Windows 7 Beta Testers: Activate Or Be Nagged To Death

Microsoft made the Windows 7 beta available to the public from Jan. 10 to Feb. 10, and Microsoft has said it plans to release Windows 7 in late 2009, although industry sources expect that release to happen well in advance of the 2009 holiday season.

The Windows 7 beta activation "encouragement process" is similar to that of Windows Vista: Users have the option of not activating their systems—as long as they're ready to deal with a barrage of annoying alerts. Generally speaking, the longer Windows 7 beta users wait to activate their copies, the more Microsoft nagging they'll have to endure.

Users who wish to avoid activation friction can simply choose an option during the Windows 7 beta setup that lets the OS activate itself automatically after three days, Alex Kochis, senior product manager in the Windows Genuine Advantage group, wrote in a Monday blog post.

After the third day passes without activation, however, the Windows 7 beta death by a thousand cuts begins. First, users will see messages in the system tray reminding them to "Activate Windows Now" and indicating the time remaining in the grace period. Those who don't activate will be presented with an "Activate Now" message every day for the next 27 days, after which the message will appear every four hours, Kochis wrote.

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On the 30th day of the Windows 7 beta trial, the "Activate Now" message will be shown every hour, as well as when users log in to their PCs. Users who don't choose to activate will see a separate alert that outlines the risks of using nongenuine software and the myriad benefits of "coming into the light" of Microsoft-sanctioned usage.

After 30 days, the Windows 7 beta will enter an activation blitzkrieg mode that includes hourly system tray messages, persistent desktop notifications, and the setting of the Windows desktop background to plain black. If users try to change the background to another image, it'll be reset to plain black. Windows 7 beta users who don't activate also won't be able to download optional updates from Windows Update, according to Kochis.

End users who obtain Windows 7 through volume licensing or on PCs sold by large PC makers won't be required to activate, Kochis noted.

Meanwhile, Microsoft this week will also start distributing an update to Windows Vista Ultimate Edition users that detects an exploit known as the "SoftMod hack," which tricks the operating system into "thinking" that it has already been activated by the OEM prior to being shipped.