Virtualization triggers Windows Activation process

David Berlind from his ZDNet blog writes about Microsoft Windows Activation and VMware Player problems:

So, I finally got around to testing the Player to see what would happen if I copied a clone from my AMD64-based Ferrari notebook to an IBM Thinkpad T42 and I was quite surprised at the results. Upon starting the virtual machine on the Thinkpad T42, Windows XP’s start-up halted about midway through and told me that that the computer’s underlying configuration had changed significantly and that I had to re-activate my copy of Windows. So, I moved forward with the activation and, upon activating, everything returned to normal and the virtual machine started working.

Cool, I thought. But what was it between the copy of VMWare Workstation on the Ferrari and the Player on the Thinkpad that was different — different enough for Windows to detect a change. I thought that VMWare’s virtual machine technology virtualized everything to the point that the operating system and applications in a VM were completely abstracted from the underlying hardware. Well, apparently not. According to VMWare group product manager Srinivas Krishnamurtiff, there are some things that are not virtualizable. One of them is the host system’s processor. Said Krishnamurtiff “there’s a processor ID that’s not virtualizable.” In other words, for the clones to truly be portable across systems, the systems may have to be relatively close (within the same family) in terms of process configuration. At the very least, they can’t be processors from a different manufacturer…

This is not just a Player issue. Every time you move a virtual machine from a physical host to another you’ll have the problem, with every virtualization software.

Also the article states that copying a clone to another computer is a license violation. It depends: Microsoft revised its licensing scheme about virtualization in October 2005, granting users to have several thousands of powered off virtual machines, until they have a license for the only one powered on.

Thanks to About-Virtualization for the news.