So, I got a new MacBook Pro at work last week. It’s a little bit newer and faster than the old one. I was a little bit rough with the old one, but it’s still in working condition and will be used by others visiting the office (ethernet port stopped working, and part of the lid latch is broken).
The old laptop was dual-booted with Mac OSX (of course) and Windows Vista. Back when I installed vista a couple of years ago, I obtained a license key from the company, and activated vista with it with no problems.
Fast forward to now. Sure enough, when I go to in install Vista on the new system (after wiping out the old one to be eventually re-installed), I get an error when using the same key associated with this license of Vista — “That software key is already in use.” Well, duh, not really it isn’t, the old laptop is wiped clean, but I can see how you may think that.
So how do I get around this? After searching around on the internet and trying some things, I find that there is NO WAY to “deactivate” a Windows Vista license. So, anyone changing computers, or re-installing to the same computer even, will presumably encounter this problem. Ironically, the quickest way to fix this would be to find any of a number of keys out there that belong to large volume licensees of Vista — for example, a large university that has tens of thousands of available installs associated with their key. Isn’t it a little bit stupid, annoying, ironic, incorrect (whatever adjective you want to use), that the mechanism developed to ensure that people were using properly licensed copies of the software is so onerous and broken that it leads people to, in essence, pirate the software it’s aiming to protect?
I ultimately ended up calling Microsoft and getting this straightened out via some sort of automated phone system. Of course, this means that I could very well have kept the same key in use for Vista installed on the old laptop — meaning that in reality, the activation key scheme does nothing to prevent piracy or illegal copying, but just is another spike through the guts of Microsoft’s paying customers.