It appears that quite a few Windows XP installations have been activated using FCKGW. These are the first few letters of a popular Windows Product Key that was suppose to be used by a major PC maker for volume licensing and was instead leaked to the public domain.
This may not sound like a major problem, but many unsuspecting users have illegal installs of XP that have been activated using this key. Microsoft has banned this particular product key from downloading updates at the Microsoft website, which will make it impossible for a user to maintain their system. One option is to buy a legitimate copy of XP and follow the instructions from Microsoft but it is quite likely that even this will not work. After you have exhausted this avenue, you can either spend $200 to get the full retail version of XP or visit Dell and pickup a new Dimension for $299.
Of course, it may be that you already have a legitimate copy of Windows, but that your OEM install has been polluted by one of these rogue licenses. Hopefully you still have your original Windows media, or the partition on your hard drive with the media has not been lost yet.
While it is understandable that Microsoft wants to protect itself from piracy, the wide assortment of XP key generators seems to make this implausible. These kinds of restrictions only make it difficult for unsuspecting users that are victims of these pirates. Not only do the victims get robbed when they buy their system, but they are then forced to spend another $200 on a legitimate copy of XP when they discover the version they have won’t work.
Of course, there is nothing in the registration mechanism to prevent Microsoft from restricting more product keys in the future. How safe does that make you feel? There is no need to take this out on the consumer, the focus should be on distributors and resellers to enforce these stringent licensing requirements.