Some multiplayer games that implement the PunkBuster anti cheat system get cheaters off the server using hardware bans. It used to ban the hard disk serial number but no longer does that since there are ways to spoof and temporarily change the so-called hardcoded serial number. So now they’ve started to ban the CD-Key. Other than that, some licensing system also uses the hard disk serial number to generate a unique hardware ID which is then used to generate an external license file to activate the software.
If you do a simple search in Google, you’ll find tons of information about to change your hard disk volume serial number, but not the real hard disk serial number that is hard coded into the hardware. Some people said that it is impossible to change it, but we will show you that there are ways to change both volume and hard coded serial numbers for your hard disk. A simple way to find your current hard disk volume serial number is to open a command prompt (Win key+R and type cmd) and then type dir. The second line shows your volume serial number for the system C partition. Type dir [driveletter:] and it will show a different serial number even if the volume is on the same physical hard drive. The volume serial number changes every time you format the partition and Windows also uses this value during activation so you can’t simply move your install from one partition to another. If your Windows has been activated using a product key from a sticker it will probably ask for the key again after a reboot and will need reactivating if you change the volume serial number on the system drive.
1. Hard Disk Serial Number Changer
There are a few free tools around capable of changing the volume serial number and one of them is called Hard Disk Serial Number Changer. The name is a bit misleading though as it doesn’t actually change the hard disk serial number but the volume serial number which is different. It works on just about any Windows operating system from 98 onward and is a standalone portable executable but does need to be run as administrator on Vista and 7.
Usage is pretty straightforward and you simply choose your drive from the drop down box, enter the new serial number and click the Change button. Do note the serial number format as mentioned in the window is made up of 8 hex characters from 0-9 and A-F split by a “-” into two groups of 4. You will then need to reboot to commit the changes.
Another useful tool to change the volume serial number is by Sysinternals called VolumeID. This tool is only usable from the command line so won’t be as quick and easy to use for some people as Hard Disk Serial Number Changer. The command line usage to change the ID of a drive volume/partition is:
volumeid [driveletter:] xxxx-xxxx
The format is again 4 hex characters, a “-” followed by another 4 hex characters. You should shut down all your running applications before using this tool and will need to reboot immediately after the changes if they are being made on an NTFS partition.
The tools above are fine for changing the serial number of a volume/partition but trying to change the serial number of the actual hard drive itself is a whole different story. These are hard coded into the hard drive itself and cannot simply be edited or altered using a piece of software. There are however, several tools around that can spoof the hard drive’s built in serial number temporarily which can hopefully fool whatever software you are trying to get round. Unfortunately a lot of these tools aren’t free and some are even approaching $100 to buy.
3. PB DownForce
There is a free tool that’s been around for quite a while called PB DownForce which is able to temporarily spoof your hard drive’s static serial number into a different random or seeded number. There is also an option to set your own predefined serial number although we were unable to get that function to work during testing. To use the program in it’s simplest form, all you have to do is start it up and click on the Start spoofing button. Make sure to run PB DownForce as administrator.
The Advanced options button shows the 3 different types of spoofing to choose, although as mentioned we couldn’t get method 3 to work as intended and it just showed a serial full of a single number. You can easily use the Stop Spoofing button and try another random number. Perform test will quickly tell what drive model name and serial has been given. The image below shows a new serial after using PB DownForce to change a hard disk serial number in the PC Wizard hardware information tool. Do note that some tools such as Speccy will still show the original serial number for the drive because they gather their data in another way, HWInfo does something different again and will show the spoofed drive as another completely new hard drive in its list.
PB DownForce was tested and worked on Windows XP and Windows 7 32-bit although it still was quite random to which machines worked and which showed no change or produced an error. 64-bit Windows is not supported in any free hard drive spoofing tools we came across. The spoofed serial will return to normal after a reboot.
There are several more hard disk serial number Spoofing tools on page 2.