Microsoft is continuing to improve the way that Windows installed on your PC is up to date, including activation technology. Using a process known as "product activation", Windows Vista associates the license the customer has (represented by the product key) with the PC it is to be used on to help protect customers, Microsoft business partners, and Microsoft from the risks associated with software counterfeiting.
Windows Vista includes technology that can detect evidence of software counterfeiting. For example, Windows Vista is able to detect software that is meant to circumvent Windows product activation. Microsoft refers to software that attempts to work around product activation as "activation exploits."
To help address the problems caused by activation exploits, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), as well as new updates distributed via Windows Update and Automatic Updates, includes activation exploit detection technology and makes it easier for you to remove or repair any activation exploits that are detected. These updates include helpful detailed messages, links to more information and resources, and tools to help remove or repair activation exploits.
If you are experiencing all or some of what's described in the following sections, Windows Vista on your PC may not be genuine. Here's what you might see:
In some instances, you will see messages asking you to repair Windows if an activation exploit is found on your PC. In this case, a detected software code will be shown within the dialog box (for example, SL07-001 or SL07-006). This dialog box provides guidance about the problem, how to fix it, and a link for a webpage with more details.
Some activation exploits can be disabled and removed by the updates included in SP1 and later versions of Windows Vista as well as additional updates available via Automatic Updates and Windows Update. If you haven't already, go to the Windows Update website and follow the instructions to check for updates. If you are not running SP1 or later, the update process will install SP1 and disable the activation exploit without affecting the legitimate programs and data on your system. In addition to disabling the activation exploit, SP1 includes many features and improvements that enhance your experience and can help your PC to run more smoothly.
If you are running Windows Vista SP1 or later, there might be other updates available to help detect additional activation exploits on your PC.
View additional Microsoft updates available for your PC.
If Windows Vista SP1 or other Microsoft updates detected and disabled an activation exploit, then the system will ask you to activate Windows Vista. If you have a genuine copy of Windows Vista, this will only take a few moments. If you're a victim of counterfeit software, Microsoft will provide you with instructions on how to resolve the issue when you activate Windows. To do this, click on the "Activate now" option. After answering a few questions, you’ll be provided with instructions for activating your copy of Windows, and you can do this online or over the phone.
If your system had an activation exploit detected by Windows Vista, you might find your desktop background changing to black, immediately followed by a notification asking you to "Activate Windows Now." You will then receive periodic notifications in the lower portion of your screen asking you to activate Windows. To resolve this, click on this notification and follow the instructions to activate Windows Vista. If you have inadvertently received counterfeit software, you will be provided with instructions for getting genuine Windows.