Windows 7 can run un-activated for four months

Forget running the Windows 7 RC until October 22. If you can get your hands on the release-to-manufacturing version, you should be able to use it for up to four months without entering an activation key. ComputerWorld has confirmed this with Microsoft, which says the procedure is completely legal. Behold:

Microsoft confirmed that "-rearm" can be used as many as three times by Windows 7 users to avoid activation. "This means [that] a total of 120 days total time is available as a grace period to customers that take advantage of -rearm," said a company spokeswoman.
Nor is extending the grace period a violation of the Windows 7 End User License Agreement (EULA), the spokeswoman said.

As Windows Secrets explains, you can install Windows 7 without providing an activation key—just hit "next" when the installer prompts you. From that point on, Microsoft gives you 30 days to activate before flipping over to a reduced-functionality mode. However, you can reset the timer up to three times by simply opening a command prompt window, entering "slmgr -rearm" without the quotes, and rebooting.

Once the 120 days are up, you should be able to enter a legit Windows 7 key and keep using the same installation. There’s a catch, though. Windows Secrets notes that the RTM disc image installs Windows 7 Ultimate by default, and entering a key for a cheaper edition won’t work. However, if you use a utility like gBurner to delete a particular file (ei.cfg) within the ISO image, you’ll be able to select any edition you want during the installation process. Check out the Windows Secrets article for detailed instructions.

Comments closed
    • Homerr
    • 10 years ago

    Anyone have any links to deals for a Technet subscription? I’m looking there and $699 looks like the low-end account, but I’ve found recent links to a $349 price with discount codes to get it down around $250.

    • Forge
    • 10 years ago

    If you install your OS, get all patches, install your apps, etc, and then reseal via sysprep, you can image that and restore it at will. The trial timer will start at image restore time, and you’ll still have all your rearms.

    Rearming indefinitely is great for folks who want a free OS with less risk of being sued/arrested/publically shamed/stoned by the BSA. It’s not legit enough for business use, but at home it’s entirely doable.

    • jstern
    • 10 years ago

    If I’m going to activate it anyway, then I think it’s just best to activated right away. And the idea of reinstalling it every 4 months to get one over the man just sounds like it would be an annoying process.

      • Asbestos
      • 10 years ago

      That’s not really the point of the article. You can’t activate W7 unless you have a valid key. You can only get a valid key right now from a technet or similar membership subscription. What if you don’t have technet or the usage of the install does not meet technet limitations? The article is saying you can install W7 now from the RTM image and wait until its on store shelves to buy your valid key. This is great if you’re desperate to get W7 up and running early.

    • DarkMarc86
    • 10 years ago

    I’m wondering, if you decide to run the RTM for the next few years, will you be able to get all the regular windows updates for it?

      • mesyn191
      • 10 years ago

      You’d probably have to slipstream them into the install disk. Not a big deal with programs like RyanVM’s Slipstreamer or nLite.

        • DarkMarc86
        • 10 years ago

        Ok, so you can integrate teh latest updates into the install disc, but you’re obviously not going to be installing it every week, so can you still download updates from microsoft with the RTM?

          • mesyn191
          • 10 years ago

          You could still update it without reinstalling, but slipstreaming it in to the install .iso is an option I know some are doing. So long as you’ve got a RAID0 array or a SSD it only takes 10-15 minutes or so to do a reinstall. You can also slipstream in drivers with DriverPacks, software too if you know what you’re doing with nLite or RyanVM.

      • Asbestos
      • 10 years ago

      Whut? You will continue to get updates provided that you have entered a valid key after the 4 month grace period.

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 10 years ago

    I used to do this with Vista up until I switched to the Win7 RC. One of these days I’ll get around to grabbing Win7 RTM from MSDN.

    Vista was still usable even after the 120 days went by and I still didn’t activate. I wonder if Win7 would work the same?

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      IIRC it’s supposed to flash you back to the non-Aero desktop on a periodic basis, like UAC withTourette’s.

    • ew
    • 10 years ago

    Gee, I hope nobody hacks it so that you can -rearm indefinitely.

      • lethal
      • 10 years ago

      Vista also has the ‘rearm’ command, which was later exploited by messing with the system date. MS later released updates to fix those, which probably ended with a lot of unbootable systems.

    • swaaye
    • 10 years ago

    Well hmmm. I’m pretty sure I reinstall my OS way more than every 4 months so…. 🙂

      • CampinCarl
      • 10 years ago

      Umm…why would you do that to yourself? Not that it’s a hassle any more, but it puts the computer into dry dock for a day, plus time it takes to re-load programs.

        • xtalentx
        • 10 years ago

        After I install my OS and get all my programs installed I clone my drive.

        I can have my system restored to original condition in about 30-45 minutes. Then all I have to do is apply any patches that may have come out and download anything from steam that I recently purchased and I am good to go!

        I update my cloned image about once a year and life is good. I have even done motherboard swaps without issue. Though typically I don’t recomend that without reinstalling the OS from scratch. I was just in a hurry.

          • pedro
          • 10 years ago

          I use a Mac.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 10 years ago

    I’ve got the RTM via TechNet, and have been giving it to friends.
    The key is up to them. 🙂

    • flip-mode
    • 10 years ago

    Oh, I thought the RC didn’t time out until April 2010 for some reason.

      • Xenolith
      • 10 years ago

      Yep. This is for folks that don’t have an activation key for the RC.

    • potatochobit
    • 10 years ago

    The important part is

    After I install ultimate via hack can I use my CD key or will I have to reinstall home edition to activate the product later on?

    • glacius555
    • 10 years ago

    *yawn* Not a news, knew it for quite a while, especially the part that it is perfectly legal..

      • UberGerbil
      • 10 years ago

      Ostentatious attempts to look like the coolest kid in the room typically have the opposite effect.

      Just saying…

        • pakotlar
        • 10 years ago

        Obvious attempt to look like the cool guy by using “ostentatious” instead of showy. U must be popular with real people.

          • Mourmain
          • 10 years ago

          Just because “u” don’t know how to use “ostentatious” doesn’t mean others are trying to show off when using it. Stop trying to bring people down to your level and try rising to theirs.

            • wobbles-grogan
            • 10 years ago

            onomatopoeia…

            • Meadows
            • 10 years ago

            Do you even know what that means?

            • pakotlar
            • 10 years ago

            UberGerbil delta-minus status confirmed. Simians don’t know what “ostentatious” means; he recited a sentence he heard while sweeping the halls of the local U.

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 10 years ago

          No, UberGerbil looks cool because /[

          • rohith10
          • 10 years ago

          He /[

          • ludi
          • 10 years ago

          Obvious attempt to curry favor among the betas by challenging the alpha gerbil runs face first into an obvious fail. D’oh!

            • pakotlar
            • 10 years ago

            Obtaining alpha male status over a heap of dung is certainly worthwhile, and must be protected.

        • glacius555
        • 10 years ago

        Times never change, do they? So, knowledge is still power, yet people can’t contain their emotions, when something tech related is posted on a tech page? Or do you want me to post links whenever I write something? Is it fine if they are not in English??
        On being the coolest kid, did you know that glucose transportation during digestion depends on Na ions?:)

          • pullmyfoot
          • 10 years ago

          Now all of you look like morons arguing over somthing as stupid as this. Way to go

            • glacius555
            • 10 years ago

            Yeah, don’t we? Join us!!!

    • FroBozz_Inc
    • 10 years ago

    I wonder if that ‘deleting a file off the .ISO’ trick would work with my pre-ordered Win7 Professional UPGRADE that I got from Newegg.

    I was planning on trying to upgrade the Win7 RC using my media when it arrives, so I could still use my stanalone XP Pro license on another computer if I wanted.

      • Forge
      • 10 years ago

      I was going to let this go, but nobody else has called you on it:

      DON’T “UPGRADE” THE BETA OR RC TO RTM! It’s bad, mmkay!?

      Yes, you can install any version of Vista or Win7 that you’d like from retail or OEM media, you just need to remove any files that specify a version (ei.cfg, pid.txt, etc).

      Also, if you ever activate that Win7 install, the corresponding XP license is no longer legally valid, no matter if it activates or not. I’m pretty sure you know, I just wanted to clarify for future random Googlers.

        • mesyn191
        • 10 years ago

        Heh, just doing your due diligence eh?

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