Microsoft will feed Windows Vista users an update in the next week to finger illegal copies installed with cracks that the company will bust when it rolls out Service Pack 1 (SP1) in mid-March.
The just-announced update, which will go out via Windows Update (WU) and install automatically on most Vista machines, will detect two cracks commonly used to activate pirated copies of the operating system. The cracks evade Vista's built-in counterfeit-detection technology by sidestepping product activation and spoofing a legitimate installation.
One of the cracks, "Grace Timer," extends Vista's activation grace period, which is normally 30 days, until the year 2099. The other, called OEM BIOS, modifies system files and the PC's BIOS to mimic the product activation done by computer-makers at the factory.
Both will be blocked by Vista SP1, the major update that will hit WU as an optional download in mid-March and automatically download and install the next month.
February's Vista update, however, will only detect cracks, notify the user and offer up a solution, said Alex Kochis, senior product manager for Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program, in a post to the team's blog. It will not disable, block or cripple the cracks.
"It's important to note that this update does not disable the exploits it finds," said Kochis. "It simply alerts customers that exploits exist." At the same time it rolls out the crack-detection update, Microsoft will also post a separate removal tool for download, Kochis added. "In the future, we will integrate the removal of the exploits with the detection," he said.