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Mass Effect DRM Still Causing Issues 593

Posted by kdawson
from the three-strikes-and-you're-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There was some discussion last month about the proposed DRM for Mass Effect and Spore that required the game to phone home every ten days. They backed down from that, but have left in that a user is only allowed 3 activations per license key. A license key is burned up when the O/S is reinstalled, when certain hardware is upgraded (EA refuses to disclose specifics of what), and possibly when a new user is set up in Windows. Only in its first month, some users are already locked out of their games from trying troubleshooting techniques to get the game running."
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Mass Effect DRM Still Causing Issues

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  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:01PM (#23830085)
    Why the heck should I buy that crap? No game is good enough to make me jump hoops like a circus lion. Personally, I'd feel insulted. I get to cry, rant and rave, spend my time and money trying to find a solution to their copy protection problem, while I watch others play the cracked and downloaded copies.

    Is that the message I should get out of this? Buy and cry, but copy and enjoy?
  • by Krinsath (1048838) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:10PM (#23830297)
    The same that I've sadly come to the conclusion about many times. Your best bet is to buy the game, stick the box on the shelf and then use the pirated version. I'm all for creators receiving compensation for their work because they work hard and pour themselves into their work, but at the same time I'm not going to let their (or more correctly their publisher's) paranoia about what might happen to their software deny me the goods/service I paid for. As the a sage bit of advice goes, the people who were going to steal your product were never going to be your customers and generally going to draconian lengths to stop them will make your actual customers steal your product because it's less hassle than the legitimate version. SecuROM in particular has been a grievous offender in this regard.

    I'm not sure where they got the idea that treating their legitimate customers to a worse experience than the ones who steal their product was all that smart, but I'm pretty sure it was from the same think tank that told the RIAA that suing their customers would be good for business.
  • 3 activations?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sokkalf (542999) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:12PM (#23830341) Homepage
    I still have old games I install from time to time, most notably the Baldur's Gate series.. They have survived tens, if not hundreds of OS (re)installations (including getting them running in WINE, virtual machines etc) and various computers I've had over the years. With a limit like this, I certainly wouldn't have bought it again, but probably pirated it.
  • Re:Spore... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mascot (120795) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:13PM (#23830371)
    At least Bioshock and Mass Effect have used it so far. Unless enough people protested by not buying those, I don't see why they'd remove it from Spore.

    It's a pity, but a lot of people either are ignorant about the DRM, or don't care. Obviously they never bought music from an online store that since shut down.
  • by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:17PM (#23830457)
    Yup -- that's why I'll put up with Steam, but not with SecuROM: Steam is convenient; it reinstalls my games for me if I replace my hardware, prevents me from needing to keep track of physical media and CD keys and whatnot, and (ever since I've had it, at least -- I didn't get on the bandwagon at first release) Just Works; the only thing I worry about is whether I'll be able to fire up my old games and go for a trip down nostalgia lane 20 years from now when the good folks at Valve have gone on to other things.

    SecuROM, on the other hand...
  • by Bert64 (520050) <[moc.eeznerif.todhsals] [ta] [treb]> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:20PM (#23830537) Homepage
    Like many such schemes...
    The radio in my car requires entering a code every time the battery is disconnected, as the legitimate owner of the car i have forgotten the code and gone to considerable expense to get it recoded...
    The guy who recoded it didn't take very long, neither i suspect would a thief. So only the legitimate user gets inconvenienced, anyone who steals the radio will have a lot less problem with the "anti theft" mechanism than i have.
    On the other hand, my radio is obsolete (1995), a nonstandard size, and riveted and bolted into the car so it's not likely to get stolen anyway.
  • by eddy (18759) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:21PM (#23830547) Homepage Journal

    Developers without fail will publicly blame the publishers, neatly "forgetting" to mention that they, the developers, agree to the terms in the contract when they sign it, thereby validating it. If they really didn't want this DRM crap then they wouldn't leave control of it to the publishers, but they do, time and time again. Then they try to shift the blame.

    Us gamers need to realize this and not accept the weak excuses of developers who support these braindead DRM schemes.

    I don't know about the rest of the world, but I now do my PC game purchasing decisions based on DRM, moreso than price.

  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:22PM (#23830565) Homepage

    Also, DRM like this violates the Doctrine of First Sale [wikipedia.org] - you know, that little concept that if you buy a book, recording, or copy of a computer program, you can let your friends read it, listen to it, libraries can lend it out, etc. Any DRM which prevents lawful re-use of a legally purchased copy should itself be illegal, but of course our corrupt congress which only cares about pandering to rich lobbyists don't care about flushing a century of copyright law down the toilet.
    The law and precedent is clearly present now, but EA will never come around on this voluntarily. If someone were to take them to court over their restrictive licensing/authorization practices, it would take a while, but that would put a stop to it. As far as I know, companies that sell software that is clearly sold, not rented, must follow the first sale doctrine; a shrinkwrap "license" that specifies otherwise is simply illegal.

    But no one has really challenged this yet, and especially not in the case of games.
  • Just like my DVR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c0y (169660) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:29PM (#23830691) Homepage
    My Comcast (Motorola) DVR threw constant HDCP warnings when turned on, despite the fact that I had nothing but an HDMI cable between the DVR and my TV set.

    After the third consecutive week of being screwed out of watching South Park live (and paying over $150/month just for the television services) I returned the damn thing, and I now use Torrent to get ALL my TV content. When I find a decent ISP I'll be canceling the Comcast Internet too.

    I was more than happy to pay for the service. But when their copy protection continuously fucked me over (despite other markets getting firmware updates to fix this known problem more than a year prior) I decided to stop rewarding bad behavior.

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:30PM (#23830731) Homepage Journal
    Thats what they get for buying it instead of pirating it. The cracked version(s) don't have any problems like this.

    I think it's worth pointing out that the two methods (purchasing and cracking) aren't mutually exclusive. When a company adopts draconian (or just plain stupid) licensing tactics, you can still purchase the software (for legal, moral, etc reasons) and then proceed to download a crack for your copy or just a cracked one via "the usual places". It's not ideal and not perfect, but at least you can run the software you paid for.

    At my last job we had some software that required a hardware dongle attached to a license server. The problem was that the licensing software used some hacked-up bastardized version of NetBIOS which meant that only clients on the same subnet as the server could connect and authorize themselves. After weeks of haggling with the company and them refusing to fix their crappy licensing software ("It works for everyone else!") we just found a license crack online and applied it to all the client workstations.

    Were we legal enough to survive an audit? I have no idea, but we we were fully licensed for all the clients connected and I think that's what mattered.
  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:31PM (#23830743) Homepage
    Likewise I have had no problems with Direct2Drive. Perhaps surprisingly the DRM is from Macrovision, but Macrovision does actually take seriously the notion that DRM can be an enabling technology. No physical CD required? And good customer support (from the Trymedia backend)? Yup. And no activation hassles for multiple/reinstalls. It's surreal that Macrovision is now the "good guy" in the world of DRM.

    DRM doesn't have to be evil. But of course it can be.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:31PM (#23830749)
    I'm all for creators receiving compensation for their work because they work hard and pour themselves into their work

    That's the difference between you and me. I'm all for punishing dimwits who treat their customers as their enemies.

    My solution is to simply avoid buying and using the product. I'm sure others will only omit the first part. But no game is worth stepping into illegality.
  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:33PM (#23830781) Homepage
    I wonder what effect a pile of non obscene letters and email would have at Maxis. Would "the word" get down to EA?
  • It's EA... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BulletMagnet (600525) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:36PM (#23830825)
    Is anyone REALLY that surprised?

    Note to John Riccitiello and the meatheads at EA: Take a page from Brad Wardell and the folks at Stardock Entertainment - DRM doesn't work - his words were....

    "Blaming piracy is easy. But it hides other underlying causes. When Sins (of the Solar Empire) popped up as the #1 best selling game at retail a couple weeks ago, a game that has no copy protect whatsoever, that should tell you that piracy is not the primary issue."

    I love SotSE and it's about as hassle-free of a game as it gets. WHY does nobody else other then Wardell and his group get this?

     
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:37PM (#23830843)
    People will accept DRM and actually embrace it if it adds to their convenience. Of course, there's guys like me who won't touch it with a ten foot pole, no matter how convenient, but for the majority it can even be a selling point that you don't need to "prove" anything because all the proof is already there that you're a legitimate customer because it's in their files.

    That's how DRM can work. When you use the M in the acronym as "management" and not as the "mangle" it's been used usually.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @05:55PM (#23831069)
    Steam is convenient; it reinstalls my games for me if I replace my hardware, prevents me from needing to keep track of physical media and CD keys and whatnot, and (ever since I've had it, at least -- I didn't get on the bandwagon at first release) Just Works; the only thing I worry about is whether I'll be able to fire up my old games and go for a trip down nostalgia lane 20 years from now when the good folks at Valve have gone on to other things.

    I have a question about steam... how does it work if you have two computers (or more)? I mean if I buy Bejeweled, on my steam account, can my wife play it while I'm playing Civ?

    I don't really object to being prevented from playing a given purchased game on two different computers at the same time... but being prevented letting my wife or kids play play ANY OTHER steam game is unacceptable... if that's how it works.

    Currently I have 1 steam title (Portal) and I'm happy enough with the service but I'm hesitant to buy any more due to this fact.

    Its also apparently impossible to give other people your games when you are finished with them. I've lent purchased games to my brothers on many occasions, and I've got games I've borrowed from them.

    I realized this when I wanted to lend Portal to one of my brothers, and realized I couldn't because it was tied to my steam account... which isn't the end of the world, he's my brother and I trust him, and I could give him the userid/password for my steam account (in violation of the steam agreement of course)...

    but that means, that while my brother is playing portal, I wouldn't be abe to play any of my steam games? Again I could live with not being able to play it while he was, but I wouldn't be able to play ANYTHING?

    And worse... apparently they use some sort of ip tracking so if a steam account is accessed from widely different locations they'll ban the account -- so now if I 'lend' my brother my copy of portal, I'm locked out while he's using it and risk getting banned if we try to access the account at the same time. (as both my brothers live in different cities?)

    Is this correct? Or have I misunderstood how steam works?
  • Re:Spore... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc,famine&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:00PM (#23831113) Homepage Journal
    The problem is with the protest part: If enough people "protest" by not buying it, the "truth thermocline" (shamelessly stolen from a previous comment posted here today) will convert that into a "piracy" problem.

    As I understand it, it goes like this:
    CEO: Why are our sales low, Level 2 Exec? Is it piracy?
    Level 2 Exec: Why are our sales low, Level 3 Exec? Is it piracy?
    Level 3 Exec: Why are our sales low, mid-level manager who actually knows what's going on?
    Mid-level manager: Well, our DRM is so restrictive, it's locking out legitimate users. They're refusing to buy our product, because it's easier to pirate it.
    Level 3 Exec: Level 2 Exec - you were right, it's piracy.
    ...continues on up to the CEO

    This would stop if shareholders could grasp that "low sales means PIRATES!!!" actually means "the game sucked" or "our DRM was so bad that it drove legitimate users away". Unfortunately, the "truth thermocline" which exists a few levels down in management means that the real information about the problem almost never makes it to the top. And sadly enough, most of the information the shareholders get is from the people above this level.

    I mean, if you're making a couple of million a year, you're not going to tell the man that signs your paycheck that he's wrong, and that your product is a piece of shit, are you?
  • Re:DRM is pointless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bakedpatato (1254274) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:02PM (#23831141)
    It's even worse because Mass Effect has a bug in the RETAIL version that makes the game impossible to play(the forever overheated weapons), and cracks fix that bug...hmmm...
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:17PM (#23831321)
    D2D's DRM isn't enabling jack. A DRM-free game could achieve all the same features you mentioned (same as with DRM-free audio tracks). The only thing the DRM does is mollify the content publishers.

    That said, the sort of DRM that Direct2Drive and other similar services use is fairly unobtrusive when compared to SecuROM and its ilk.
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:19PM (#23831355) Homepage Journal

    Then again, if people actually did what they were supposed to and actually supported the things they enjoy using instead of stealing them, DRM wouldn't be needed.

    And (as explained many times in this thread) if they don't do what they're supposed to, DRM doesn't help either, but it's likely to hurt.

    Try to imagine the cases (confirmed customers, potential customers, pirates, non-users) where DRM has any effect better than not using DRM. You get the empty set. The best case scenario is that it makes no difference to the publisher's revenue. The typical case is that it reduces revenue.

    There are only two situations where I'd advocate Company X implementing DRM: 1) I sell DRM schemes 2) I compete with Company X.

    It's also the people who are guilty of stealing who are the loudest to laud DRM's pratfalls.

    Such as RMS, for example? ;-) You just pulled that out of your ass.

    I haven't started stealing yet, but I'm about to. I just moved and the girlfriend wants more-than-OTA TV and internet access, so I'm signing up for something pretty soon. If I can't find a way to interface Comcast or Qwest's TV services with MythTV, then I'm just going to get just IP and start "stealing" TV content. I'm willing to pay, but from all my research, it looks like neither of them are selling. If they dropped the encryption and proprietary interfaces, they could have more revenue; I'd subscribe to something. But their management is telling their potential customers and stockholders, "Fuck you, making money isn't our business."

    Seriously, they're just throwing away money.

  • by Capitalist Piggy (1298699) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:29PM (#23831471)

    The radio in my car requires entering a code every time the battery is disconnected, as the legitimate owner of the car i have forgotten the code and gone to considerable expense to get it recoded... The guy who recoded it didn't take very long, neither i suspect would a thief.


    Oh, it wouldn't take a thief long at all. Most people keep their car's manual in the glove box, which tends to have the radio's code stamped somewhere therein. If you are snatching a radio, might as well grab the manual while you are at it.

    Mind you, I agree on the value. I've not seen too many factory stereos worth snatching. There's always that guy in a crack haze who will be happy to get $5 for it, though.
  • by Capitalist Piggy (1298699) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @06:39PM (#23831585)
    This is how I have been treating games for a while now. My PC can make prettier graphics than the 360, but I enjoy the experience so much more. Not fiddling with installation and being able to carry the games over to a friend's house without hassle is very nice compared to being stuck, hunched over a computer, looking for cracks, updates, etc.
  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:04PM (#23831905) Homepage
    It's funny, just a few days ago my Mass Effect started acting up, and I was close to the end already, so I went looking for a crack... god, there are tons of fake ones out there, or half-working ones that don't let you save (demo executable?).

    I eventually found a home-made (vs warez-released) crack, by some guy name Gniarf on some random forum, that works 100%. I don't know who Gniarf is or how he pulled it off, but if a random dude on a forum is able to crack the DRM in Mass Effect, it seems to me like EA wasted a shitload of money on that DRM for absolutely nothing.

    What did EA gain from the DRM ? A bunch of frustrated customers who got clobbered by the 10-day activation, as many had predicted. Would it have sold less copies without DRM ? Doubtful, seeing how quickly the fix was produced. It's not even a race anymore, the cracks come out so fast, I wonder why the game houses even pretend to put up a fight. Dead horse much ?
  • Re:A solution? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlexMax2742 (602517) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:32PM (#23832255)
    EA does not have a good track record with long-term support for games. How do I know that in say...two years...they won't tell me to piss up a rope?

    And before you say 'no company would do that', that's precisely what they did with the EA Store. I bought Battlefield 2142 from EA Link, expecting to be able to download it anytime I want should I ever want to play it again. A few months later, they introduced the new EA Store, which limited your downloading to six months after the purchase date. Of course you could extend this to two years...for a little extra money of course. And from what I understand, even in the EA Link days they had a limit to the number of times you could download the game that I was completely unaware of.

    They were 'gracious' enough to give former users of EA Link their game through EA Store with the six month time limit starting the day of debut, but the whole ordeal made me so sick that I decided to simply never buy another EA product for the PC. Since then, I've bought exactly one game from then, Skate for the 360, but then I read about how they love to shut down online services for their old games after a few years.

    So as far as I'm concerned, THEY can piss up a rope. No more.
  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:32PM (#23832259)
    "Well, as pointed out above, not only by me, if DRM accomplished anything, it's that people who got dicked over by DRMcrippled software they bought start looking for a way around DRM, find out about cracks and then you lost a customer. And unfortunately, not only the companies using DRM to harrass their customers lose them, everyone does. Someone who has found cracked soft doesn't discriminate anymore between "good" companies that employ either no DRM or less invasive DRM, and "bad" companies who try to enforce something as ridiculous as the crap we're discussing here."

    This.

    You just described ME. I was that smart guy that copied all my CD keys into both digital format and on paper, then tossed the mountains of boxes, jewelcases, etc in the trash. I literally had a bookcase full of the stuff.

    Then, just to keep in goosestep with Murphy's Law, I not only lost the digital version of my keys(stolen thumb drive), but, as one would expect, I eventually upgraded to a new machine and had myself a problem. I had misplaced the paper/pen copy of my keys. Nowhere to be found. I now had literally thousands of dollars worth of software that I couldn't use.

    The result? I went looking online for keys, and after ONE page of Google, I found The Pirate Bay. It took me all of 30 mins to find everything I needed to play my games again(as well as a key for Photoshop).

    But that is not all I found.......

    If it were not for the early form of DRM, CD keys, I would never have found what I did, because I would never have had a reason to LOOK.

    The example we are all talking about is pretty much the equivalent of the company itself being the one that stole my thumb drive and tossing my paper copy of my keys. Why on earth would I buy a product that I KNOW is going to have that happen to it? And if I DID buy it, and it stopped working after the 3rd install, what do they think I am going to do? Buy it AGAIN? Of course not. I'm going to go find a crack to play what I paid for.

    Call me a simpleton, but that whole DRM scenario just doesn't make any sense to me, from a business practicality point of view.

  • by 777a (826468) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @07:46PM (#23832455)
    Elder Scrolls 3 - Morrowind, safedisc harmed performance so much that the developers removed it [tweaktown.com] in the first patch. The nocd crack was recommended by just about everyone [google.com].

    Part of the problem is that the developers don't usually install any DRM, it's usually done by the distributors.

    So even if the developers thoroughly test a product, but the public always beta tests the DRM.
  • by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @08:54PM (#23833159) Journal
    Oh absolutely. I mean the old "enter serial number" and then you're done... Awesome. Anything beyond that adds more wrinkles, each one of which can screw over the user.

    Look at all those poor saps who bought music from Microsoft's service that's shut (or shutting) down. They won't be able to relicense what they've paid for.

    The end user is the one who suffers. I spent several weeks unable to play Neverwinter Nights due to the copy protection not liking my CD drive. Wound up having to get a crack just to play what I paid for.

    Another great example is Starforce. I have GT Legends here. Came free with GTR2 (which didn't use Starforce). I daren't install it given my last system suffered damage from Starforce. So I've got this great game I really want to play, but daren't risk installing it. Starforce is so woven into the program that it can't be removed.

    All this protection does is stop casual copying. Stops me running a copy off for you or whatever. Yet nobody I know who pirates ever did that anyway. They've download whatever they wanted. First it was BBS's. Then FTP's. Now torrents etc... Even when I was pirating stuff years and years ago it was NEVER directly copying the original from a friend.

    Finally, there is the ultimate rip off. You buy a game and the copy protection won't play nice for you and you can't load the game, so you take it back to the store... But they won't give you your money back because it's open and you may have copied it...

    And they keep making the protection worse and worse... This 3 activation thing... Is that just on the disk based? Or download version as well? Really hope this potentially amazing game isn't going to be ruined by its copy protection.
  • by pecosdave (536896) on Tuesday June 17, 2008 @10:27PM (#23833885) Homepage Journal
    Well, I bought some Broderbund games for my kid from Half Price Books for $5 each, and she loves them. Turns out ripping disk to ISO's, mounting the ISO's to a virtual CDROM drive via a batch file launched with the icon the game came with works really well. I have The Cat and the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham disks safely tucked away out of reach while the perfectly legal backup copy is on the hard disk for play purposes.
  • by GodFjotten (807870) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @04:41AM (#23836011)
    What kind of machinery do they want us to play on if we can`t upgrade hw-components, and/or the os? Well, how about a console? That`s where they want us, folks.
  • by Technician (215283) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @05:23AM (#23836205)
    I actually agree with CD check protection... It is a slight inconvenience for the user, but not so inconvenient that I would really mind. It also offers a reasonable protection against casual (i.e. not-so-computer-literate) piracy, which is really the best any copy protection scheme can ever hope for.

    For someone who travels frequently and having been bitten by having the CD case without the CD in it on arrival, A CD check copy protection is the number 2 reason on my list for not buying a program. It's right behind the dongle and right above online phone home checks. No dongle, no CD, or no internet are 3 modes if inexcusable failure. Packing light without all the baggage is required. Anything less devalues the software greatly. My laptop has a failing CD drive. It does somewhat OK with commercial CDs, but CDR playback is quite unreliable. CD read copy protection is unreliable for the laptop.

    which is really the best any copy protection scheme can ever hope for

    No it isn't. A one time registration providing a key with your registration detail is all that is required. I fill out and send in a registration form either online or snail mail and they send back a key. The key then when used with the software, unlocks it and proudly displays "Registered to Technician" (real contact information). I can re-install it as many times as needed from hardware upgrades, dead hard drives, etc. I'm not posting my key online. Piracy is not an issue. Phone home, CD access problems, etc are eliminated. It is about the only type of DRM I even consider. Anything else breaks the software when the hardware glitches. Broken software is useless. Any broken software priced above useless isn't purchased.

    The CD key is why after purchase of the Voyetra "Teach me Piano" tutorial, it was the end of buying any Voyetra software. I use an older tutor called Piano Discovery System even though it was made for Windows 95. It is simply not a hastle to run.

    Voyetra was dropped, while PDS got the expansion pack. DRM by CD check cost Voyetra several sales.

    Due to the DRM in new versions of Windows with all the Anti-Piracy difficulties, I have since moved onto Linux. Stuff installs, and works the way it is supposed to. Rebuilds, upgrades and re-installs don't break everyting requiring tech support to "Get Genuine".

  • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Wednesday June 18, 2008 @06:54AM (#23836597)
    The poor sod on the mass effect forums is on 10 days and counting on trying to get EA tech support to give him another activation for his own property.

    As far as I know, no-one has actually been helped yet with the activation problems by EA tech support.

    It may well be that this is another lie from bioware PR up there with 'uninstalling it will give you back an activation' and 'you can reinstall on the same pc without using a new activation'* and 'you won't need multiple activations for each user account' - all of which have been shown to be lies, just as they were when Elizabeth on the bioshock forums trotted them out.

    According to the error message from the securom DRM, you need to buy another copy after 3 installs/windows reinstalls/hardware upgrades - and so far, EA tech support appear to be following that line.

    *only true if you uninstall and then reinstall into the same user account on the same install of windows on the same pc - it looks for the registry hardware/serial checksum saved from the last install, and if it doesn't find it, it'll count it as a new install and use up an activation credit.

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