as good as what you can find on the manufacturer's web site.

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