Cracks And Serials

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See also: Security | hpvac | Encryption | Crackers

The use of a crack or serial is to circumvent a copy-protection mechanism.


  • Cracks modify a protected program to force it to run without restriction either by modifying a registry entry, library, main executable, or otherwise. They are small (usually only about 15 kilobytes) programs.
  • Serials serve as unique identifiers sold to software buyers. Some computer programs require a serial number before operating or to unlock advanced features. They are long strings of numbers and letters that look like this: 27347-23FS2-8E132 and each serial is unique to a single program and a single user-license. Because millions of exact copies of software can be distributed easily, these identifiers set a product apart to determine ownership much like a vehicle identification number or license plate on most cars.

In the warez community (i.e. software copying), cracks and serials are means to unlock applications, that is, to make them installable or to circumvent restrictions. Serials are not a very sophisticated method of protection: get the number and you can use the software. There are huge databases of these numbers going back to the DOS shareware days of the 1980s.

Remote Anti-Piracy Checks

Some programs report their serial number over the Internet to a server to try and determine if the software is pirated.

If the same serial number has been sent to the server too many times, it may be determined invalid and the software key rendered useless. This also discourages customers from sharing their serial number with friends and relatives.

The Microsoft Corporation is currently using this process with the operating system Windows XP. As a relatively new process, most programs created before 2002 do not have this function.

Cracks are actual executables, modify the software to circumvent an existing copy or use prevention mechanism. Often, a DLL or executable is patched or replaced to accomplish this.

Cracks tend to be very version number sensitive; if the crack is for a different version of the application, or even a different language, it will often not work.

More than one crack may be required before a correct version match is found.

Note: Although most warez programs are not problematic, executables can contain viruses. Always check any executable, regardless of source or destination, with anti-virus software.


While the distribution of cracks is probably illegal under anti-circumvention legislation such as the DMCA, serials are in some ways a different case, being neither an "effective" copy prevention mechanism nor copyrightable themselves. Usually, however, ISPs simply do not want to be associated with the warez scene and quickly give in to threats by the BSA and other bad guys. The software which is traded on file sharing networks frequently comes with serials and/or cracks.

Hard Drive Copy

One of the simplest versions of a crack is the "no-CD"-type utilities. No-CD programs allow a program to be run without the CD needing to be inserted in the drive, sometimes by copying the entire CD to the hard drive and treating the data as a separate drive.

Since many programs force the use of their CD as a form of copy-protection, the no-cd program tricks the system into thinking it is in the CD drive.

There are legitimate, convincent uses for No-CD tools, including an increase in speed, avoiding wear & noise from the CD-Drive and the full usage of 100+ gigabyte hard drives.

There are several commercial tools such as Alcohol 120%, among others.