I sometimes stumble across computers running counterfeit copies of Windows Vista, 7 and less commonly XP. In most cases, these are machines that have been upgraded by a friend who “knows a lot about computers.” Whether this is because the original machine needed its hard disk wiping due to virus infestation or the hard drive itself had failed. In many cases, a genuine copy of Windows is replaced by a more “premium” counterfeit copy, usually Vista or 7 Ultimate. I can only guess at the reasoning bethind this. It must be because the “friend” has downloaded this cracked copy and can install it on multiple computers. At first glance, this sounds appealing, as it is usually done “on the cheap” and you get enhanced features.
The advantages offered by Ultimate editions over the standard “home premium” or “Business/Professional” editions are seldom used by the average user. For Windows 7, this is:
- BitLocker – whole drive encryption (the freeware TrueCrypt is highly regarded if you need this functionality)
So in 99% of cases, you can install your genuine copy of Windows and it will do what you need without using counterfeit software with the risks detailed below.
1) Windows updates. Counterfeit Windows software generally works by preventing Windows from activating or by preventing the process detecting activation. You can run into trouble downloading updates, which will render the computer vulnerable to exploits often found on malicious webpages, such as phishing sites (these are sites that appear to come from the likes of Paypal or a bank etc and get you to enter your password so they can steal it)
2) Malware – often cracked copies of Windows come with sneaky malware (viruses or trojans) attached. Often these are undetectable to antivirus software, as they are installed first, with Windows and then they hide themselves very well.
Many end users are grateful to their friend for helping them out of a spot, and I can’t blame them. I would blame PC vendors for not providing installation DVDs for people who need to reinstall. Its all very well to provide a recovery utility on the hard disk, until the hard disk fails! In most cases, you can contact the tech support of the PC supplier and buy a replacement disk (usually for much less than a new copy of Windows e.g £20) This is one way to stay safe and legit. Another is to contact a PC technician like me, who keeps a set of disks, and can install using your genuine licence key.