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Product activation is the act of verifying protected electronic data and involves the required activation by the consumer shortly or directly after purchasing the software or service. Activation verifies licensure and protects the copyright of the owners of digital products while helping to combat piracy.
Product activation is a procedure to ensure that installations of copyright protected digital media and software are only made where a valid license can be verified. This is an important protective measure to protect the intellectual property of the author(s) or publisher(s) but not all software installations require completion of an activation process before installation or use.
Users are usually, but not always, required to activate the newly purchased software immediately upon installation; a time frame may be allocated for product activation. Activation failure results in an inability to use or install the product or service. Without activation some software will still run but may be restricted in some way (inability to save work for example).
There are a number of ways in which activation of products or services can take place. Sometimes it is simply a matter of using a code given to the buyer via email or physically printed on the product or its packaging. These codes are often called "product keys", "activation codes" , "key codes" "Activation keys" and there are usualluy instructions in the install process on how to activate the product. Some sophisticated software vendors require a telephone confimation call at which time the activation code is given.
During the product activation process, codes/product keys are usually entereed into a form and the product serial number which may also need to be entered is checked against the code. A mathematical algorithm aligns the two sequences and if they meet the conditions the product or service will be activated and can be used.
There are often requirements to agree to terms and conditions of the software license at the time that the activation is made. Some activations are more lengthy than others; it often depends upon the value of the product or service being activated.