The Activation FAQ

Software activation raises a lot of questions. What are you disclosing? What are your rights? We have the answers.

When Microsoft released Office XP, users were suddenly faced with having to "activate" the product in addition to entering a valid product key. That proprietary activation scheme helped Microsoft cut down on piracy, but it raised privacy concerns among users. Much of the fervor eventually died down, however, until late 2002 when Intuit shipped its new version of TurboTax, which also required activation. Outraged users—including many who voiced their anger on our sister site, ExtremeTech—complained that this prevented them from using the product as they had in the past, that it interfered with their PCs, and that it was an imposition in time and resources.

Adding fuel to the fire, Intuits tech support was hard to find and less than stellar in its response. Intuit will no longer use activation, but with household names such as Adobe, Macromedia, and Symantec all incorporating some kind of digital-rights scheme into many of their latest releases, activation is clearly here to stay. How will this affect your computing life? We give you the answers below.