New Laptop: Windows 8 Hyper-V Platform breaks OEM Pre-activation

I have been looking forward to getting a new laptop for some time. I dithered over whether to get a Microsoft Surface, but decided that ACS Solutions is basically a development shop, and I need more power. The surface RT is OK for a bit of Office, except it’s useless until we have Outlook 2013 RT. I hear it’s coming in 8.1, so I may still get one, especially since the recent price drop.

The Surface Pro is super-expensive, has taken ages to make it to the UK and is only just adequate for running Visual Studio, and will really struggle if it has to run SQL Server, Progress OpenEdge (euch!), IIS 7.5, etc. And the battery life is not quite there yet. I suspect a Surface Pro 2 with Haswell and at least 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM would sway me.

That said, I bought an intriguing machine: a 12” ultrabook, with carbon fibre shell, 256GB SSD, 3rd-gen Core-i7 (Ultra low power – so only dual core), 8 GB RAM, Full HD 400 nit touchscreen display (Corning Gorilla Glass), that converts to a (clunky) tablet: the Dell XPS 12. So far I love it. The backlit keyboard is nice to use, although I still can’t touch type. The lack of ports can be compensated for: I carry a USB3 to Gigabit Ethernet dongle, a USB to Serial dongle and a Mini-DisplayPort to DP/HDMI/DVI-D. They’re flogging them off in spades in the Dell Outlet at around half the retail price, so I paid under £600+VAT, which I think is OK. The Haswell-powered version has already been announced, hence I suspect they’re shifting the old stock. I get 4-5 hours battery life, which is OK, and unlike the Surface where everything is glued together, they’re replaceable, so it’s all good.

Anyway, the technical point is this, Windows 8 finds it’s product key in the BIOS. A tool like Read & Write – see – can dig out the MSDM record from the BIOS. This is what mine looked like:

Signature “MSDM”
Length 0x00000055 (85)
Revision 0x03 (3)
Checksum 0x4B (75)
OEM Table ID “CL09 ”
OEM Revision 0x00000001 (1)
Creator ID “ASL ”
Creator Revision 0x00040000 (262144)
Version 0x00000001 (1)
Reserved 0x00000000 (0)
Data Type 0x00000001 (1)
Data Reserved 0x00000000 (0)
Data Length 0x0000001D (29)

…where the X’s are Dell’s OEM Pre-Activation volume licence key.

The software detects the MSDM record, and also information about the machine that qualifies for that key, so you can’t just copy it. I think some of that is in the DSDT (Differentiated System Description Table) record, but I’m not sure.

Anyway, it all went wrong when I installed the Hyper-V role from “Turn Windows Features on or off”

Windows Features Dialog

This installs the Hyper-V server bits, but that means that even the “Host” OS (i.e. Windows 8) is actually a guest of the Hypervisor. And that means it has a different hardware footprint. And that means Windows 8 no longer likes the activation, and won’t re-activate, because it thinks the hardware have been tampered with:

Event Viewer, Application Event Log, Security-SPP, Warnings:

Some data has been reset. 0x00000000 [1].
Some data has been reset. 0x00000000 [2].
The system has been tampered. 0xC004D317
Installation of the Proof of Purchase from the ACPI table failed. Error code: 0xC004F025

Predictably, turning the “Hyper-V Platform” off re-enables the automatic activation.

As ACS Solutions is a fully paid up Microsoft Solution Provider, we have access to a reasonable number of in-house licences of Windows 8 Enterprise which don’t rely on OEM Pre Activated product keys in the BIOS. Unfortunately, the built-in upgrade feature doesn’t like our product key, so for now I won’t be using Hyper-V on this machine, but if this was a hoofing great desktop I’d bought from Dell (or any other manufacturer for that matter) with OEM PreActivation, I’d be seriously narked about this.

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