Thanks to a guy called GuidoZ for this tutorial. I had to remove some content (which took hours)from the original article to fit in the alloted space.
There are four different types of ways to "fix" a software program that you'll run into. "Fixing" a software program means bypassing the means it uses to keep it from being freely copied and distributed. This can include anything from removing trial limitations or nag screens to allowing a retail release to function. All four can be labeled as a "release"
Keygens are the best
Cracks are more crude
CRACK - A crack is a modified version of a file that has been "pre-hacked" by the cracker. Frequently this is the actual EXE of the main program, but in modified form. It could also be a DLL or a key file that the program uses to register itself or check an online activation server. A cracked file has such checks removed. A drawback of a crack is it can be big since it's just a modified version of the original file. Frequently, updating a program that has been cracked will overwrite the crack, causing the program to return to it's "pre-cracked" state.
PATCH - A patch is a little nicer then a crack. It's smaller and usually contains information on what it is. A patch is a separate program that is applied to an installed application to make a cracked file (EXE, DLL, etc). With a patch, u can make a crack. When you start up a patch, frequently you'll be greeted with information such as the release group's name, the cracker who made it, information on the "target file" (more on that later), and so on. In most cases, it has all the same drawbacks as a crack does, except for the file size.
SERIAL - Most people are aware what a serial is and how to use it. Frequently a provided serial will register the software program, however it will register it with the name of the cracker or website that distributed it. Sometimes a serial can be used with any information (such as your own name), and sometimes it is vital to use the information provided with it (name, email, company, etc). The biggest drawback to serials is a term called "blacklisting", which will be discussed later.
KEYGEN - A keygen is short for "Key Generator". A keygen, is the "best" or most sought after form of a fix. A keygen allows you to generate the correct registration data for a program using any info you like (name, email, company, etc) without modifying anything in the actual program (similar to a serial, but always just for you). Sometimes a keygen will generate a serial for you that you can use, other times it might generate a license file that needs to be imported into the program. Keygens can have multiple uses as well. For software that requires activation, frequently a keygen will provide the means to use the "Phone Activation" method in a program. (All programs that requires activation allows you to do so via the Internet or over the phone. The keygen simply mimics what a person at the software company would do for you). Most the pitfalls of cracks, patches and serials do not hold true with a keygen; hence why it is considered the best!
It's VERY important to read any NFO files that come along with the fix/release. The DIZ files just contain file version information not needed in "fixing" a software application.
NFO and DIZ files are simple text files, so you could simply view them with any simple text editor and get the info you needed. However, they were designed to be viewed with an NFO viewer. It makes them easier to read and look pretty. Use google to find one.
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT CRACKS, PATCHES, SERIALS AND KEYGENS CAN AND OFTEN DO CARRY TROJANS/VIRUSES/SPYWARE/MALWARE. HOWEVER YOU CAN ALSO GET FALSE POSITIVES!!!! IF YOU ARE NOT %100 SURE AND DO NOT HAVE ADEQUATE PROTECTION, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE ANY OF THEM. ALWAYS BACK UP EVERYTHING.
How to use the four fixes
Remember to follow the directions in the NFO files! This is only a general guide and could be incomplete in some cases. Always remember to back up the target file.
To use a crack, in most cases you need to first install the program from a trial setup or from a provided retail install. After installation, you need to copy the cracked file into the installation directory of the program. Be sure the program is not running anywhere before "cracking" it! (Check the System Tray by the clock and do a CTRL+ALT+DEL and look for the executables.) For example, if you install an MP3 ripping program into the directory "C: - Program Files - MP3 Ripper", you need to navigate to that directory through Windows Explorer (My Computer -> C: -> Program Files -> MP3 Ripper) until you see the files that program uses to run. Now copy the crack file(s) into this directory. You will usually be prompted with something to the effect of "This file already exists, do you want to continue and overwrite it?" Click on YES. A crack overwrites the existing file or files that the program installed. Always back up. After replacing these files, frequently the program will now be registered the next time you start it up, allow you to register it with any information you like, or simply make it not care if it's registered or not. Cracks will usually remove any trial limitations, nag screens, etc. A crack is ONLY good for one version of a program. You can't use a crack to "crack" a newer version without downgrading that version after the crack is used.
To use a patch, you start out the same as a crack. (READ THE NFO). First install the program from a trial install or retail install. Once installed, again navigate to the installed program's directory like in the "MP3 Ripper" example above. Copy the patch into that directory, however this time you shouldn't be prompted to overwrite anything. A patch, as described previously, is used to create a cracked EXE/DLL/etc. Run the patch you just copied into the program's directory by simply double-clicking it. Frequently there will be a button that says something to the effect of "Crack" or "Patch it". Clicking this button will instruct the patch to locate the file it needs to modify, double-check to make sure it's the correct file, then modify it however the patch was programed to do so. Some patches will perform multiple functions, such as patching a program and adding a Registry entry for licensing. After you have patched a program, you can delete the patch you copied into the folder. If you can backup before patching, do so. Backups are usually stored as FILENAME.BAK - renaming the .BAK extension to EXE or DLL (whatever it was originally) will restore the backup - just be sure to delete the patched file first or else you'll get an error from Windows for having two files with the same name in the same folder. Just like a crack, a patch is only good for a certain version of a program. Some patches are "generic" and will work for a limited number of versions, such as all v3.x (v3.1, v3.2, v3.3, etc). Read the NFO to see if that's the case!
When asked for registration details by the program, enter the information provided. A serial could be included in a simple text file, or sometimes it's in the NFO/DIZ file. Read the NFO if it's included. If the program doesn't prompt you for any registration information when it first starts up, look under the Help menu (or Help -> About). You should see a "Registration" or "Activate" or "Unlock" option. A drawback of a serial, is even though registered, it may not be registered to you. Sometimes this can show up if the program creates output files of any type. Frequently it doesn't cause any problems. Another large problem when it comes to serials - blacklisting. A "blacklisted" serial is a serial that has been programmed specifically not to work by the program author because it is known to be public. (A number of cracks simply remove such blacklisted serials.) If a program needs to do online updates (such an an antivirus or antispyware program), frequently a blacklisted serial will cause such updates to not work anymore. Finally, like a crack and a patch, serials may only work for a single version, but frequently work for all minor versions of the same major version (like in the v3.x example described above).
The BEST of warez. This allows you to register a program without modifying it at all AND using any information you like. Using a keygen is a lot like using a serial, however it creates the information to type in when prompted for the registration information instead of simply having a specific set of details given to you. There is usually no need to move the keygen to anywhere special. Just double-click the keygen and you'll frequently see what to do. (Type in your name or any other requested information.) Sometimes you have to click a "Generate" button to create the licensing information you need. If the program requires activation, then the keygen will usually allow you to generate the information you need if you go through the program's "Phone Activation" method. Many programs will generate a hardware ID or some kind of reference number that you are supposed to read to the person on the other end of the phone at the software company. Instead, type the provided number or details into the appropriate spot in the keygen to generate the required "answer" to it. You then need to type the "answer" into the program where indicated. Usually documented in the NFO file. Like the other three releases, keygens may only work for a certain version (or a series of version like the v3.x example).
If it doesn't work, it's possible it was a "bad release" (aka nuked). That means that it may work for some people and not for others. Just try to find another one.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO:
Read the NFO files
Mac users use "little snitch" before registration