Product Activation and Vista

My installation of Vista just decided to deactivate itself.  One moment, I was happily managing the arcade machine over VNC, and the next, I get a popup message in the corner.  “There has been a signficant hardware change and Windows must be reactivated.”, or something to that effect.  When I clicked on the bubble, the activation screen said I needed to activate today or enter ‘reduced functionality mode’.  My copy of Vista is legit and not OEM, and I hadn’t made any huge hardware changes recently.  So I tried to reactivate and was told my key is already in use.

 After a call to Product Activation Support (aka Microsoft India), I was back up and running, but was left with the question “Why did this happen all of a sudden?”  A couple ideas crossed my mind.  I replaced all 3 hard drives about 3 weeks ago.  However, because of the RAID setup, Windows would have only seen the addition of a single drive, not a replacement.  I also added a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.  For a while, Windows did see the Bluetooth adapter as a network connection.  But why would it take 3 weeks to deactivate?  I also updated my video card drivers this past weekend.  But driver updates are so routine that it doesn’t seem that would count as a hardware change.

I decided to dig into Event Viewer.  The problem is quickly apparent.  My Application Log is filled with “Hardware changed” errors from the “Security-Licensing-SLC” source.  It reported 4 hardware changes in the 14 seconds leading up to the validation error in Event Viewer.   In fact, it has reported 23 hardware changes today alone.  Which is pretty slick considering I’ve been at work all day.

Why has it started doing this, and does it go back to days or weeks prior?  I’ll have to do a bit more digging to find out.  But if this keeps up, I’m going to be on a first-name basis with the guys from India by the end of the week.