Which programs require activation?

I’m looking for a little distributed research help here.

In an upcoming article on product activation, I want to compare the activation approaches taken by direct programs from a variety of vendors. I have a good knowledge of how activation works with Windows Vista and Windows XP and with all recent versions of Microsoft Office.

But what about companies other than Microsoft? Which software vendors require activation before their software will work? (Or before it will continue working after a trial period?) I’ve encountered activation when installing Adobe Acrobat Standard 8.0. I’ve also run into the requirement for activation with a handful of smaller, more obscure programs.

So what’s been your experience? Which programs (other than the ones I’ve mentioned here) require activation? What’s the experience like? Have you had any hassles? Click the Comments link and share…

Update: In the comments, Rick suggests I should define activation. Fair enough. I’m not talking about unlock codes, which basically allow you to type a serial number and then install a program. I’m talking about those that require a unique serial number and an extra step such as connecting to a server to verify that you’re authorized to use that serial number and that it hasn’t been reused.

19 thoughts on “Which programs require activation?

  1. Diskeeper now requires a license file and activation online. The competing PerfectDisk defragmentation utility only requires a serial number.

  2. I think you may want to give your definition of “activation.”

    Must there be some kind of online verification done? Either way, the list might be hundreds long. What vendor doesn’t have their program available for download these days, and if you were to include formal shareware the list would be longer. Those all have a form of “activation” though I would venture to say that far less than half involve any kind of online check.

  3. Microsoft Street and Trips 2008 requires product activation after a trial period. You need to enter the serial number that is listed inside the box. S&T calls home to verify the number. I activated S&T on two computers and encountered no issues or problems.

    Eset NOD32 Antivirus uses a unique user name and password to activate the software after the trial expires. I have a two-computer license and had no problems or issues.

  4. Adobe Acrobat was really difficult with its activation process. I don’t care for many parts of Windows activation, but it was relatively a breeze.

    A relatively obscure program that requires an annoying activation process is PC Miler.

  5. Norton and Kaspersky both require activation.
    Adobe CS3 needs it as well, but has the advantage of a ‘remove activation’ function, so as to move the program to another computer.

  6. I don’t use activation software and if my software starts using activation (like Alcohol 120% did a couple of years ago), I stop using it or find way to break the activation. (Only for software I’ve paid for of course)

    Only programs I can remember off the top of my head:

    Adobe Acrobat 8
    Adobe Photoshop CS2 and CS3
    Alcohol 120%
    Bioshock (game)

  7. As I understand it, Paint Shop Pro 11 has a new patch which, every time you start the program, connects to Corel’s servers and checks your serial number.

  8. Sony Vegas (as already mentioned) required activation. Not only that, it requires you to activate as an admin user. I installed as admin, logged out and logged in a my normal limited user and it told me to go back as my admin user and let it activate itself.

    I have no idea why it didn’t do that during installation. Once that step was made, I’ve had no trouble running it as limited user.


  9. A lot of anti-virus programs do. Eset Nod32 and Kaspersky Anti-Virus are a couple I’ve used over the last year or so (bailed on Kaspersky and now using Nod32 myself).

  10. Autocad’s Autodesk has the most restrictive activation I’ve seen: You have to register on their website (during installation. You have to do this) and recieve a unique link via email. The link takes you to a page with a 20-25 character activation code.

  11. Adobe CS3 requires activation, but it has been completely painless in my experience. I’ve activated CS3 a couple of times, it has always worked smoothly, and you only have to activate once for the entire suite. Also, as Bill mentioned, it has a Deactivate feature; I used this feature once, deactivating on one computer and then installing and activating on another. No problems at all.

  12. Network Magic and I’ve never had a problem calling their support folks to unlock after I’ve reinstalled.

  13. As said above, MYOB has an activation process. It’s extremely poorly documented and doesn’t work every time. I can see that the MYOB computer makes an HTTPS connection to an MYOB server and submits a serial number and a company code. As far as I know there is no totally automated procedure because the staff at MYOB need to tee it up on their side.

    If something goes wrong there’s no troubleshooting possible; one needs to join a call centre queue for general problems.

    In contrast, the MIcrosoft activation process is really smooth and hassle-free.

  14. I purchased and use several of the products mentioned here, specifically Vegas, Photoshop, NOD32, and Diskeeper.

    It appears to me that there is activation and ACTIVATION. In other words, the schemes vary and of the products I mentioned, Diskeeper is, by far, the absolute worst of the bunch.

    There are various activation schemes but the worst, IMHO, is one where there is no deactivation/reactivation procedure but the number of times the software can be activated is limited and the software is simply too “dumb” to recognize when activation should kick in and when it should not.

    Again, Diskeeper is just awful in this regard. It can only be activated a limited number of times and I’ve had to activate the software after doing nothing more than restoring an image to the same drive; every such restore required reactivation. I also had to reactivate when I needed to replace a failing drive and restored an image to a new drive; nothing else was changed on the machine and the only program requiring activation that necessitated “reactivation” was Diskeeper. Ultimately, I ran out of activations and now the product is basically defunct. That really stinks since the one and only resolution is an email to support and such emails seem to fall into a black hole of sorts and never elicit a response. As a result, I will refrain from purchasing software with THAT type of activation scheme and, without a doubt, Diskeeper has seen the last of my business.

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