Last Friday, I blogged about the "Skipream hack" that lets you use Vista without activating it. A commentator here on 4sysops linked to an article on a Microsoft blog claiming that this workaround won't work. Although the arguments of Alex Kochis, the author of this post, are quite convincing, it is strange somehow that Brian Livingston, who is supposed to be a reliable source, purports that the Skiprearm trick actually worked in his tests.
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Alex Kochis explains the purpose of Skiprearm in detail. Anytime you run sysprep, Vista is "rearmed" automatically, i.e. the grace period is reset. This way you'll get the full 30 days grace period after you deployed the image, even though the image was created a long time before.
Since one can only rearm Vista three times, you'll run into problems if you run sysprep too often during your tests. That's where Skiprearm comes in. If you set this registry key to 1 before you run sysprep, then Vista won't be rearmed, which will preserve you the option to run rearm three times after the image has been deployed.
The question now is, how could Skiprearm help in extending the grace period indefinitely? If Alex Kochis is right, then Skiprearm won't change the fact that you can rearm Vista only three times. Setting Skipream to 1 just means that Vista is not rearmed automatically when you start sysprep, and nothing else. It does not change the fact that you can rearm Vista only three times. This, at least, is the intended purpose of Skiprearm.
So how can we explain the results of Brian Livingston's tests? One possible explanation is that his assertion is simply wrong. Maybe someone activated his test machines and he didn't know about it. The other explanation is that the implementation of Skiprearm contains a bug which indeed causes the effect Brian Livingston observed.
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The problem is that you can't easily test this since you have to wait for three months. One thing is for sure, though. Skiprearm is of no use on a machine which is already in Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM). I tried this yesterday. Neither slmgr –rearm nor did Skiprearm have any effect on my Vista PC whose grace period has already expired.