Normally there are two types of restrictions for shareware. The first one is the demo version with limited or crippled functionality that doesn’t have an expiry date and another type is the fully functional trial version that expires after a certain period of time. The amount of days given to try are normally around 30 days but it could be shorter or longer depending on the author of the software. In the earlier days, you can easily run the expired software by simply backdating the date on your Windows operating system but some software has got smarter to detect this and instantly ends the trial period.
You might think to yourself, how does the shareware knows how many days left in the trial period? Most of the time these commercial and freeware protectors drop some information somewhere deep inside your computer after installation so they know when it was installed and then comparing with the official current time pulled from the Internet. It is possible to find the location that records that information by using file or registry monitoring software including third party uninstaller software such as Revo Uninstaller but it can be tedious and frustrating work.
Here’s a few simpler ways on how you can extend trial periods of software using various different methods.
1. NirSoft RunAsDate
As the name might suggest, RunAsDate performs a trick on the trial software that has expired by injecting the time and date you specify into its process. This has a similar effect to manually setting your system clock to a different time and date, but in this instance your real clock remains unchanged. RunAsDate can also have multiple instances of its program running at once, and each one can have a separate date, all different to the real one.
As a simple example, if you’re using the popular archiver WinZip and its 30 day trial period has expired, it won’t let you use the program anymore, and you either have to purchase a license or uninstall it. Using RunAsDate, you can set the date back to be within the trial period making WinZip usable again. The image below is WinZip after the 30 day trial has passed, note the “Use Evaluation Version” is now grayed out.
If you now load up RunAsDate, all you have to do is browse for the application to use the program on, in this case “C:\Program Files\WinZip\WINZIP32.EXE”, then choose a date and time from the pop-out calender to before the trial period expired. Now simply press the Run button.
RunAsDate has a few other options such as allow arguments to be applied to the executable, and also a useful option to create a desktop shortcut which will automatically launch the application with the configuration options you’ve supplied in the window. The Immediate Mode check box can be used to inject the date/time earlier in the process, but is known to cause crashes on some programs, especially those using .NET.
If you run WinZip after entering the right date and time numbers and press Run or launch it via a shortcut, you’ll notice it no longer says expired and the Evaluation button is clickable again. Although time and date altering isn’t going to work on all trial software that has an expiry, it is a very quick and easy thing to try out first before turning to more advanced methods.
2. Trial-Reset 4.0
This is the final version released in 2010 by “The Boss”, and is able to scan and remove 45 types of commercial and freeware protections including some software that uses custom protectors such as Reflexive, Namo, ABBYY, WinRAR, WinZip and etc. In fact if you know the registry location of where the trial information are recorded for a shareware program, you can create your own text file and save it in the Lists folder.
Do note that Trial-Reset does not modify the shareware in anyway. It simply cleans the registry keys generated by the protectors which are normally not removed even after uninstalling the software. This is how a lot of shareware knows you have no trial period left, even if you uninstall and re-install the program again. Trial-Reset is very easy to use. To start scanning, simply click on the All located at the bottom left. The scanning will take a while since some of the methods require scanning the hard drive. The right pane will show all the detected keys that are used by any shareware titles.
You can backup, view or delete the keys, add to protect or auto cleaning list from the right click context menu. If you have a lot of shareware installed, there will be quite a number of results and you will need to do a trial and error to find the key that is associated with the software that you want to reset the trial period.