The perfect TouchDesigner system
As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, there used to be a perfect TouchDesigner system. Then Microsoft had to go and change things and release Windows 8 and then Windows 10. This leaves interactive professionals like myself in a somewhat dicey situation where we need the newest version of Windows for it’s features and security, but we dream about when Windows 7 was so stable. This is where Windows 10 LTSB comes in, as the most stable version of Windows 10 that you can find. I should correct myself now, because Microsoft has changed the name to Windows 10 LTSC (long term support channel) for the newest version, but for this article, I’ll continue to call it LTSB, because I did in fact install Windows 10 LTSB 2016 edition, and not the newer LTSC version. LTSC was released about a week before I did this test, so it hasn’t found it’s way onto eBay just yet.
To dive in, why am I even writing this post? It’s just getting a copy of Windows, right? I wish! Microsoft doesn’t want people using LTSB/LTSC unless they absolutely need to for medical machinery or things like ATMs. I have even read that future releases of LTSC will not be allowed to install applications like Microsoft Office, as yet another way of keeping normal people away from LTSC. But for our installations, it’s helpful to not have constant new features auto-installing themselves onto our production machines. The easiest way to get LTSB/LTSC is to buy it pre-installed on your computer when you buy it from the vendor. Many computer vendors these days will be able to install LTSC for you, and if you don’t see it on their site, send them a quick email and ask. But what if you want LTSC on a machine you built yourself? There are a few options but none of them are conducive to small studios. This is where eBay comes in. There are tons of Windows licenses for sale on eBay for anywhere from $6 – $20 USD. So I decided to take the plunge and test once and for all if the Windows LTSB licenses on eBay were legit and if I could install it on my laptop. The results are here for you below!
Step 1: Find Windows 10 LTSB on eBay
The first thing I did was hop onto ebay.com and I did a search for “Windows 10 LTSB.” You can see my search results below:
The graphic designs on those images really make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Either way, there were a ton of options, I decided to go for the first option, since it said 224 sold (whatever that actually means….) and the price was in that average zone of around $9-$10 CAD. When I went to the item, I found the details below:
So I’m no eBay expert here, but this one seemed to be comforting since the seller has 98.3% positive feedback, and eBay keeps telling me with red font that 224 licenses have been sold so far by this vendor. Also there’s a money back guarantee apparently. I didn’t really need that much convincing to throw $7.50 USD at it, so I took the plunge on this one.
Step 2: Purchase eBay LTSB
At this point in our story, I phoned up my buddy Noah Norman of Hard Work Party, who I recently interviewed here, and asked if I could borrow his eBay account because I didn’t have one and I didn’t want to make one. I know, I put enough effort into this to write a whole blog post, but I just didn’t feel like starting an eBay account. He hit that good ol’ “Buy It Now” button. then forwarded me the receipt. The receipt isn’t worth uploading here, it just says how much was spent. At this point you have to wait a little bit of time. We purchased at 2pm and received the email below at midnight with my magical download link (more on that later) and the serial key.
Step 3: Download LTSB and make Bootable media
We’ve got ourselves the purchased LTSB serial key (Genuine * 10000 if you read the sales page) and a suspicious looking Google Drive link to download Windows 10 LTSB. Downloading a Windows installation media from someone off eBay who was hawking OEM Windows 10 LTSB keys? I’m not so sure….. I did a quick look around for potentially more legitimate places I could maybe download Windows 10 LTSB, but nothing was popping up quickly. To make this test as useful as possible, I decided to continue and test it out. I downloaded the image from Google Drive and got ready to create bootable media. I used Rufus, which is a free bootable USB key maker for Windows. I opened it up and ran it with the following settings (mostly default):
With these settings, I hit start and got a tea. If you’re using a USB 3 key, the process is pretty fast, maybe 5-10 minutes. Once Rufus is finished, you have everything you need to get started.
Step 4: Install LTSB
At this point, installing LTSB is just like installing any other version of Windows 10. You boot up your computer with the newly made USB key, go through formatting your desired OS drive, and then installing to that drive. One thing to note is that this particular copy of Windows doesn’t ask for a license key during installation (more on this later), so just proceed ahead with whatever Windows wants of you. It may reboot a few times. Yada Yada, just get it done.
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Step 5: Authenticate Windows
After the boring installation process, you’ll have to authenticate Windows with your new serial key that was sent to you over eBay messages. It won’t ask you by itself because (as I said I’d mention later), there’s already a serial key installed in the system…yayyyyy. What you’ll want to do is:
- Hit the Windows key to open start menu
- Type “activation”
- Hit enter
Now you’ll be in the activation area and you should see something like this:
Well…at least it says Windows 10 LTSB 2016, right?? You can ignore the red text in this case, hit “Change product key” and then enter the key that you were sent over eBay messages from the vendor. You’ll soon see this next screen popup:
Step 6: Profit??? + Wireshark…
So at this point you really are running a real copy of Windows 10 LTSB. For only $7.50 USD, it’s not a bad price for maybe some side machines you may have internally or a few laptops. But at this point, I was still a little suspect at the Google-drive-windows-image-download-shenanigans. What if it was some kind of sting and it was sending back to some evil motherbase everything I was doing on my $8 copy of Windows? I decided to run Wireshark, which is an application that allows you to monitor network traffic coming in and out of your computer in great detail. I let it run for a while and came back and started looking through all the network calls to see if there was anything suspicious. To my reassurance, it didn’t look like any of the calls being made were to anyone other than Microsoft itself (although it did seem like one of them was pinging Microsoft servers in Hong Kong, where my buyer was…). I even ran the IPs through some online databases to see if they came up for malicious behaviour, but they all checked out as clean. So I guess profit???
What’s the moral of the story here? Well here’s my key take aways:
- Yes, you can buy Windows 10 LTSB/LTSC for ~$8 USD on eBay
- Yes, the installation process is a little “grey” for lack of a better term
- No, I wouldn’t use this on a permanent installation or large projects, maybe just for extra machines we have in the office, but even then, non-show machines probably can just hang with regular Windows 10.
Now, at least we know that this method does exist. The more common methods would be through purchasing LTSB/LTSC through volume licensing plans with a Microsoft Partner, or better yet get the computer vendor you’re buying machines from to put LTSB on it for you.
One final side note is that the Windows 10 LTSB/LTSC builds become old pretty quickly. I found that when I went to install Adobe Creative Cloud on my laptop running LTSB now, I was unable to install some of the newer apps like Adobe XD (for interface design). Photoshop and Premiere (and of course TouchDesigner) run perfectly fine, but if you’re using latest and greatest apps, it may be worth checking their compatibility first.