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  1. #1
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    Do reinstalls cause Windows-activation failures?




    LANGALIST PLUS

    Do reinstalls cause Windows-activation failures?


    By Fred Langa

    Microsoft treats unactivated copies of Windows as possibly pirated software, allowing only limited access to Windows Update and related online services.

    But there's an easy way to ensure that you won't end up with a crippled copy of Windows after a reinstallation.


    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/langalist-plus/do-reinstalls-cause-windows-activation-failures?/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    External hard drives and bundled software

    Re: External hard drives and bundled software

    Recently (mid 2011), some WD (Western Digital) external USB drivies contain 3rd party software that refuses to be deleted. Nastier even, it also prevents you from reformatting the hard drive.

    There are horror stories in the web that certain inadvertent actions, such as casually enter a password but then do not remember it, will render the entire hard drive unaccessable. And **no way** to reformat it.

    Normally these WD USB hard drives are advertised to contain "Smartware".

    As far as I know, it is an encryption software (for data security). Once encrypted you must use a password to decrypt it and thus allowing to access the hard drive. Without the password, the hard drive is totally inaccessible. The web says there is no back door.

    The hard drive, upon plug-in to USB, also auto installs a virtual "CD drive" that contains the software for encrypt and decrypt. For the less technical user, suddenly you'll have an extra "CD drive" that you do not know where it comes from.

    Perhaps Fred Langa or members have a solution to actually reformat this WD USB hard drive, to rid of the software completely, and its "dominance".

    Remember, the "Smartware' maybe only for Windows up to Win7-8. What if you still use the hard drive for future Windows (Windows 11? Or Linux), or would like to reformat it to the better format exFAT (Win 7 native format)?

    Can anyone help?

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    The "Unlocker" program mentioned in the article is the same app that has been around for a long time. The author just changed his web site. See Unlocker 1.9.1 by Cedric Collomb.

    Joe

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    Re: External hard drives and bundled software

    Quote Originally Posted by scaisson View Post
    Re: External hard drives and bundled software
    Recently (mid 2011), some WD (Western Digital) external USB drivies contain 3rd party software that refuses to be deleted. Nastier even, it also prevents you from reformatting the hard drive.

    The hard drive, upon plug-in to USB, also auto installs a virtual "CD drive" that contains the software for encrypt and decrypt. For the less technical user, suddenly you'll have an extra "CD drive" that you do not know where it comes from.
    I guess I'm in the opposite camp, although admittedly I'm a more technical user. I really like the WD hardware encryption on the newer USB drives. To me, it's the only thing that makes these drives usable with Windows 7 backup. I've said before that I found Windows 7 backup totally unacceptable because it does not encrypt the backup. But with a WD drive, the backup is safely encrypted on the drive.

    I understand that losing a password can be a nightmare. That's equally true with EFS and TrueCrypt. I don't think it's any worse with a WD drive. The extra "CD drive" is no different than what you get using TrueCrypt to mount the TC volume.

    I think EFS is the most risky and complicated. Imagine a hard drive failure where you have a full image backup. You restore that, but now you don't have EFS access. To be sure of recovery, you have to have saved and exported keys and then import them on your new system. This is a lot harder than simply having a password to remember or hide. I have all my data encrypted with EFS for ease of use, but then I back it up to a TC volume, too.

    My biggest issue with WD is their backup software. It's worthless to most users because it can't be customized at all. It decides what to backup, you can't. So depending on which machine I'm using, or which set of files I'm protecting, I use Windows 7 backup, Norton Ghost, Acronis, or just a simple XCOPY operation.

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    Saga of Windows Magnifier


    Fred Langa posted, in this week's newsletter,(18/8/2011) various jolly japes for getting rid of Windows 7 Magnifier. Some of them involving forays into the inner sanctums of the OS and dire warnings of this blessed App being part of same. He does so with the best will in the World, but surely this is down to Microsoft!
    As a fairly new user of the OS, I switched on this benighted prog. to see exactly what it did, in the justifiable belief that if it did not suit I'd be able to switch the damn thing off again! Yes! I have indeed been on to Microsoft Help, 'unticked' every wee box in the 'Ease of Access' folder and it no longer dieves the life out of me, unbidden, on the Desktop, but at Startup, despite unticking the the box and 'applying,' it still comes up on the 'sign in' screen. There are Thousands of hits on the web from people desperate to banish this thing, it is most certainly time Microsoft provided a proper fix!

    D.I.S. Gruntled,
    Glasgow.
    Scotland.

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    One situation about re-installing Windows 7 that I have not yet seen covered is when using the Upgrade version (as opposed to the Full Retail version) of this OS. I used the Windows 7 Upgrade version because my desktop was running Windows XP. Computers running Windows XP or Vista qualify for Windows 7's Upgrade version.

    Now that I have installed Windows 7 --and Windows XP is gone-- what happens if, for some reason, I have to re-install using the Custom installation path?

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Deadeye81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tb75252 View Post
    One situation about re-installing Windows 7 that I have not yet seen covered is when using the Upgrade version (as opposed to the Full Retail version) of this OS. I used the Windows 7 Upgrade version because my desktop was running Windows XP. Computers running Windows XP or Vista qualify for Windows 7's Upgrade version.

    Now that I have installed Windows 7 --and Windows XP is gone-- what happens if, for some reason, I have to re-install using the Custom installation path?
    All you have to do is reinstall your upgrade version as a Custom Install once, but do not enter the Product Key, and then install it again, but this second time input the Product Key.

    Check out this tutorial from Paul Thurrot's Supersite for Windows for details on how to complete the entire process. It was written for Vista, but is accurate for Windows 7 as well. For Paul's treatment of Windows 7 specifically, check out this article, particularly Method #3: The old "double install" method.

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    Question change of hardware concern more than "will I get locked out"

    Hi Fred,

    The thanks for your on-going sharing of wisdom/experience in the Windows Secrets newsletters. I am a long term paid subscriber since the Langa List days and the other incarnations between.

    U.K., reader Bill Stronach wondered about "hardware upgrading and Windows activation" I think his concern may be a bit different from just "will I get locked out from Win 7 activation?"

    At least what I read into the question was a similar concern that I have with the question - how can I avoid the issue of my tweaking hardware making me reinstall my Win 7? We only find this out on re-boot when Win 7 on restart thinks it is on a system it thinks it shouldn't be.
    :-P

    This has happened to me many times to me. I have had motherboards and/or other bits in the computer system get wonky during the warranty period so while I swap them out for replacement/repair I still need to use the system. Reboot - Reinstall WIn 7 to activate again! I then had to reinstall all my other software. Some programs, such as games and PDF Converter, also need re-activation and and have low or only single activation limits causing me to go through the same hoops of re-activating all of them. Some of the programs were limited time freebies which had to activated by a certain time so those are gone.
    :-P

    So some hints or pointers to documentation on what changes trip the reactivate switch on WIn 7 and/or how to minimize this from happening would be good to know. Especially knowing ways to mitigate reinstalls/reactivations of the other programs would be much appreciated! (I do understand the suggestion of make a ghost for any particular system config then just reinstall them, but with limited resources and extra harddisks, this is impractical for me.

    TIA!

    Jay Wisecarver, Bangkok
    jay.wisecarver@gmail.com

  9. #9
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    @scaisson -- Re. WD External Hard Drives.

    In my experience, the WD Essentials hard drives are the least likely to hold pre-installed software. But it has been awhile since I last bought an external drive, and the portables were my choice then. By choosing the simplest WD drives (the ones with no automatic backup or other extra features) I have been able to buy nearly clean external WD Drives. None of these drives has caused me any issues when reformatting and repartitioning, as long as I used Acronis Disk Director and plugged in the drives only after Disk Director was up and running (then refresh the DD Drives List). Other third-party repartitioning software should also be able to bypass any autoruns, auto-installs, or flags which prevent Windows from reformatting these drives. But I know that Acronis Disk Director will do the job, sometimes even if the drives contain encrypted partitions.

    Small correction: (8/23/2011) To avoid accidentally running any "smartware" or autoruns, you can use the Disk Director program disk or CD version. Boot from your CD drive (a BIOS setting may need to be changed to do this) and let the CD launch its own, Windows independent, operating environment. This prevents Windows from automatically installing the "smartware" before you get a chance to look at the software on the external drive and decide whether or not you want it on your computer. If not, move the software somewhere else, or just remove (delete) it. Then reformat the partition where the "smartware" was found on the external drive. The drive should now be safe to use normally.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-08-23 at 15:49. Reason: Additional Information was needed.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    @bobpremak Re WD external hard drive
    Never too late to say thank you.
    Thanks for the tip.
    All I want is a clean, plain vanilla, public accessible/sharing external USB drive.
    Also, any per-installed software may not survive over 5 years when OSes are fast moving in quantum jumps. Even today, you cannot connect the encrypted WD drive to an HP Touchpad (WebOS)! Yet, your hard drive may last 10 years or more. Hence, my concern of such forced feed encryption software for the entire drive. (I had one encrypted hard drive in Win98 era, using Win98 protection software. My discipline of password storage saved the day.)

  11. #11
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scaisson View Post
    @bobpremak Re WD external hard drive
    Never too late to say thank you.
    Thanks for the tip.
    All I want is a clean, plain vanilla, public accessible/sharing external USB drive.
    Also, any per-installed software may not survive over 5 years when OSes are fast moving in quantum jumps. Even today, you cannot connect the encrypted WD drive to an HP Touchpad (WebOS)! Yet, your hard drive may last 10 years or more. Hence, my concern of such forced feed encryption software for the entire drive. (I had one encrypted hard drive in Win98 era, using Win98 protection software. My discipline of password storage saved the day.)
    I would also like to add that there are free disk management utilities which can be run from a bootable CD. You do not need to use a paid product for this. I use Disk Director because I already have it. My trust in Acronis is not absolute, but I have found their products generally reliable, even if the user interface has become more and more confusing in recent versions of True Image Home. Many Linux utilities can be run from CDs or Flash Drives, and this can also avoid launching auto-loading software from the external drive.

    Whole drive encryption of a backup drive which does not travel with you is IMHO excessive and a disaster waiting to happen. I do not encrypt my backup drives, and I avoid using them while connected to the Internet or before doing a virus scan of my main hard drive. My backups are too valuable to me to risk them to a forgotten decryption password or user key.

    I can understand a manufacturer including encryption software on a portable hard drive, as these often travel. But on a desktop version, including such software seems to me to be foolish to the point of recklessness. Just my own opinion.
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2011-09-18 at 15:12.
    -- Bob Primak --

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