[RndTbl] Windows activation on Linux VM host?

John Lange john at johnlange.ca
Fri Jan 22 00:35:58 CST 2021

I'll offer up my non-expert opinion and say that you will be fine with a
single VM on removable media running Windows10 regardless of which machine
you fire it up on. My reasoning is straight forward; it is very much common
practice to have virtual environments with many physical hosts and to move
VMs between hosts on a regular basis. Granted that is a more complex
environment that just removable media but the concept is the same. Moving
VMs between physical hosts is afterall one of the whole points of
virtualizing so if Windows10 stopped working everytime you did that what
would be the point?

As far as testing goes, I have in the past had Windows VMs on a Linux
workstation and when I upgraded to a newer system I just copied the VMs
over and fired them up on the new machine, no problem. (this was Windows7,
but I expect W10 would be the same).

However, the one thing that I don't believe will work is to P2V a
workstation that was purchased with Windows10 already on it. That version
of Windows is OEM licensing and I believe it still has very specific terms
that the license lives and dies on the original hardware only. I'm sure you
can P2V it and it will run, but it may complain? That being said I'm sure
there is a way to re-activate it by buying the proper Windows10 license.


On Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 11:28 PM Alberto Abrao <alberto at abrao.net> wrote:

> On 2021-01-21 10:03 p.m., Trevor Cordes wrote:
> On 2021-01-21 Kevin McGregor wrote:
> Oops! Brain tired. Should read "If the two Linux hosts have the same
> CPUs (manufacturer and gen) you should have no problem".
> Yes, in this case the physical hardware would be identical.
> Means nothing. There's still the GUID of the mainboard, which is very much
> different even when everything else is the same.
> However, there is conflict between Alberto's & Kevin's answers... has
> anyone actually tried it?
> I do have experience with Windows and its activation perks... mostly for
> the consumer version, which incidentally is what you want.
> And for sure you weren't using a corporate Windows license key?  (And
> not a Server version either.)  I recall hearing something like Alberto
> said re: non-corporate Windows detecting it was in a VM and complaining.
> I am less concerned about the "being on a VM" and more about "making sure
> you have a reliable anchor for it". It would not matter for a sitting duck,
> but you want to dance around with it. I am reasonably sure that you don't
> want to be typing lengthy codes on your phone when calling the Microsoft
> Activation Hotline. (Thank you for calling Microsoft! Which product would
> you like to activate? Please say Windows, Office, ... ugh).
> Even then, we want to abide to Microsoft's terms.
> And here (
> https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Useterms/Retail/Windows/10/UseTerms_Retail_Windows_10_English.htm)
> we find:
> *b.*      *Device.* In this agreement, “device” means a hardware system
> (whether physical or virtual) with an internal storage device capable of
> running the software. A hardware partition or blade is considered to be a
> device.
> (iv)    *Use in a virtualized environment*. This license allows you to
> install only one instance of the software for use on one device, whether
> that device is physical or virtual. If you want to use the software on more
> than one virtual device, you must obtain a separate license for each
> instance.
> Keep in mind I am not a lawyer (really? lol). Now, as with everything
> Microsoft licensing, this is ambiguous enough to have you thread the grey
> area if you have a single licence for the dancing VM, as it states a device
> meaning a *hardware *system, physical or virtual. It does mention "one
> virtual device", and we can argue that we are talking about a single
> virtual environment , even though it sometimes travels between different
> hosts. Now, we are talking about consumer, retail versions here, so I may
> not be grasping at straws when I point this. That said, keep in mind that I
> am not a lawyer (you don't say? :D), so my opinion is worth...yeah. That
> said, stay with me.
> Even assuming that would be perfectly legit, you still have the problem of
> keeping the activation when changing hardware. The virtual environment may
> be abstract enough that it does not detect enough of a change and just
> pretends nothing ever happened. Or it does smell a rat and asks for
> activation. Well, please see above if that happens. In this case, if our
> assumption is right, it would be OK for licensing, but not nice at all to
> administrate.
> I guess the big part of the question is, if Windows doesn't have a
> blanket anti-VM block in it, how much of the host hw id info really
> does "seep" into to guest...
> As much as you let in, for KVM at least.
> The problem here that testing it might "waste" a paid Windows license.
> Even if we bought 2 licenses and activated twice, I'm not convinced the
> activation code won't get angry at going back and forth between the 2
> boxes.
> It will not, because the code goes to Microsoft only once. When you pass
> the tables like I described on my previous email, it results in a hash that
> Windows is able to pass onto the activation servers.
> - Hardware hash is passed to Microsoft activation servers.
> - If there is no key tied to it, it reports "not activated". Boo. Gimme
> key!
> - You have the key in. Let's say, Pro version.
> - Key is now tied to the hash.
> - You're activated!
> So now you nuke it from orbit and start fresh. Same process happen again,
> but this time:
> - Hardware hash is passed to Microsoft activation servers.
> - Uncle Bill says: "oh, I remember you! You have a licence here, but let's
> talk first: what are you, really?"
> - "I am a Pro, dude, but I have no l33t codes on me, sry"
> - "Just as I remembered. Sweet! I remember your l33t codes from times gone
> by, no need to bore me again. Here, a cookie. Off you go."
> - Activated!
> And that alone is *enough*. With that, it quickly finds out if you're
> activated or not, and off it goes. No key, no rearm, nothing. You will
> *never* be prompted for a key if there is a valid licence tied to your
> hardware's hash, thus, by passing the SLIC bits to the VM, and that
> physical hardware having a good valid Windows 10 licence previously
> activated with Microsoft, it will just take care of itself. Done. You will
> never type a key for that hardware ever again, assuming you 1) never
> phone-activate the key on another device, thus revoking the authorization
> for the one to which it is tied (true for RETAIL versions, keep that in
> mind, as OEM licences are not able to be revoked in this manner, at least
> theoretically); and 2) use the same version of Windows (e.g. Windows 10 Pro
> key = Windows 10 Pro install. Home = Home. You get the idea).
> That also means that both machines would have a Windows licence *tied to
> their hardware*, which could be used even after the VM setup is no longer
> warranted, either for another VM, or for a bare metal install should it
> ever be repurposed as a beefy workstation, for example.
> Now, it remains to be seen if that's feasible using VirtualBox. As I said,
> one is able to do that with KVM.
> Man, do I hate Windows and non-FLOSS.  Maybe I need to see if my
> customer could instead forget Windows and make everything work in
> WINE...
> As you mentioned WINE, I suggest you investigate that and see if he is
> happy. If that is not an option, let me know and we can research something
> that is sure to steer your client far away from uncle Bill's fury.
> Kind regards,
> Alberto Abrao
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John Lange
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