Windows Vista comes with a “kill switch” – “Reduced Functionality Mode” (RFM) that forbids and blocks normal usage of Windows Vista when users do not activate the system with legitimate product key within 30 days grace period, or when Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) validation detects and invalidates the cracked system. Microsoft promised in December 2007 to kill the “kill switch” in Service Pack 1. Indeed, the RFM kill switch which only allows web browser to work for maximum of one hour has been removed from SP1.
Replacing “Reduced Functionality Mode” is what Alex Kochis called notifications-based experience in WGA Blog in MSDN. “The purpose of the notifications-based experience is to differentiate between a genuine and activated copy of Windows Vista and one that is not, and do so in a way that maintains system functionality such as logon, access to the familiar desktop etc. This new experience means that systems that are not activated during their grace periods (initial activations as well as those due to hardware changes) or that fail our validation may have this experience.”
Thus, there is no joy to users who intentionally or unintentionally been labeled as not genuine or illegal, either for fail and no activation or fail and unable to pass activation, as the system will continue to amplify and magnify various annoying nags and intrusive warning message to activate. Some experiences of new anti-piracy measures including:
- Black desktop background after logging in. Users can change back the wallpaper to their favorite images, but the system will reset the desktop background to black every hour.
- On every logon, a “Activate Windows Now” message will be displayed to direct the customer to activate that copy of Windows. Users can choose to dismiss or activate later, but the button to activate later will only be enabled after 15 seconds delay.
- A balloon notification nag message will consistently and constantly pops up at notification area (system tray), reminding and alerting users to activate Windows and that you’re using non-genuine Windows.
- Every one hour, the system will prompt a message to ask user to purchase genuine software and activate Vista. As with all options, users also presented with a number of ways to activate their copy of Windows.
- If a activation exploit is detected, a download link is provided for the removal tool.