There are certain variables established on an NT-based computer that can be configured only during system setup. Three such variables are the product ID, the organization name, and the registered owner. These variables are also known as the license information for the system; they indicate who the registered owner of this copy of the OS is, the product ID for this OS, and the organization to which the software belongs.

Until now there wasn’t much a systems engineer could do to modify these values. The available options for making changes were to completely format and re-initialize the system or to visit every system to manually make these changes. Neither of these methods is anywhere near convenient.

Well it’s no longer necessary to go to all that trouble: EMCO Software has created a freeware utility called OS License Modifier that will allow you to manage these items for all computers on your network that run Windows NT, Windows 2000 Professional, or Windows XP—and do it all from your office.

Where can I get it?
OS License Modifier is available for download from or directly from the EMCO Software Web site. Choose the Freeware link on EMCO’s page, select OS License Modifier 1.0, and choose Download Freeware. This will bring up the Downloads page. From here, scroll down to the bottom of the page and choose a download option. You can download the software as a .zip file or an executable file from multiple Web sites on the Internet, and each method is listed here.

The installation process
Installing OS License Modifier is really quite simple, so the discussion of this process will be brief. After downloading the program, simply double click on the Setup icon and follow the onscreen prompts. Setup will ask you where to install the software, the default option being C:\Program Files\EMCO OS License Modifier 1.0. You will also be asked if you want to create a Start Menu icon and/or a quick launch icon. Once you answer, the software will be loaded. After the installation is complete, you will be asked if you want to launch the program.

The initial interface is very user friendly and quite straightforward. Figure A shows the initial screen with no configuration loaded. I included it to use as a model to explain all the features this software has to offer.

Figure A
EMCO License Modifier 1.1’s main page outlines its features.

License Modifier will create an enumeration, or virtual model, of your network by gathering information from the other PCs on your network. It stores this information by computer name in the Available Machines pane of the interface. Here, it will list all the available machines that it can detect on your network.

You can also add computers manually by selecting the Add Machines button from the toolbar. This will allow you to specify a single machine or a group of machines by their IP addresses. This method might work well after you’ve built an enumeration for your network and have added a small number of new computers to your network. For example, you might use this feature when it’s not practical to rescan the entire network for the presence of new computers.

When manually adding computers to your enumeration, you must enter the characteristics requested after clicking the Add Machines button. The form presented for adding individual machines is shown in Figure B.

Figure B
Manually add machines by completing this form.

The expanded menu in Figure B contains all the domains and workgroups available in the current enumeration. After selecting the correct location for the new system, enter the computer name in the text box and click OK.

Once you have your computers entered into the software, the Available Machines window will show entries in a list similar to the one presented in Network Neighborhood. When you expand the enumeration, you’ll see a list like the one in Figure C.

Figure C
The Available Machines window shows computers available in this enumeration

To modify the information for a certain system, expand the work group or domain in which that system lives, and then highlight the system name. This will make the selected machine active and allow you to make changes to the information for this PC.

A helpful piece of advice

It’s always a good idea to have a piece of paper handy when making these changes so that modifications to any equipment on your network are documented and easily traceable. You might want to create a spreadsheet of inventory information prior to using this software to keep the documentation on hand.

There are three pieces of information that License Modifier will allow you to change:

  • Product ID refers to the operating system product ID as specified in the license agreement for your company.
  • Registered Owner refers to the owner of the software. For example, if you have a system that will change hands after a new employee is hired, you could change the registered owner to the new employee.
  • Registered Organization in most cases will be your company; however you may have an arrangement where both the department and the company are specified. If the equipment is moved to another department, the organization, in that case, may change.

To change any of the information, the machine must be queued. To queue a machine, click on the desired machine name in the availability list and drag it to the queue. Then complete the action section of the form shown in Figure D.

Figure D
This form lets you modify license information for a computer.

Completing this information and clicking Start Changes will allow the program to attempt to make changes to the queued systems, but only if the system is available on the network and the proper credentials are available. Usually the credentials aren’t a problem because the administrator will be the user logged on when making these types of changes. If, for some reason, the system is not available, the system changes will not be made and the software will report an error.

That’s all there is to it
This software is a busy administrator’s dream come true. If you’re working in a moderately busy environment where systems and needs change often, keeping a good record of dates you use this software and the machines you use it on will keep you well documented and out of trouble. And since the product is free, you won’t need to increase your budget to implement these changes on your network.