New computer? Forget Microsoft Reader


ms_reader_drm_suckI have gone through a lot of computers over the last few years. A couple of desktops, two laptops, three Pocket PCs. These are the ones I remember anyway. On each of these computers I have installed Microsoft Reader so I can access the 50 or so ebooks I’ve aquired that use this format. My preferred reader is actually eReader due to the superior DRM but over the years I’ve gotten some special ebooks in MS .lit format and I like to refer to them occasionally.Not anymore. As you know I’ve recently fallen into possession of a Sony U-70 and like all the machines before it I installed MS Reader and set about activating it. This activation is required to unlock the ebooks that are DRM protected (most of them) and without going through this process the ebooks are just worthless files. Turns out you are only allowed to activate 6 devices accumulatively under the same passport account and then you are denied, meaning no access to your purchased library. Once you hit this limit you have little recourse- you submit a request for an extra device and then MS tells you they will review it and get back to you. In my case 30 seconds later I was notified my request was denied. End of the road. So MS, you have single-handedly guaranteed I won’t buy any ebooks in your format because I can’t use them. There is probably cause for a class action involving all consumers that have purchased ebooks and who can’t legitimately use them. Sucks.




thanks for this hint. If this works out – MS Reader truly will be the perfect solution for many people out there :)

ignore this, just some keywords so google users can find this trick:

ms reader activation backup
backup ms reader
ms reader backup
microsoft reader backup


Hi, here is the solution for your problem – when you activate your copy of MS Reader go to C:Program FilesCommon FilesMicrosoft SharedDRM directory and copy the three files – these files contain your activation info!!!


What I’m still wondering though is, how does Fictionwise know the book should only open for [email protected] and not for [email protected] ?

When you download it, it’s tagged so that you can read it, but does the server also save it so it’s limited to [email protected] ?

Would be interesting to know, sharing Fictionwise accounts :-)


Kathy, at the time I wrote the article I followed it all the way through the process. I filled out the form for the support people to use to decide if I deserved another activation. I never heard back from anyone. What MS has to realize is that as a consumer I don’t have to “try to activate again in a few days”. Once I’ve been told that my request for additional activations has been denied that’s the end of the road. As an end user I’m not going to go out of my way to insure I can use any company’s DRM. If it is not painless I’ll use someone else’s. Which is what I did. MS really needs to rethink this and come up with a better scheme.


Now thats good news – so in total you have 6+1 which just made it much more interesting for some. Thinking that I have it permanent on my Pocket PC (thru backups) I can still activate something like 5 more PCs…


I think you gave up to soon. I’ve gone through the same thing. You request a new activation, it comes back and says request denied, but it has a link to appeal the decision. You give the reason for the new activation (new computer, reformated drive, etc.) and they allow you another activation. Note that they don’t tell you they’re doing it. Try to activate again in a few days and it works.



Perhaps you were thinking of SysInternal’s RegMon ( It’s good as it will give you a real-time look of what’s accessing the registry and save it to a file. However, the amount of data that it collects can be a little mind numbing. I prefer a program that will take a snap shot of your registry before, then you can install your app, then it will take another snap shot of your registry after. Like RegShot (


jk, I believe that you needed to enter the number at least once on their website to unlock the books…

With Fictionwise, you can just use PayPal to transfer funds to your account – which is the perfect solution for me.

Nonetheless, I agree that MS should rework their DRM system (yet again) and release an updated version of MS Reader.

On a slightly different note, I wonder if you ever came across software other than MS Reader which is able to display / read DRM protected eBooks


Kay, thanks for your insights. The simplest thing for MS to do is to allow you to deactivate devices to free up slots. This has been shown to work with other DRM schemes and would totally solve this problem. As for the eReader activation, since the credit card # used for the activation resides only on the owner’s computer it is very safe and secure.


jk – the Backup thing got me thinking…

Recently I found that there is some kind of application that will tell you exactly what happened during an installation. Now if you start this utility it will tell you which files are being modified etc. incl. Registry;

Too sad I can’t remember the name, but if I do I’ll make sure to try / post it here…

Now, you could just activate one PC with another passport and see what the utility lists as changed. Thru that, you should be able to figure out a backup, even if its tied to the computer ID – it would still work after reinstalling Reader on the same PC.

I agree with you on the fact that MS didn’t do the best job about DRM, and that there should be facilities to delete the Activation for a device. This however would mean that Reader would always have to go online before you open a book and check if the device that is trying to read the book is still in your list of authorized devices. If it wouldnt do the online check, you could use your 6 activations, delete all of them and activate another 6 devices.

eReader certainly has an interesting solution but as a student I don’t have a Creditcard, nor would I use it to activate ebooks even if I had one.


Hi Kay, I have never heard of backing up the activation on WinXP computers. You can do this on Pocket PCs but even this doesn’t address my problem which is having used too many devices over the years. MS would not grant me additional devices in the quota and has no means in place to remove old devices that I no longer have so there is no way forward for activating Reader on new devices. I can activate using a new Passport account but I still won’t be able to access the old DRM reading material.

You’re right, Palm Reader (now eReader) does require a credit card for purchase and activation so that is a problem.


Old post and I found this one via Google but I was wondering, lockergnome featured a trick to backup your activation – shouldnt the same be able on your PC as well? I’m not talking about moving the activation from one PC to the other but rather backing it up and restoring it once you reinstalled Windows…

Oh and Palm Reader may be better, but it’s not an option for those without creditcards…


I might do that for work I already own but the whole point is I’m not going to obtain any other MS Reader protected works. I will also go out of my way to avoid using the works I already have. I’m not the loser in this- it’s MS but they don’t even know it.


Why don’t you just resolve the problem yourself by using the tools at on one of your activated devices?


I actually use Palm eReader for most of my ebook reading, which is substantial. I’ve never had problems with their DRM and the customer service is excellent. Microsoft really needs to address the ability to turn activations in to allow continued use of their reader. It’s sad, actually.

Craig Walters

This is bad news. I had contemplated publishing using Microsoft reader. I thought you could turn in an activation. I read the FAQs, when 8 are used, you are out of business.

I guess Palm’s reader makes more sense.

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