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They automate Windows installation using scripts or do they simply restore different disk images for each hardware model?

I've heard the second approach is not possible since some software that the OEM includes must generate different keys for each machine, and because of that they must install it using a script. (I don't know if this rumor is plausible)

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you looks at computers (from same make and of similar age and model) from the large OEM manufacturers, like Dell, HP and Lenovo, you'll find that they use the same volume licence key, and not the one on the sticker on the computer. This allows them to use a standard disk image.

Small system builders would probably make more tailored installations using WAIK along with Windows Deployment Services, as used by enterprise customers.

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From the article you linked "Starting with Windows Vista, Microsoft VLKs have been replaced with Multiple Activation Keys (MAK) or Key Management Server (KMS) keys" –  Jader Dias Dec 16 '10 at 15:40
    
@Jader: Okay, I edited my answer to be more technically correct. –  paradroid Dec 16 '10 at 15:55

In theory, they use the Windows Automated Installation Kit.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc722358(WS.10).aspx

As to the product key, it could be:

  1. don't activate the PC during installation
  2. activate using a single common key
  3. activate using a unique key provided by the WAIK server

Note that there's two keys when using WAIK. I assume one determines the SKU (i.e. which edition of Windows) and the other is for activation, but I'm not 100% sure.

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Some manufacturers use a fairly neutral restore partition they load up with drivers for many different computers. In some instances the key is on that partition, but usually activation data is stored at the tail end of the BIOS.

when the motherboard is switched or deactivation happens because of hardware changes and you have to rewrite that stuff at least one vendor refers to it as a code purple. they distribute the utilities to do all this BIOS mangling to the warranty support providers(of which i was one for a time).

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