Users running pirated copies of Windows 8 Pro can reportedly upgrade to a fully licensed and permanently activated version of the OS by simply installing a free Windows 8 Media Center upgrade offered by Microsoft.
The relatively simple technique that essentially allows users to get Windows 8 Pro for free was described late Tuesday on Reddit by a user named "noveleven" who claims to have successfully tried it out. At least one other Reddit user confirmed that it works in the same discussion thread.
Microsoft currently allows Windows 8 Pro users to gain the Windows Media Center (WMC) feature set for free by downloading and installing a Windows 8 Media Center pack from its website. This offer was launched on 26 October and is scheduled to run until 13 January 2013.
Users only have to register with a valid email address and they will receive a valid product key which they can use during the upgrade.
Upgrade process doesn't check if the key is valid
However, the problem is that the upgrade process doesn't check if the existing product key is valid or not, as long as the system appears to be activated, noveleven said.
Users who install Windows 8 Pro without paying for a license currently activate their systems by using rogue KMS (Key Management Service) servers that accept any product key as valid.
KMS was designed to allow enterprises with a Microsoft volume license agreement to activate new Windows installations using a server located on their internal network.
KMS-based activation is temporary and has to be renewed every 180 days. However, it seems that after applying the free WMC upgrade and using the unique product key supplied by Microsoft, the temporary KMS activation, whether legitimate or rogue, becomes permanent.
No response yet from Microsoft
"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)," noveleven said in the Reddit thread. "After installing the upgrade, the window just says 'Windows was activated on...' and the date of activation. That means the activation is permanent."
Noveleven did not give instructions on how to obtain a pirated copy of Windows 8 and activate it using a rogue KMS server in detail. However, this information can easily be found on various Internet forums.
On one particular forum, users have been discussing the permanent WMC-upgrade-based activation technique described by Noveleven since 28 October, two days after Microsoft started offering the Windows 8 Media Center pack for free.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.