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'Rearm' trick extends Office 2010 free ride to 180 days

Microsoft confirms supported command extends activation-free grace period

May 14, 2010 03:54 PM ET

Computerworld - Office 2010 can be used for up to 180 days without providing a product activation key, Microsoft confirmed today.

Although Microsoft generally touts a 30-day time limit for users to activate their copies of the company's software, including Windows, a little-known command designed for corporate administrators can be used by anyone to "reset" the Office 2010 countdown up to five times.

The company confirmed that a short command, which is documented on its TechNet support site, resets the activation timer in Office 2010, which officially launched Wednesday but won't reach retail shelves until June 15. Companies with volume license agreements can get Office 2010 now.

Microsoft typically allows users to install and run Office or Windows for up to 30 days without requiring a product activation key, the 25-character string that proves the copy is legitimate. During the 30-day grace period, the software works as if it has been activated. As the grace period shrinks, however, messages appear on the screen reminding the user to activate the product.

In Office 2010, the messages change on the 25th day after installation. At some point, the Office 2010 title bar also turns red.

But by running a file named "ospprearm.exe," users can reset the time-until-activation to 30 days. The file is located in the folder "%installdir%\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\OfficeSoftwareProtectionPlatform," where ""%installdir%" is "C:" on most machines.

The technique, dubbed "rearm" as a nod to the command used in Windows, can be used up to five times. If users perform the rearm at the end of each 30-day period, they can run Office 2010 for a total of 180 days without having to supply an activation key.

According to a Microsoft spokeswoman, who replied to questions via e-mail, the rearm feature is aimed at enterprise administrators who use a single copy, or "image," to deploy a supported operating system and accompanying software on hundreds or thousands of PCs.

As IT administrators prepare the image, however, the activation clock continues to tick down. By the time the image is copied to a company machine, the counter may have reached the point where the activation messages appear.

"Say you have another 500 computers you want to deploy six months from now," the Microsoft spokeswoman said. "You want to use the same image [as before]. The problem here is that Office is smart enough to know that you [first] installed Office in May, but now it's November. So when users first boot up Office, they see the red title bar telling them they haven't activated. This is not a good user experience."

Rearm lets administrators build the image, then as a final step, reset the activation grace timer. "Now, whenever the administrator has new computers coming in, he can just deploy that image. When users start Office for the first time, the grace timer begins, and users have 25 days before they get a dialog telling them they're not activated."



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