Expression Web 4 forces re-validation: A SOLUTION RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Being forced to re-validate your copy of Expression Web?  Maybe I can help.  I’ll be sharing the tldr version with hope MS representatives may take interest and understand this issue/bug which has plagued so many.  I also want to share a rant with regard to my contact with MS Tech Support.  My desire is that those requiring the work-around to this bug will read my post in full.  I’m interested in knowing if this information helps anyone, and I’m also interested in hearing anyone else’s experiences with regard to the copy protection scheme utilized in this software.

    I purchased a physical copy of Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Web Professional Upgrade several months ago, perhaps a year.  The purchase was made through a reputable retailer, and I had a qualifying version of Microsoft Office which made using the upgrade version legitimate.

    I installed the software and entered the product key before activating the software.  Everything worked fine, and I used the software for several months before getting to a stopping point and moving on to other projects.  One of the projects was to replace the hard drives in my system.  I installed an SSD and moved Windows over to that drive, broke the software RAID-0 configuration and moved its data to a RAID-1 configuration using the same two drives.  I later replaced the software RAID-1 configuration with a hardware RAID-1 configuration utilizing two new hard drives.

    I tried to initiate the software yesterday which in turn brought up the license verification window on startup.  I can only assume the changes I made to my hardware were the cause.  The license verification window provided me with only two options:  1) input the product key; or 2) activate the software.  I was not provided with a phone number to contact Microsoft to resolve any issues, and the links provided on this window were less than helpful - even taking me to re-directed web pages on the Expression “sub site.”

    If I tried to activate the software a box would pop up indicating the software had already been activated.  Clicking OK in the popup box resulted in the program being shut down immediately.  If I tried to enter the activation key I would receive a similar popup box, only informing me that the software key is invalid.  I couldn’t get anywhere, nor did the program give me any information regarding a number to call for assistance as other MS programs do in these cases.

    I spent a few hours wading through posts indicating similar problems with this and related software.  Few posted back with how and whether or not they were able to solve their problems.  But of those few who did, following their instructions was not fruitful for me.  Two posts, at least one in these forums, would later lead me to a work-around “solution” to the problem at hand.  The first spoke of how the author “fooled” the program into popping up information instructing them how to re-license via phone by removing access to the Internet before starting up the program.  The second poster indicated that after they inputted their software key several times the resulting message changed from indicating the key was “invalid” to an error indicating it had been used too many times.  And this error apparently also started the “phone activation popup dialog.”

    My only option seemed to be to contact Microsoft, somehow.  It took a few web searches to obtain at least some way to contact MS; my retail package didn’t even indicate this information.  It was not the correct phone number to call for my specific issue, but I was kindly referred to a “tech support” number to speak with people who “would” be able to help me.

    They were unable to help me, and please allow me to rant a little here.  My first helper left me on hold for 25 minutes, and the phone system stopped playing “on hold music.”  I didn’t lose connection, so I was unsure if the call was disconnected or what happened.  I had provided my phone number and email address, but nobody attempted to recontact me.  I called the number again, provided my information anew and was placed on hold several times again in excess of 20 mins before finally being told I needed to speak with someone in “professional tech support.”  I was transferred to someone who promised not to put me on hold again, and he did not.  However, he was not able provide me assistance and, and as so many others have posted, he told me that I would need to open a support ticket and since this was a professional product I would be charged $249.

    What?  I have to PAY to use LEGALLY OBTAINED SOFTWARE which WAS WORKING FINE because of a flaw in the licensing system?  He asked if I had spoken with the activation department yet, but I didn’t know – too many calls/transfers.  And besides, my web searches had introduced me to many posters who had no luck with the activation department with regard to this particular software anyway.  I exploded, as politely as possible.  $249 to be able to use my legally obtained $100 software?  He was able to obtain authorization to open a ticket at no charge.  But more problems!  They would have to call me back.  I work in a 911 center and can’t accept calls at work.  I also am forced to work the overnight shift.  The only times I’d be available to accept a call during their hours of operation were from 6a-8a Pacific Time (US).  We all know how well that would work out, but he did say he’d note the information on the ticket.  (Later that day while I was sleeping someone called from a number I can only assume was MS tech support, but because the caller didn’t bother to leave a message I don’t know for sure.)

    So far I’d spent four hours trying to get the software to work and researching forum posts in various places via web searches.  I had spent a good 3 hours on the phone trying to obtain assistance from Microsoft.  And I would spend another hour actually figuring out a workaround to this “activation bug” on my own.  Eight hours which could have been used productively during which I would have received appropriate compensation, down the drain.

    AND NOW FOR THE WORK-AROUND “SOLUTION,” with a special thanks to those who have bothered to read the tldr portion of this post:

    1) Disconnect the computer form the Internet and start the software.

    2) At the “enter product key or activate” screen, choose to enter your product key and do so, click ok (note: I may have left the computer connected to the Internet until after this step, can't remember for sure)

    3) If you’re having the issue I did, you’ll be advised your product key is invalid.  Click OK on this notification and directly afterward choose to activate the software.  (I do not remember if the program restarted between these two instances or not, but I don’t think it did.)

    4) After a period of perhaps 20-30 seconds the “activate by phone” wizard will start up.

    A few notes.  If I only chose to activate the software without first going through the “enter product key” part I’d be advised that the software was already activated after which the program would shut down; I would never be offered the option to (re)activate the software via phone.  Also, if I was connected to the Internet I’d not be provided with this option no matter what steps I took.

    I sincerely hope this post will help others, and I further hope it’ll catch the attention of a MS representative who might be able to use the information to help others and maybe even to point toward a permanent solution in the software code.

    Reported as a bug:  Vote for me

    • Edited by Gorkster Saturday, January 22, 2011 10:51 AM addition, grammar, spelling
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 10:11 AM

All replies

  • Gorkster,

    Thank you for the details here. I'm sorry about the trouble you experienced opening a support case. The easiest way to contact Microsoft support is to visit support.microsoft.com. That will allow you to enter your region and product and get a toll-free number that will get you to a customer service representative who will open a case for you.

    When you open a case, you do have to provide a credit card number. However, no charges are applied to your card if your issue is caused by a bug in the product.

    Some people have been able to resolve this issue by using phone activation. In your case, the problem was a change in a hard drive that triggered Expression Web to believe that you were installing it on another machine. Therefore, you were able to activate successfully by phone. Other people have experienced problems with the license store being corrupted, and if you encounter that problem, the only solution is to have us fix the license store.

    Glad you got it all worked out, and thanks for posting.


    Jim Cheshire http://www.jimcobooks.com
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 1:19 PM
  • support.microsoft.com would have led me to the appropriate phone number then... lol  Thanks for your reply.  I guess in cases such as this, especially when being charged 2.5x what my software cost to open a support ticket, I am amiss to do so because of the subjective nature of the "bug vs support" issue.

    And yes, my post is meant to help those people who have triggered software recertification due to hardware changes or other somewhat similar changes - not those with corrupted data.  If I was unclear about that I apologize.

    More precisely, I suppose, my post is meant to help people find a way to get around the bug which prevents the, um, "phone activation wizard" as it should, similarly to most MS software when they are required to "re-authenticate."

    Saturday, January 22, 2011 2:26 PM
  • Jim, if you're still watching this thread, perhaps you can answer a question I've had for some time. For as long as Adobe has been requiring activation, they have provided a simple Deactivate option under the Help menu. Choosing that option deactivates the software and decrements your activation count, so that you can change hardware, move to another machine, etc. withoit having to go through this clumsy rigamarole.

    Why doen't Microsoft implement something similar? It would decrease the load on support, if the number of posts we see here similar to this is any guide, and would increase customer satisfaction. To me, it seems to be a win-win, so why isn't it done?


    Please remember to "Mark as Answer" the responses that resolved your issue. It is common courtesy to recognize those who have helped you, and it also makes it easier for visitors to find the resolution later.
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 2:48 PM
  • Scott, I've asked that question myself directly to more than one person at Microsoft including those in executive positions without any indication that it will ever change.
    MS MVP Expression Tutorials & Help http://by-expression.com & Expression Web forums
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 2:54 PM
  • Jeezil Pete! Why wouldn't they want to avoid all of the myriad licensing issues occasioned by not having a simple, easily accessed activate/deactivate process? Wait, I know, I've said this enough times myself here, I'm asking in the wrong place. ;-)

    Actually, that's why I directed my question to Jim specifically, hoping thst maybe he could finger-thump someone on the forehead and ask, "Hey, why don't we do this, anyway?" Yeah, probably futile, given the responses thst you've received.

    Still, it boggles the mind that MS can't provide some mechanism to make the process easier and more straightforward. Even WebAssist, whose products are, to my mind, overpriced, has a simple online process for this. You login with your password, choose the product from among the list of those that you have licensed from them, and deactivate or activate, as the case may be. Simple, transparent, easy to use, and effective. What's not to like?

    Oh, well. And so it goes...


    Please remember to "Mark as Answer" the responses that resolved your issue. It is common courtesy to recognize those who have helped you, and it also makes it easier for visitors to find the resolution later.
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 3:26 PM
  • If I go to the MVP summit I'll bring it up again.
    MS MVP Expression Tutorials & Help http://by-expression.com & Expression Web forums
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 3:45 PM
  • We're aware of the desire for this kind of thing. I've talked to the product team about it before as well. I'm not in a position to officially comment on any of those discussions.


    Jim Cheshire http://www.jimcobooks.com
    Saturday, January 22, 2011 8:45 PM
  • I feel your frustration dealing with Microsoft.

    All I did was upgrade the firmware on my SSD and had the same problem.

    Thanks for your post it solved my problem.


    Monday, September 12, 2011 2:39 PM
  • Hello All,

    I hope people are still watching this post. I am so incredibly frusturated by this licensing issue. All of a sudden one day, I get prompted to re-enter my license key. So what do I do, I enter it again and it returns the message"Thank you for registering this product. You will not be prompted for the key again." Then is closes the entire application. I go to relaunch the application and get prompted with the annoying license activation notification once again. This time, I hit Activate product and sure enough what happens? It gives me a message that says...

    "You have entered more than one product key that you can use to activate your Expression product. Verify which product key you want to use, and then click Enter Product Key on the Help menu to reenter the product key and activate your Expression product."

    I click ok and it boots me out of the application again. I can't even get to the Help menu to perform the steps the message tells me to.

    This is such an incredibly waste of time. I still am not clear on what exactly I need to do to get this working. Who do I contact?


    Thanks for the help with this.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011 2:38 PM
  • Did you try the solutions posted above?

    What happened when you did that?

    Some people are like Slinkys; not really good for anything...but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.
    Sunday, September 18, 2011 4:16 PM
  • "Who do I contact?"

    Read the thread.  That has been clearly answered, by Jim from Microsoft, if none of the "do it yourself" solutions worked for you.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011 4:56 PM
  • Thank you KathyW2 for the condescending response. 

    Hi Bill, thank you for the reply as well.  I appreciate you getting back to me.  I have tried all of the troubleshooting steps on my own and will attempt to open a case with Microsoft on this now.

    Thanks again.



    Sunday, September 18, 2011 5:11 PM
  • I was not condesending.  I was answering your question, which implied that you hadn't read the thread, or you would have seen Jim's answer.

    • Edited by KathyW2 Sunday, September 18, 2011 6:08 PM
    Sunday, September 18, 2011 6:06 PM
  • IMMENSE thanks for your details on this most distressing problem. Only hope, now that it's validated (once again) that it stays that way!  




    Sunday, February 12, 2012 2:42 AM