Windows Vista Review Delayed, Defective Product Key

We were all set to post a review of Windows Vista in-time for launch… read more for the part of the review that has caused the delay. Essentially, we were given a defective product key from Microsoft, but you’ll see the details of Vista’s “revised” activation process. We hope to have a full review of Windows Vista as soon as Microsoft corrects defective key.

Update: The problem has been fixed, and we found a Vista bug! Turns out, clicking Activate Windows Online Now (as shown by hitting read more) does not tell Windows to accept the key entered. Only clicking Next does, where both buttons should parse the new key.

Activation Rears Its Ugly Head

As I was wrapping up this review, I decided to activate the copy of Vista (final, RTM, not a beta). Vista offers several activation methods, including ones to be rolled out in the future (such as an SMS method where you send your installation ID into a text message, and get a reply with your confirmation ID).

However, my key is deemed “invalid” by the activation process. Worse, the phone number given is now totally automated (with XP you are transferred to a representative if you have trouble activating). Meaning, as I write this review from my MacBook, my PC will be locked out from use in about an hour.

Click to enlarge…

Yes, that’s right, I’m finishing my review of Vista about to stare at a screen that says I can’t use it anymore… because it won’t activate. When Apple touts that they don’t make Mac OS X users go through Activation, you don’t think it’s a matter of comparison until it hits you when you need to use your PC the most.

I’m sure that my contacts at Microsoft will fix this, issue me a new key, and I’ll be back in business. Hopefully not having to reinstall. But I don’t review things with “contacts at Microsoft” in mind. What happens when a typical user runs into a problem like this? What happens when the phone number simply hangs up on them because the key won’t activate? What happens when someone is locked out of their system and has no immediate escalation at Microsoft?

Vista’s worse problem is Activation. Windows Genuine Advantage is the other component, where if a copy of Windows is deemed pirated post-activation, certain features are limited (such as Aero user interface effects). That’s fine. But I’m locked out of my computer… that’s not fine.

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