Monday, June 8, 2009



I virtualized my Thinkpad today. I basically skinnied it down and ran the VMWARE Convert utility on it. By skinnying down I mean that I deleted my "My Documents" folder and other folders with my files on them, since I am keeping those on the Mac now.

Here was the snag de jour.

When I brought up the VM on VMWare Fusion, it wanted me to activate windows. What the...?

It turns out that there was an issue with the Product Key because of the way Windows XP was installed on the Thinkpad. Here was the story in bullets:

  • Ran vmware converter
  • Booted the image in vmware fusion 2 on the mac
  • Got the dreadful activation screen where Windows logs you out until you successfully re-activate (I've gotten this before when I've had to have my system board replaced)
  • The activation wizard wanted me to type in the product key
  • Typed in the product key on the genuine windows sticker on the bottom of the laptop
  • Activation refused me
  • Called Microsoft to activate over the phone (becuase they told me I would talk to a Microsoft specialist, which was a lie, it was a female computer)
  • The Microsoft computer that sounded like a woman told me that I was SOL, and that I better call my vendor
  • Called Lenovo to ask them what the deal was
  • In the ensuing 15 minutes the friendly Lenovo support guy (no sarcasm--this guy was actually intelligent, reasonable, and helpful) and I determined that this was due to the way Windows XP was installed.
  • (You have to purchase Vista on a new computer, but because Vista sucks so bad, Microsoft conceded with Lenovo and other PC vendors to offer a free downgrade to XP, which I did)
  • So the product key for the operating system, the one on the bottom of the laptop, is for Vista, but the OS that is installed on the laptop is Windows XP*, which is somehow considered "legal" and "authorized" but not "valid".
  • So I scrounged around my office, trying several product keys from my dozen or so copies of Windows XP that I've bought and am not using until I found one that worked.
  • Maybe the police will show up and arrest me for software piracy tomorrow (gimme a beat--I'm hearing don't copy / don't copy that floppy / don't copy in my head)
*Here's some more information on the process by which you do the "free downgrade to Windows XP": You boot the laptop to DVD, which loads the product recovery disc software onto the machine, and then runs it. Running it completely wipes out the hard drive, re-partitions it, adds a "Lenovo recovery partition" that is absolutely worthless and eats up 8GB of space, installs a bunch of drivers and utility programs, automatically enters the windows product code, and automatically activates Windows XP. And herein lies the achilles heel of this approach. Because Vista is so bad that they have to let people do the free downgrade, and because the product key for the downgrade operating system is embedded in this product recovery program somehow (and not on a sticker on the bottom of the computer), you will never be able to see what your actual product key is. You're flying blind. Apparently that's fine, and everything works as expected. Until you try to run your operating system virtually.

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