Did you notice that when you bought your new Windows 7 PC, there wasn’t a need to take any actions to activate the operating system when you turned it on for the first time? That’s because for a long time, big-name PC manufacturers are able to take advantage of Microsoft’s Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) activation (OA) mechanism to activate the OS before the computer is shipped to the customer. Currently, Windows 7 uses OA 2.1; before this, Windows Vista used OA 2.0.
And it looks like Microsoft will be updating this OEM Activation process to version 3.0 for the upcoming Windows 8, according to slides leaked on the Internet. A key benefit of this new program is that it allows OEMs to digitally order and receive keys from (and report computer information to) Microsoft. In addition, activation of the OS can be done on specific hardware.
An important point to note about OA 3.0 is the requirement for a unique product key to be written into each PC’s BIOS, and that product activation rights are now associated with the hardware hash. This is a great departure from OA 2.1, where the same bypass key is used for every computer. Clearly, this is an attempt to thwart hackers from bypassing product activation in Windows 8. With a lion’s share of the desktop OS market, such attempts are nothing new to the Redmond company. In 2009, an OEM Windows 7 Ultimate product key was leaked, and was subsequently used by many to circumvent the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation.
If the leaked information about OA 3.0 is true, the chassis of Windows 8 systems will also see a new Genuine Microsoft label. This label will replace the current Windows Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker. At launch, non-client Windows 8 products (Windows Server, Windows Embedded), as well as Windows 7 will not be using OA 3.0.