Imagine if a car thief walked into a dealership and was handed the keys to a new automobile, no questions asked. That would be too easy, right? Well, that's essentially what Microsoft did with Windows 8 Pro when users went to claim their free copy of the Windows Media Center upgrade. One of the unintentional side effects of applying the upgrade is that it permanently activates Windows 8, Venture Beat reports.
Wait a tick, don't you need an activated copy of Windows 8 Pro to get the upgrade in the first place? That's an astute observation, but those prickly pirates are a resourceful bunch who quickly figured out that they could use the Windows Media Center upgrade in conjunction with Microsoft's Key Management Service (KMS), which gives temporary access to Windows 8. KMS activates Windows for 180 days and is intended to make it easier for IT admins to deploy the new OS on computers throughout a local network. KMS client computers must renew their activation by connecting to the KMS host every 180 days.
"When you activate Windows via KMS, in the activation window it says 'Windows is activated until...' and a date (so if you were to install it today, it would say it's activated until May). After installing the upgrade, the window just says 'Windows was activated on...' and the date of activation. That means the activation is permanent. When you install the upgrade key, that replaces the existing product key; only the new upgrade key is used for future checks. Windows won't check the key you used to install because it no longer has it."
There already exists pirate KMS servers that dole out activation keys, and until Microsoft fixes the flaw (likely soon, if not already, given the media attention this gaffe is receiving), it appears those activations can now become permanent.