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making custom proprietary windows

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My friend and I like using nlite to create custom unattended discs and leave the key blank so we can go into homes and use legal keys with the custom setup. However, we will be having technicians soon and we don't want them just to be taking it and using for their own gain or other businesses. Is there a way to add into setup to make it where they will need to do a call in with a certain set a numbers to get a return code to input and continue installation? Sort of like what Adobe does to its products now i.e. photoshop cs2 I'm aware anything's crackable but it will act as a good deterrant.

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I would love to know if this could be done. Something like ActiveMark perhaps that wraps the setup exe with a time limit so you distribution can only be run for 30 days and then you must enter in a serial key.

Dude, that would be a sweet idea!

Are there any programs that could be called that would end windows installation. For instance, during the hotfix install, run a program that makes you enter in a key (simple batch program), then if it is incorrect, it automatically restarts the computer so you can't complete installation. That would be cool.

-J. Spurrier

Edited by JASpurrier3
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This could probably be done if you use WinPE to start your Windows setup. Have WinPE boot, require the user to enter a code, then continue the installation if the code is correct or fail and reboot (or whatever) if the code is incorrect. However, I'm not sure you could keep users from simply copying the i386 directory and making their own CD's from it.

If your technicians are using these CD's to install Windows on PC's that can be overwritten, you can do the following on a test PC to achieve a fairly good level of encryption of both the install and the CD's contents (you'll need a template machine to do this on, and a Win9x boot disk or CD):

On the template machine:

1. Create a 4GB FAT32 volume (C:)

2. Copy the contents of the i386 directory from a Windows CD to the hard disk

3. Copy any other directories and files you'd need to the hard disk

4. Install DOS system files to the C: drive via the Win9x boot disk or CD by using the "sys" command

5. Copy config.sys and autoexec.bat from your Win9x boot disk or CD to C:\

6. In the autoexec.bat file on C:, place the command at the end of the file:

C:\i386\winnt.exe /s:c:\i386 /u:c:\i386\unattend.txt

- for the above command, substitute your unattend.txt file's location if it is not in C:\i386

7. Use Symantec Ghost to make an image of the C:\ drive, password protecting the image.

8. Create a bootable CD, which will extract the Ghost image when given the correct password (created in step 7) to the hard disk and restart - since this is documented in many places on the 'net, including in the Ghost documentation from Symantec, I won't rehash it here.

9. When the drive has been imaged via the boot CD and restarted, Windows setup will begin using the command line entered in step 6.

You can also use Acronis DriveImage in place of Symantec Ghost (or any other drive imaging software that can password-protect image files) - if the above method is followed, you should have a password-protected image file that will only copy Windows to the disk once the password has been entered. Symantec Ghost 10.0 will also encrypt your image, if you so choose.

Just remember that once the image has been extracted, even a novice tech can copy those files and use them. There is no sure-fire way to protect the Windows installation routine short of the product key itself. If you have third-party code that you want to protect, consider password-protecting that and compressing it into a .cab or .zip that is run AFTER Windows has been installed - that way, you can leave it unencrypted on the CD (and not have to go through the hassle of ghost, encryption, etc.) and still have it password-protected for use, whether on the CD or off. Again, even in this configuration, once the files have been extracted to disk to be run, they can be copied off and used elsewhere by even a novice tech.

Good luck, and perhaps someone smarter than I already has a better solution!

Edited by cluberti
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I've got another idea. What about if you protected your files with a password that changed every day. The password whould be specific to the date. That way you could give your friend a password for the day he knew it would be installed (don't tell him that it was day specific) and if he tried to distribute it, no one else could use it because the password would not match the date.

I don't know, I am not really a programmer so I can't write a program like this. I am learning C++ though so I may have a soultion in about 2 years...

Another solution could be a self extracting zip file that was password protected with your important setup files like your hives and syssetup.inf and extracted during initial setup. This way no one could get the core files that you editted.

But I still come back to the time protection. Time would be the best element because it is always changing. If you knew the algorithms, the password would be a piece of cake to figure out, but I am just spitballing here.

Any feedback or criticism would be welcomed.


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i would stringly advice against the ghost install, for mainly 2 reasons...

A: ghost is quite expensive.

B: it will make the install process about 3times slower.

Also im absolutely not getting why protecting a bunch of xpfiles, is essential,

just because, you should only give such a cdrom to trusted people, (if you dont trust them, why would you even hire them).

other thing, - a day specific key wouldnt be a good idea, ( example: what iff the bios batery died on you and the date set isn't current date, -

i thing, that, whatever you try to protect this will fail as soon as somewone is willing to spend more that 15minutes, to crack your protection your a gone, -

some people like me would probebly need less than 5...

(iff you dont trust 'm, dont work with 'm)

Edited by -I-
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Protecting some XP files is important because some people have spent a lot of their free time developing the installation so that it works better than the original. You would not like it if someone took your CD and sold it as their own work. They would get all the credit and recognition. Besides, even if you do give it to a trusted friend or technician, they may forget it at a client's house and then that person would be able to use it for negative purposes.


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