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  1. #1
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    New HDD ID after format ?

    Hi,
    I'm just wondering whether anyone can answer a question for me.

    Does Windows generate a new ID every time a hard disk is formatted and if so, how do I find this ID ? Also, can this ID be changed (other than re-formatting) ?

    I ask the question because I've just had a reply from a software author advising me that the reason his software has generated a new ID as part of the activation process when re-installed after a HDD re-format, is because I re-formatted the HDD !

    I have never come across this before as most activation, I believe, is tied to the network card MAC address. To me this feels like an opportunity to sell more activation keys as sooner or later all HDD's will fail !

    Any help appreciated.

    Graham

  2. #2
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    It may, I don't know, but if it does, it does not change the hardware activation generated number enough to cause a reactivation cycle...at least I haven't seen it in dozens and dozens of hard drive alterations.
    You are correct in that a change in network cards counts far more toward generating a hardware number that causes an activation cycle, probably not by itself but in conjunction with maybe two other hardware change detections at the same time or in short order, for sure.

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    astrostar69 (2011-10-25)

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    I'm just speculating here but could it not be down to Windows having a new ID of some sort, rather than the HDD?

    After all it has to have been reinstalled and activated after the format. (I'm ruling image backups out here as otherwise there would have been no need to reinstall other software)

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    astrostar69 (2011-10-25)

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    Quote Originally Posted by astrostar69 View Post
    Does Windows generate a new ID every time a hard disk is formatted and if so, how do I find this ID ?
    [...]
    I have never come across this before as most activation, I believe, is tied to the network card MAC address."
    You format logical volumes (often referred to as partitions), not hard disks. You could be referring to either the DiskID or perhaps the Volume Serial Number, so we need to use the proper terminology to avoid confusion.

    The "Volume Serial Number" is a pseudo-random string of four bytes in a partition's boot record, meant to more or less uniquely identify a partition. The VSN has been around since the DOS era. Formatting a partition usually regenerates a new VSN. However, some "quick-format" tools will leave the PBR alone and simply zero the file system's FATs or MFT, effectively erasing a partition without changing the VSN.

    The "DiskID" is sometimes called the "NT Serial Number", owing to the fact it was first introduced in Windows NT. It consists of four bytes in the hard disk's MBR sector. Whereas the VSN is used to uniquely identify a partition, the purpose of the DiskID is to uniquely identify a hard disk so Windows can tell one hard disk from another. (Windows NT/2K and later uses a signature derived from this DiskID and the sector location of the partition on the disk to "remember" previously assigned drive letters when booting.) The Windows process of "initializing" a hard disk writes the first sector of the disk, including the MBR bootstrap code, the partition table, and generating a pseudo-random DiskID.

    Wiping the MBR and reinitializing the hard disk writes a new DiskID for that hard disk. Reformatting a partition writes a new VSN for that partition, but not a new DiskID for the whole disk. However, installing/reinstalling Microsoft OS's have a nasty habit of always rewriting the MBR and generating a new DiskID, whether it's needed or not! So if you did more than just reformat and also reinstalled Windows, you would have ended up with both a new VSN and a new DiskID.

    Note that this has nothing to do, per se, with activation. Activation is a separate issue, and programmers can design an activation scheme around whatever they want. Microsoft's WPA activation scheme is based on a combination of hardware identifiers, including the network adapter's MAC address, hard disk identifier (probably the DiskID), CPU, and more. Third-party software developers can base an activation scheme on some, none, or completely different identifiers.

    It's not clear from your post whether the software in question generates an ID based on the DiskID or on the VSN, but it sounds like it's one or the other. Don't let yourself get distracted by the identifiers Microsoft uses for WPA.

    To protect yourself against disk-based activation or copy-protection schemes like this, it is possible to make a record of both the VSN and DiskID for later restoration. I believe there are a number of utilities around that can do that, though I'm old-school and prefer using a disk sector editor myself.

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    astrostar69 (2011-10-25)

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    Hi Guys,

    Many thanks for the responses and especially to dg1261 for the excellent reply which clarifies everything.

    I must admit to not being very pleased when told that the software activation process was tied to the hard disk ID - hard disks do fail eventually and if no record is made of the hard disk ID (which I doubt few people including myself would even know about), or full backup is made, then it would mean having to purchase another licence for the software. Not good.

    Anyway, once again, very many thanks to all for your help.

    Graham

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    I must admit to not being very pleased when told that the software activation process was tied to the hard disk ID
    I've never heard of that either but it is very bad behavior. Only thing I've heard of that's similar is Adobe would write to the zero sector, which should be off limits to an application unless by its actions it has to write to the zero sector, which is the case of TruCrypt when using whole disk encryption. NOT good when installing Adobe overwrote parts of the TruCrypt info; better have the rescue disc or it was curtains for that drive. Don't know if they still do that or not...I just heard all about it from a Security Now episode.

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    Regardless of the ID, the software manufacturer should provide you with a new activation key for free, once you explained what happened. Microsoft does this with its own software, so why don't other manufacturers do the same?

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    For anyone curious, try this: open a command-prompt window and type "dir c:\1". You'll see a brief response that includes the VSN of that particular partition. (Aside: the "1" is just a way to avoid getting a long scrolling list of filenames. Assuming you don't actually have a file named "1", you'll instead get "File not found.")


    Quote Originally Posted by ruirib View Post
    Regardless of the ID, the software manufacturer should provide you with a new activation key for free, once you explained what happened. Microsoft does this with its own software, so why don't other manufacturers do the same?
    Disk-based copy-protection schemes are not uncommon in vertical market applications. I have a number of clients in the real estate, mortgage, and cpa industries, and occasionally come across industry proprietary apps that use schemes of this type.

    At least in this industry, most software vendors don't seem to be against giving you a new ID key -- if they still support the software. But problems occur when the vendor has gone out of business, or has been bought out by another company, or has a new version out they want you to buy.

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