Question Medium-priced OEM packages: safe?

jhsachs

Distinguished
Apr 10, 2009
121
1
18,685
0
This is a variation on the old question “What about all those cheap copies of Windows on eBay?”

I bought two cheap copies of Windows 7 on eBay a couple of years ago. I installed both on homebuilt machines that I used mainly for testing add-on hardware. Both worked for about a year, then stopped. Now when I boot them I get messages that say “Your copy of Windows is counterfeit!!!” and “Microsoft has deactivated this license key” — contradictory things, but never mind that.

I’ve been trying to contact Microsoft about this on and off, but I always get lost in voice mail hell. Now I’m inclined to buy two copies of Windows 10 and start over.

So, two questions.

First, what’s with the nag messages that started after a year? Why would Microsoft let me use a counterfeit Windows for a year, then stop me? Alternatively, why would they deactivate a legitimate license key after it has been in use for a year?

Second, how can I avoid having this happen again? Lots of eBay sellers offer Windows 10 keys for $7 to $10, and I assume they are dodgy. Others claim to offer sealed OEM packages for $30 to $35. The pictures show packaging that looks like something produced by a well-financed corporation, not by a fly-by-night eBay seller, and different sellers have different pictures of the same thing. Are these likely to be safe? (I’m referring only to long-time sellers with many sales and high ratings.) Or must I go somewhere like Fry’s and pay $120 or more?
 

Dark Lord of Tech

темный лорд технологий
Moderator
Aug 18, 2009
125,514
1,031
167,040
24,751
The copies can take awhile to get blacklisted most , they are stolen or old technet keys. Happens all the time.

You can install and run Windows 10 for free , just lose a few customization features.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
112,020
1,650
154,440
18,461
If it is much less than $100 (Win 10 Home), it ain't valid.

They didn't deactivate a 'valid license', the system just didn't catch up to it.
Or, that same license key was sold again and again.
Or, it was purchased with a stolen credit card, and the system finally caught up.
Or, any one of a number of "Not For Resale" licenses (Technet/MSDN/Corporate)


As far as the pics looking like a "well-financed corporation "....people can do wonders with a (pirated...;) ) copy of photoshop.
 

jhsachs

Distinguished
Apr 10, 2009
121
1
18,685
0
If it's really practical and legitimate to run Windows 10 without activation, that's probably my best choice. (With Windows 7 it is not so.)

But I just don't understand the answers like "It was pirated all along but Microsoft just caught up with it." If that's so, I can activate Windows with any random number that complies with the activation key format, and it will take Microsoft a year to figure out that it isn't a real key. I can believe that Microsoft's activation system is buggy and unreliable and inefficient, but it can't be that slow. (How many seconds would it have to take to add two floating point numbers?) For a key that is activated elsewhere, or is an OEM key that has been activated on a different machine, ditto. The information is in their database. All the server has to do is query.

I can assure you that I did not buy my Windowses with a stolen credit card.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
112,020
1,650
154,440
18,461
No, YOU didn't buy it with a stolen credit card.
The person you bought it from did, and then sold it to you (potentially)

  1. Obtain stolen credit card
  2. Purchase 100 valid OS licenses
  3. Sell them for $20 each
  4. Gather $5,000
  5. When the bank/creditcard/owner finally catches up and does the chargeback...disabled licenses
And no, you can't just enter any random collection of letters and numbers. There is a specific algorithm that they use to determine if it is a properly constructed number. Actual validation comes later. And potential disablement can come much later.

Yes, Win 10 will run Unactivated, seemingly forever.
The only issues are a randomly appearing watermark at bottom right, and no customization of the taskbar.
I have a long running Win 10 Pro installed in a VM, to test exactly this.
Installed on Dec 8 2016, coming up on 3 years. Runs just like it did on Day 1. Get's all the MS updates, etc.
 

britechguy

Notable
Jul 2, 2019
1,319
204
1,190
42
(potentially)
The degree to which you, and many others, are willing to presume that this potential isn't, but is factual, is your right. I do not believe it to be correct.

It is sometimes correct, without doubt, but the cottage industry that has sprung up and is not being assailed vigorously by Microsoft, which has never shown any indication that it won't go after known pirates [even small scale ones], cannot all be nefarious actors.

The grey market is not the black market. Those of us who have been willing to go grey market are fully aware of the risks, and in our estimation the benefits outweigh them. Why is that so darned hard for the naysayers to accept?

If you want only a new license purchased from Microsoft, then by all means purchase it. But for the love of heaven stop portraying those of us who don't as amoral thieves, because we're not. We're not trying to trick anyone, either.

The facts are there, including those you've presented. People can and do come to completely different conclusions and courses of action based upon the same facts when said facts aren't inviolable laws of nature, but subject to interpretation. Please allow adults to do what adults should be doing - making their own informed decisions, which may not comport with what you would do under the same circumstances.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
112,020
1,650
154,440
18,461
Well, for whatever reason, this persons cheap Win 7 license was disabled from the mothership.
Why, exactly? We do not, and cannot, know for certain.
But there is it...disabled.

And people buying these cheap licenses are usually NOT aware of the risks.
Like this person.

You can claim that it never happens.
Yet here we are.
 

britechguy

Notable
Jul 2, 2019
1,319
204
1,190
42
I'm no longer even attempting to claim it never happens. I stand by my position that it is extremely rare, particularly in light of feedback here, where one would expect a tidal wave of, "It's happened to me!," or far more instances of it having occurred in the natural flow of problems than it does.

My issue is with the implication, and it's not even vaguely delicate, that those who would buy grey market are sleazy because they do so and that all grey market sellers are "black market with a little bit of white powder."

That does not comport with my experience, which is long. I do not like inaccuracy, and, truly, neither do you. Your track record in that regard is very clear taken as a whole.

But you have a big blind spot in this area, and the shade you're throwing on those who do not believe as you do is unwarranted.

[As an additional aside: We've seen reports of completely legitimate, known legal and new licenses being deactivated by the mothership. Heaven only knows what drives this, and it's exceedingly rare for those, too.]
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
112,020
1,650
154,440
18,461
Licensed software at 90% off is no different than hardware at 90% off.

If you came across a guy selling 16GB Corsair RGB DDR4 for $10 a set, and he had 1,000 sets of this...you'd be highly suspicious. And rightfully so.
Where did these come from, and how is he able to sell it that cheaply.
 

britechguy

Notable
Jul 2, 2019
1,319
204
1,190
42
This is useless, as no one is going to be convinced.

If you've ever known those in the computer recycling business they can amass huge inventories of used equipment (not the latest stuff, but lots of it fairly recent).

It is not my personal responsibility, and never has been, to protect Microsoft - that's their job. If they can't secure their own licenses that is, very truly, not my problem. If I am presented with a license key, and can activate it via Microsoft's own processes, it is legitimate. And if you've worked in any number of settings (all legal, including universities and state agencies) where you may be handed a typed or written list of license keys, you have no idea where they came from, nor should you worry about it. You presume they're good, and if they activate, Microsoft has deemed them legitimate - no one else can, or should, attempt to make that distinction.
 

Rogue Leader

It's a trap!
Moderator
If I am presented with a license key, and can activate it via Microsoft's own processes, it is legitimate.
This statement right here is the problem. Just because it works doesn't make it legitimate. You can pocket a USB drive at Frys and it will work fine too, doesn't make it legit.

A LOT of keys get out there, they produce a lot of keys, and they also will only spend so many resources chasing those keys down or stopping them, while at the same time not being overzealous in shutting keys down to avoid shutting down and annoying legit users. In the end while they would love to stop every bad key, there comes a level where its just not worth it.

Its like Intel ES processors. They are all property of Intel, yet they come up on eBay all the time. They are literally stolen property, but Intel can only spend so many resources chasing down what amounts to many times junk processors.

So just because the manufacturer of the product deems it not worth it to chase down every not-officially-obtained piece of their product, doesn't automatically make it legit. And in the same respect, to your other point, if you work at any business that isn't a shady criminal enterprise, you can assume any IT department worth their salt is providing you with a legit list of enterprise keys they legally purchased as they can be in deep legal water if they did not, and thats a problem that any business does not need.

You can wordsmith justify it all day long, and if you use those keys in your personal life or business then be my guest. But here on Tom's we (the mod team) as a policy will always recommend against anything that may be in our opinion very risky physically, legally, or morally. All that matters for you is if you feel ok with yourself when you lay your head down on your pillow at night. If thats the case, then great, keep using whatever you want to use, and let us do our jobs here without taking us further and further into the woods. As a former moderator elsewhere you should at least understand that.
 

britechguy

Notable
Jul 2, 2019
1,319
204
1,190
42
When you can tell me, if I am handed a license key, even in beautiful, perfect packaging that looks like it's from Microsoft and know it's legitimate then you have a point.

My duty, as an end user, is to follow the prescribed activation method of the licensing entity. It is their job to do whatever has to be done to verify it and either allow, or deny, my use of same.

You seem to think that anyone who moderates agrees with your position. I suggest you do some searching, as I'm almost quoting several I worked with for years, and agree with, in the preceding paragraph.

It is not my job to protect Microsoft's assets and there is no real way any individual can be certain that they are, in fact, doing that. It is Microsoft's.

What goes on here goes well beyond, "recommend[ing] against anything that may be in our opinion very risky physically, legally, or morally. " And the willingness to presume "may" to a wildly unjustified degree of certainty is not right, regardless of your posturing. And the use of "very risky" in this context is just ridiculous.
 

britechguy

Notable
Jul 2, 2019
1,319
204
1,190
42
Being handed something and buying something at 90% discount are two different things.
True, but the description "medium priced" does not imply 90% off. If you look around you can find some deep discounts (often, I expect, loss leaders) and major vendors such as Newegg and the like are now selling on eBay.

Even I smell a fish at 90% off. But were I to buy at 90% off, and Microsoft activated when I followed their protcol, my duty - moral, ethical, and otherwise - is fulfilled. As I said, one has to actually look at the "does it activate" in the abstract, since if we were blindfolded (and often we effectively are) we as individual users have no way of knowing whether a license is legitimate. The company that issues that software, be it Microsoft or someone else, is the only one that does.

Anyone who feels otherwise, and can give a cogent argument as to how, with any level of certainty, they can know needs to put it forth. I have yet to see one when one has no idea whatsoever of the source of a key. And that's what counts, because "looks" as well as sales prices can be deceiving in this, the age of virtually perfect counterfeits.
 

jhsachs

Distinguished
Apr 10, 2009
121
1
18,685
0
Wow. I didn't intend to start a firestorm. I gather a lot of people are touchy about this topic, from one cause or another.

FWIW: When I bought two possibly-pirated copies of Windows 7 I was looking for the best legal deal I could find. The seller had been in business for (what then seemed to be) too long to be selling pirated software without getting caught. They had a reasonable story about where their licenses came from. They had made lots of sales and had overwhelmingly positive feedback. I don't think I could have acted more cautiously except by refusing to buy that type of product at all (which in hindsight I probably should have done).

I am ticked, as well as underwhelmed, that Microsoft took so long to act. If they shut these licenses down quickly I might have caught the guy and recovered my money. Or at least I might have seen that he was shut down faster. More likely if he knew that he'd be nailed in the first week or two, he never would have gone into that line of merchandising.

I'm still puzzled by the long delay. I don't see an explanation for it other than incompetence or indifference -- to Microsoft's customers' welfare, as well as its own. But that's water under the bridge.
 
Reactions: Rogue Leader

Rogue Leader

It's a trap!
Moderator
You seem to think that anyone who moderates agrees with your position. I suggest you do some searching, as I'm almost quoting several I worked with for years, and agree with, in the preceding paragraph.

It is not my job to protect Microsoft's assets and there is no real way any individual can be certain that they are, in fact, doing that. It is Microsoft's.
Thats not what I said, and I don't appreciate your continual desire to twist mine and others words to fit your narrative to justify your increasingly ludicrous argument. I was very specifically talking about this site and this moderation team.

You're correct, its not my or your job to police Microsoft's assets. But I can get basically any piece of software, free, with a simple Google search. So what you're telling me is thats ok, to steal that software because its not my problem that they didn't protect their software from piracy. No, cheap keys aren't piracy, but they also aren't legitimately being sold either.

As I said, if you're ok with that, you do you. But your moral duty, as a human, is if some guy sells you brand new Bose Speakers off the back of a truck for 90% off and tells you "yeah they are legit" think, maybe it doesn't pass the smell test. If you don't care, fine. But please stop driving other peoples threads into the woods. I don't know how much clearer I can make it to you. OUR (Tom's Moderation Team - not any other moderators anywhere in the world) policy is to recommend against it. So you can keep fighting and making a mess of other peoples threads, or you can make your point and move along. Let me make my last few lines of my prior post clearer. As you've discussed in other threads you understand the rules here, and I'm making it clear to you now you've gotten to the point of being disruptive. I will leave it at that.
 

FALC0N

Splendid
It is worth noting that there is a legitimate "grey market" out there, but it's hard to get to it through all the scams. I was able to get Windows XP Pro, Windows 7 Ultimate, and a couple of Windows 8.1 upgrades at discounts around 50%. BUT you have to be patient and smart about it. You can't just grab something cheap off of eBay.
 
Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
J Windows 10 4
L Windows 10 3

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS