Killing Windows 8.1

29 Nov

What happens when two fools collide? Yesterday I found out.

When Windows 8 was released, unlike Windows 7, it no longer came with Windows Media Centre as standard. This made some sense, as few people use Media Centre, yet every copy costs Microsoft a few dollars in licencing costs for the CODECs. However, those of us that do use it are quite passionate about the product, so to placate those users, such as myself, you could register for a registration key to add it to Windows 8 for free.

Media Centre is classed as a different Windows SKU, so the key is actually a replacement product key for Windows itself.

I registered for four keys, one each for my laptop and desktop, and two spare for future devices.

It seems I wasn’t the only one to request more keys than I could use, and realising (not unfairly) that this was costing money and damaging future revenue stream, Microsoft revealed that any unused keys would become invalid after 1st February 2013.

Fast forward to earlier today, and I decided it would be nice to have media centre available on the Surface. “ah”, I thought, “I have an unused key. If it’s been deactivated it won’t let me apply the update”

Sure enough I as able to enter the key and Media Centre was duly installed, then the machine rebooted.

Everything looked fine. The lock screen had been reset to the default, but all my apps and settings were intact, and Media Center was listed in the application list. So I went into the settings to fix the lock screen.

Then I noticed what had happened.

An ominous message was present on the screen informing me that I couldn’t personalise Windows until it was activated.

So it seems the upgrade checks the key to see what type of additional features are being added to Windows, applies the update (resulting in the new product key being applied), and only after all this is completed does the system check the key is still valid.

Great, thanks.

Remember, this was a key I got directly from Microsoft, it’s not a pirated key, although I should stress again that it had expired, so I’m not completely blameless.

So I now had an unlicensed copy of Windows, with no obvious way of rolling it back, especially since the surface does not come supplied with a licence key anywhere. Off to the internets for advice then…

One of the suggestions was to purchase a key for Media Centre. I was a bit worried about it not working (after all, I would essentially be trying to apply a $10 key to an apparently pirated version of $150 software), so when the message telling me I couldn’t upgrade online because I’m in the UK appeared, I wasn’t overly worried (although I do wonder how I will get a legitimate key going forward).

Other suggestions involved editing the registry, re-installing Windows and performing a refresh. I did the refresh , but it just deleted my desktop applications (as expected) leaving the invalid key intact.

So next I made a call to Microsoft. After navigating the list of options, I finally chose correctly and after a few minutes was connected to somebody who tried to help me.

I should take some time out to say that everyone I spoke to was incredibly polite. The main contact, a man called Chris, went through some steps with me and eventually he got to a point where I had an activation ID (apparently running slui 4 from the command line does the trick) which I could then use to try and re-activate Windows via telephone. He left me to try this and promised to call back 15 minutes later.

So I then duly followed the new onscreen instructions, entered the 54 digits via the telephone keypad, and sure enough…. it didn’t work.

So I tried again, the second time I accidentally typed in an incorrect code about half way through, so hung up and tried again.

Third time lucky? No. I was once again told I was potentially running pirated software.

Shortly afterwards Chris called back, and apologised as further research on his part had revealed that this method would fail, however he had (as part of that research) discovered that he now had to hand the case over to the engineers, who would get back to me in two or three working days with a solution.

Chris took a few more details off me and confirmed some others, then promised to get back to me if they hadn’t called within three days.

So here I am now, running an un-activated copy of Windows and waiting for Microsoft to get back to me.

The whole process has been a bit painful, primarily I don’t understand why I need to wait up to three days to get this fixed, but I haven’t complained too much as it was partly my fault, and frankly the Microsoft support personnel have been nothing but polite and attempted to help.

I do feel that Microsoft should take some of the blame for letting the installation go through in the first place though. If they had only checked the key up front first, we would never have ended up here.

I’ll update (either in the comments, or if anything interesting happens in a new post) with how I get on.


2 Responses to “Killing Windows 8.1”

  1. imorital December 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Well, on Tuesday afternoon, 3 working days after contacting the Microsoft support team, I contacted them again to find out why I hadn’t heard anything back.

    Again the guy I spoke to was apologetic and said that the response time I should have been quoted was 3 to 5 working days (not 2-3 as I had previously been told).

    It’s 15:20 on day 6 now, still nothing.

    Oh Microsoft, you were doing so well…


  1. Killing A Surface Pro 2 | Imorital Tech Blog - December 11, 2013

    […] my previous post, Killing Windows 8, I wrote about how I had managed to de-activate the copy of Windows installed on my Surface Pro 2, […]

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