The company initially attempted to provide a unique activation key to each user, with a limit on the number of times the key could be used. However, the offer of 2.5 million free Windows 7 keys valid for six months proved so attractive that the company's license and key generation servers buckled under the strain of mass applications. The servers have been almost impossible to access for most of the past 24 hours. Some users also reported problems downloading the large Windows 7 ISO image from Microsoft's servers.
"Due to very heavy traffic we’re seeing as a result of interest in the Windows 7 Beta, we are adding some additional infrastructure support to the Microsoft.com properties before we post the public beta", commented a Windows 7 team member.
During the past hour, Microsoft has apparently begun handing out keys with no usage limits - in other words, the same key can be used repeatedly by an unlimited number of users.
There appear to be a very small number of these new keys, perhaps as few as a dozen.
When the Windows Seven keys became publicly available yesterday, Microsoft's servers were initially very slow, but did issue some keys.
"The volume has been phenomenal—we're in the process of adding more servers to handle the demand", Microsoft staff explained.
As the hours passed, frustrated applicants began using various automated scripts (with tools such as Greasemonkey and the Firefox Check4change add on) to automatically reload the key generation page every few seconds.
Interest in obtaining a key was so intense that, for a few hours "Check4change" was the third most popular search term in the US, according to Google Trends.
With the server load increasing still further, many users left empty-handed, even after trying for hours, although some were eventually successful. Some compared the incessant hammering from tens of thousands of web browsers as similar to a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack on Microsoft. Finally, on Saturday morning, Microsoft engineers apparently decided to open the floodgates, and stopped trying to create a new key for every user of the new operating system.
The new unlimited registration keys include the following (final five characters removed for legal reasons)
More keys may be available at the following addresses to anyone with a freely available Microsoft Live.com account. It may be necessary to use the Live.com account to sign into http://technet.microsoft.com before visiting the key generation page.
Update: Microsoft has now re-activated its Windows 7 beta download page - this requires the user to sign in with a Windows Live account and provide additional personal information to Microsoft.
Editor's note: Substantial parts of this article were plagiarized by 'International Business Times' (ibtimes.com) shortly after it was first published on Texyt.com. The text on this page is the original version, it contains no stolen content and has not been licensed for use by any other publisher.