Windows 8.1 downloaded ISO free?

Posted on 2014-12-08
Last Modified: 2014-12-15
Hi, I downloaded windows 8.1 the most basic edition as an alternative to the Acer Windows 8.1 recovery CDs.  The iso was burned to DVD, wiped the machine, and installed with the DVD.  
I activated the windows 8.1 without purchasing the OS.  Is this the case with the most base edition of windows 8.1 that it is in fact free or I'm missing something here?
Question by:snoopaloop
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Assisted Solution

dbrunton earned 125 total points
ID: 40488145
>> Is this the case with the most base edition of windows 8.1 that it is in fact free or I'm missing something here?

You're missing something.

It's not free.  It was paid for when you bought the Acer.  Or rather the right to install it and the serial number when you bought the Acer.

The serial number and your machine (hardware components within it such as MAC address) identify that you have the rights to install 8.1 to Microsoft.
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Nagendra Pratap Singh earned 125 total points
ID: 40488177
Seems like SLIC is at work here. Your OS is pre-licenced.

The term "SLIC" is short for software licensing description table. The SLIC table is a portion of system BIOS that is dedicated to containing operating system license activation information. SLIC tables are added to BIOS by large computer manufacturers to expedite the process of licensing operating system software on new computers. The process of activating an operating system with information preloaded into SLIC is called OEM activation.
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
☠ MASQ ☠ earned 250 total points
ID: 40488241
It's not really SLIC but the idea is the same (this process is OA v3.0). The activation process is automated because Acer have embedded the activation code for Windows 8 into the ACPI Microsoft Data Management (MSDM) table in the UEFI system BIOS.  

In previous OEM activation systems the installer looked for a generic manufacturer BIOS ID so if you had an installation disk from Acer it would automatically activate if you installed it on an Acer machine but if you tried to use it on a different machine activation would fail.

Here the activation code in the MSDM can be used to identify exactly the system licensed to the machine so Microsoft can distribute a generic disk and the installer checks against the Embedded Key to ensure that version is licensed for that machine.

The process and the risks for end-users (especially with Windows 8 Pro or better) is described here:

With some machines including Acer there is a bug which means if you upgrade your operating system version from Home Basic but for some reason need to reinstall the operating system it will revert to Home Basic even if you are using media for the upgrade you installed.
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Author Comment

ID: 40490312
This is all really fascinating.  I read the other experts-exchange link too about downgrading to 7.  I did not know that option was available to the masses.  Is SLIC widely available beyond W 8.1?
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
☠ MASQ ☠ earned 250 total points
ID: 40491074
Just getting pedantic SLIC is a generic embedded BIOS code that identifies just the manufacturer and in conjunction with an SLP enabled operating system provides automatic activation of the operating system, used by the major ("royalty") manufacturers for their OEM systems since XP (eg - you get any Dell installation media and it will install and activate on any Dell hardware but try to install it on non-Dell hardware and it will refuse to activate).

With UEFI the BIOS becomes a more interactive part of the operating system and the code now identifies which version of an OS is pre-licensed for a system.
This seems to be the onward direction with Windows and the Win 10 technical preview suggests that the MSDM will be used in future to help regulate product activation for OEM systems.

This system was first introduced with Win 8 on UEFI systems only.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 40495224
Awesome.  Thank You!  Can I use a similar downloadable generic Microsoft CD for windows 7 OS for say like HP home PC and apply the technique referenced in the EE link?
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Expert Comment

ID: 40495248
Windows 7 downloads

However read

You'll have to use the license number that is on your machine and download the appropriate version, 32 bit or 64 bit, Home or Professional.

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