Is my copy of Windows 7 "activated" and genuine?
We're being audited next week and I need to ensure that each and every PC in the office has a valid, activated, certified genuine copy of Microsoft Windows 7 installed on it and running. I've much anxiety about this: how do I ensure everyone's running an activated, verified copy of Win7?
This is pretty important stuff, actually, and good on your IT department for auditing all the computers in the office. It's expensive to get Windows 7 on every single computer in a large office, but that's how it works, that's what the license requires, and that's the law. Frankly, if you're ripping off Microsoft by having illegal or unverified copies of Windows on your computers, or are avoiding activation because you know you have insufficient licenses for the number of computers in your facility, well, you're performing a disservice because if they don't get the revenue expected from their installed base, the company won't be able to continue developing and improving the operating system.
Windows works with a fairly complicated verification system too, one that reflects the incredible ingenuity of companies that counterfeit their software in astonishingly large quantities. It also reflects that it's easy to duplicate a CDROM or DVD of data, and given that you can now download a full, ready-to-install copy of Windows 7, it's ridiculously easy for the bad guys to disseminate that too.
That's why you need a 25-character product key for your copy of Windows too, a key that's generally only usable once for a single registration of Windows 7 on a single computer. You've probably seen these, they look like: D9RHV-JG8XC-C77H2-3YF6D-RYR9J (tip: that's not a valid code).
Enter a valid code as part of the installation or activation phase the first time you run the operating system, and it's first verified back at Microsoft, then stored as "used" in their registration key database. Try to use it again and it'll say "already in use" and fail.
So I can understand companies buying dozens or hundreds of computers and thinking that maybe with just a few dozen valid, licensed Windows systems, they should be able to get away with having some unregistered or skip activation. It's just not legal.
Instead, you can easily check a given computer to see if it's a genuine copy of Windows and has been activated by going to the "System" Control Panel (on the "Start" menu, click on "Control Panels" and look for "System"). Like this:
Launch the "System" Control Panel and you'll see this:
That doesn't show if it's genuine or activated, however. For that information, you need to scroll to the bottom of the window...
There ya go. This copy of Microsoft Windows 7 is genuine and has been activated. Phew.
Want to learn more about Windows Activation and why it's important, btw? Then I recommend you go check out the Activate Genuine Windows 7 information center.
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