When some people use Windows without paying for it, Microsoft's honest customers wind up covering their tab. And they don't just pay for it in higher prices that reflect losses due to theft. The bigger collateral damage of Windows piracy now comes from the enforcement systems Microsoft has built into its own software.
These tools are supposed to make using a bogus copy of Windows irritating or impossible. Messages will nag you about not running a genuine copy, parts of Windows may stop working, and you may even be locked out of your own computer. Eventually, you'll break down and break out the credit card. That can be fair, in theory. But as carried out in Windows -- especially Windows Vista -- it creates two problems for honest users.
First, this scrutiny never ends. It's not enough to authenticate a new Windows setup once. You must keep passing these tests. It's as if the Costco clerk who checks your receipt on the way out of the store follows up by visiting your house every month to verify that you don't have stolen goods.
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