A question to vendors: Why do you protect your licensing information?

For the past 5 or so years I’ve been updating Product Key Finder in my free time. If you’re not already familiar with this simple utility, it’s a free application to recover license information from computers.

Occasionally I come across a vendor who encrypts license information before storing it on a customers computer. If the application allows you to display your license information that’s great. The problem is with vendors such as Adobe and Symantec who insist on encrypting license information and provide no way for their paying customers to view it.

Adobe is particularly bad, they’ll show you all but the last 5 characters in their about dialog and encrypt the license key so it can’t be easily recovered. In some environments such as schools and corporates that makes sense, but for retail customers it just frustrates them.

Photoshop CS2 About Screen

I don’t mean to pick on just Adobe however, others are doing it too. Microsoft have got it almost right. For retail and OEM channel license keys they’re easily recoverable using known methods. In Windows Vista, license information for enterprises (MAK keys) is removed after activation.  They could have triggered “slmgr -cpky” to remove this information for retail customers too, but they elected not to. Kudos, Microsoft.

I get e-mails on an almost daily basis from your angry customers who have worked hard to pay for your software. So please, justify to them why you are doing this so I know what to tell them.

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