Microsoft reacted to cracks by adding Wi-Fi hashes to the code of Windows Vista and Windows 7. Wi-Fi hashes are similar to DRM (Digital Rights Management) signatures. They're intended to ensure that a particular copy of the Windows software is authentic.
But while Vista's cracks were busted, people still managed to find ways to download a version of Vista that would activate (and which would work all the time). So Microsoft issued SP1 under the guise of an activation fix. The fix worked for some users, but for others, a new, more sophisticated set of cracks were released. SP1 ended up being more trouble than it was worth. Microsoft, however, has had success with its copy-protection technology. Because the company keeps up with the latest crack rumors, its copy-protection is often stronger than what pirates are using to crack it. In 2009, for example, an organization in China cracked Microsoft's copy-protection technology, but couldn't crack the OS code itself.
When a hacker reported a Windows 7 or Windows 10 key to Dell , the system maker's response was to fingerprint the key and then link the key to a Wi-Fi hash. Dell would then send the firmware with an updated Wi-Fi hash. When it came time to activate the system, Dell would check the Wi-Fi hash, and if it was valid, it could unlock the system.
Now, with Windows 8, Microsoft added a second hash to its system. With Windows 10, Microsoft upped that to three. In addition to the Wi-Fi hash and the normal product key, Microsoft added hashes for the device's USB interface and the hard disk drive. And rather than just build the firmware to check the second hash as Microsoft had done in the past, it built the OS to check all three at boot time.
According to Neowin, Microsoft will likely continue the silent activation feature on Windows 8 and will likely add it to Windows 10. One thing is certain: Microsoft will attempt to crack down on the practice.
Microsoft's new check is very similar to the one used in Windows Vista. However, it's much more secure and this may make it harder for pirates to get around. Microsoft's new validation process is also based on the new WIM system (Windows Imaging System), which is more efficient than the old WIM (Windows Imaging Format) system.
In late June, Microsoft released its new activation mechanism, Windows 8.1 KMS, which is a new KMS for Windows 8.1. Microsoft changed the activation process of Windows 8.1 in its KMS, and Windows 8.1 is no longer activated by the Windows product key. For Windows 8.1, Microsoft has removed the activation from the key. Instead, users can activate Windows 8.1 by entering the Windows 8.1 product key in the activation window. You can activate Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro via online activation. Microsoft made the Windows 8.1 KMS completely through the Web.