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If your product key is stolen, part 2

More on the consequences of losing your Office 2007 or Vista product key and what you can do to try protecting yourself.

by Office Watch

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We continue our look at some concerns with product activation and disabling in Office 2007 and Vista. Last week we talked about how easy it is for your product key to be stolen and how your legally bought software could be disabled by Microsoft.

In this issue we look at some consequences of a stolen product key, noting the lack of a clear and open process by Microsoft to deal with disputes. We end with some ideas for what you can do, so you can try to protect your investment in Microsoft software.

What's happened to my product key?

One problem with the activation process is there's no way for the customer to know how the product key / software license has been used. Microsoft keeps close records of each activation for a product key but withholds that information from the customer.

If your product key is stolen and attempts are made to use it, you (as the legitimate owner) aren't notified. You'll only find out if the product key is deactivated and even then you won't know why.

If you have an activation problem, Microsoft knows what has happened but won't tell the customer. It's possible the activation record could reveal details that would support a case that your product key was stolen (eg activation in another country) but Microsoft won't tell you.

Since you never see the activation history, you also can't check to see if your product key has been misused. Ideally the registered user could login to a special site, review their activation history and know when there's been improper use.

As it stands, you don't know there's a problem until you try to activate the software or Microsoft imposes their 'kill switch' on your legal software.

Article posted: Tuesday, 16 January 2007

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