Visual Studio 2010 CTP VPC: Dealing with Activation Messages

Conjunction with PDC 2008, we are releasing the first Community Technology Preview of Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4.0. You can download the release here (also see my download manager post here for a better download experience). This is an exciting release, and is jammed packed with a ton of great new features. One really nice thing about this release is the amount of work that the product teams put into writing walkthroughs which will guide you through most of the new features. I believe this will be our highest-quality Community Technology Preview yet, and we're excited to start getting your feedback on it.

This CTP is being delivered as a Virtual PC (VPC) image that you can download and run locally. In the future, we will provide a way for you to install the software on your own machine, but given where we're at with building the product the setup experience isn't quite ready. The VPC image gives us a great alternative for getting the software to you as early as possible.

This blog post is about the Activation messages you will encounter with this VPC image. In most cases, you can just ignore these messages and continue using the image. These messages are due to the way in which Windows Server 2008 and Office 2007 evaluation software works. For obvious reasons, our release criteria for distributing VPC images requires that we only ship trial software instead of fully licensed software. In the past, Windows evaluations could be configured to expire on a precise date. Due to changes in Windows Server 2008, we no longer have a firm expiration date, but there are Activation reminder messages which will appear while you are running the VPC. The good news is that these Activation messages will not cause Windows to stop working; however, you will have to dismiss some Activation messages from time to time. Note that Word/Excel/Project and Visual Studio may eventually stop working as explained below, but I have provided workarounds in all instances.

Activation Toast
While running this VPC image you will encounter a "toast" from time to time asking you to activate Windows.
Workaround: You can simply ignore this toast, or click the "X" to dismiss it.


"Activate Windows Now"
Starting sometime in November 2008, you will receive a modal dialog every time you boot this VPC image.
Workaround: To continue, simply click on "Activate Later." You will have to wait a few seconds before this option becomes available.

Word/Excel Activation
The trial versions of Word and Excel which are installed in this VPC image will only work 20 times. Every time you launch Word or Excel you will be reminded of this. After 20 uses, most Word and Excel functionality will stop working. You can still read Word and Excel documents, but you will be unable to use any of the Ribbon functionality. This means that some of the walkthroughs dealing with Word or Excel will not work.
Workaround: The first 20 times you launch Word or Excel, you can simply click "Cancel" to dismiss the activation dialog. After that, if you wish to continue using Word or Excel you will need to revert to a fresh copy of this VPC image. You can download the original VPC here.
After 20 uses, the Ribbon functionality in Word and Excel will become greyed out:

Project Activation
The Microsoft Project trial installed in this VPC image utilizes a similar limited-use mechanism to that of Word and Excel. Project will work 25 times. After that, you can no longer use Project in this VPC image. It is recommended that you only launch Project if you intend to use one of the walkthroughs that require it.
Workaround: If you need to use Project more than 25 times you should revert to a fresh copy of this VPC image. You can download the original VPC here.

Visual Studio 2010 CTP Expiration
Finally, the Visual Studio 2010 CTP will eventually expire. After January 1, 2009, you will no longer be able to launch the Visual Studio 2010 CTP. This is due to a hard-coded expiration date in this CTP. CTP's are pre-release software, so they aren't designed to run forever.
Workaround: If you need to continue using this VPC image after January 1, 2009, you will need to roll back the system clock in your VPC to an earlier date. In order to do so, please follow the instructions post here. Note that you should not roll back your system clock to a date prior to your last interaction with Team Foundation Server, because otherwise Team Foundation Server will get confused. If possible, I would suggest rolling back to a clean copy of the VPC (uncompress the original) and immediately disabling your clock prior to launching it for the first time.

Additional Notes
- No Internet Connection: This VPC image ships with Internet connections disabled. It may be tempting to want to enable an Internet connection on this VPC image in order to supply your own product key and activate this image. However, due to security reasons we strongly advise you not to connect this VPC image to any networks (intranet, Internet, etc.). There are also naming conflicts which can occur if you have multiple VPC images on the same network. Changing the computer name of this machine is not a suitable workaround, since it will break many of the walkthroughs and services.
- Hyper-V: This image was designed to work with Virtual PC 2007 SP1. We have had reports from people who have successfully converted this image to work with Hyper-V (see Grant Holliday's blog), but this may result in additional Activation implications which differ from the scenarios documented above.

In Summary
These Activation messages might seem a bit "broken" at first, but by following the workarounds explained above we hope you'll have a great experience with this VPC image. We are excited to show you a preview of what we're building, and we welcome your feedback! To provide us with your feedback, or get additional assistance using this VPC, please visit

Source: Brain Dane

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