Microsoft implemented the harden Software Protection Program (SPP) in Windows Vista as its automatic anti-piracy mechanism. Under SPP, system will go into limited functionality mode (officially called reduced functionality mode (RFM)) if users fail to activate the Windows Vista OS within 30 days or if the system fails Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation, which tests whether the version of Windows Vista is pirated or counterfeit.

Windows Vista SP1

Apparently the tough measure by disabling normal usage of Windows Vista has annoyed lots of business and enterprise customers to the extent that hinder the broad acceptance and adoption of Windows Vista. The thing made worse by high false negative rate on Microsoft’s back-end server side that wrongly assumes a legitimate and valid system as invalid, forcing Microsoft to soften its stance. Microsoft will make major change the user experience of product activation and genuine Windows validation features in Windows Vista in the Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows Vista due to be released in the first quarter of 2008, mainly to remove the “kill switch” of reduced functionality mode when system is determined to be not genuine.

In Windows Vista computer installed with Service Pack 1 (SP1), the Windows Vista will not reduce user functionality on systems determined to be non-genuine, and PC will no longer go into reduced functionality mode if a user or administrator fails to activate Windows Vista in 30 days grace period or if the system fails WGA validation.

Instead, in Windows Vista SP1, PC that is flagged as non-genuine will have system will start up with a black desktop background screen and a constant Activate Now alert dialog box that gives users the choice of activating Windows Vista now or later (but the Activate Later option is only available for clicking after a wait of 15 seconds). In short, the penalty for using unlicensed and illegal copy of Windows Vista is no background wallpaper and a lot of activation notifications. The desktop background can be changed, but a scheduled task will revert back to black background one hour later, together with a pop-up dialog box reminding users to activate. All programs, features and functions will work as usual as genuine version of Windows Vista, including Windows Aero transparent glass effect and ReadyBoost. And the main criticism on RFM – user session timed out and auto logged off – will also be removed, and users can use the Windows Vista as long as he or she wants without time limit, if he or she can bear with the nag messages.

The restrictions on ability to download updates from Windows Update or Microsoft Update remain unchanged though for the Windows Vista SP1 system that fails validation or non-activated. Only critical security updates, and system need to pass WGA validation check before users able to download any optional updates including high priority update, and new signed drivers.

The SP1 that without RFM kill switch will not be available in coming soon Windows Vista SP1 Release Candidate and recent builds of Windows Server 2008, but the changes will be introduced in future test builds of Windows Vista SP 1 before the final version is released in the first quarter of 2008, and some future builds release of Windows Server 2008.

Windows Vista SP1 also incorporates more stringent anti-activation cracks algorithm, which will detect and disable Grace Timer and OEM BIOS workarounds.