Legacy Activation Reference

This topic covers the legacy activation system used for older, out of date builds of Release 9, up to and including Release 9 Base build 9.0.174. It does not describe the new, simpler and easier activation system used with all current builds of Release 9. For information on activation of up to date builds, see the Install and Activate, Manifold Activation, and Activation Reference topics.



You probably do not need to read this topic. This reference topic discusses serial numbers and activation that goes in more detail that most people need.   For 99.99% of people the short Legacy Install and Activate topic will cover everything.  This topic assumes you have read that short topic.


"Manifold" in this topic means Manifold System Release 9.  


All Release 9 licenses are protected using a Serial number and Activation key mechanism.   Manifold uses a fairly "soft" protection mechanism, but it is effective enough to ensure there is no doubt about a piracy or counterfeiting situation.  That's important in an era of totally devastating malware, to enable users to know for sure the software they are using is the real deal, directly provided and supported by Manifold, and is not a vector for malware.

Activation Summary

You must have Administrator permissions in Windows when doing any Manifold installation or activation. In Windows 10 or subsequent, using the Run as administrator option to launch Manifold from the Start system works fine.   In older Windows systems, the easiest way to assure you have Administrator permissions is to login using the built-in Administrator login.  See the Administrator Login page for details.


If you see an Authentication Error message box pop open during any part of the activation process, something is interfering with that process. The usual problem is either failure to have Administrator permissions or failure to shut off some background program, such as an antivirus program, that interferes with activation.


Install Manifold and then launch Manifold. Check your computer's date and time to make sure it is reasonably accurate (the correct year, month and day). In the Activation dialog that pops open, provide the serial number emailed to you for the Manifold edition you have licensed. Copy the serial number from the original serial number email message and paste it into the dialog.


For the first 30 days after your serial number was issued, you can run on the serial number alone, and you can install Manifold using that serial number on as many computers as you like. There is no limitation of Manifold functions running on serial number alone: all features for whatever product you have licensed are fully functional and there is no reason to activate the product.  


That initial 30 day period is not a "trial" period for the software.  To get a free trial, use Manifold Viewer, which is totally free and requires no serial number or activation.   The initial 30 day period gives you time to decide on which machine you want to install Manifold, and to sort out any software or hardware issues on that machine.


After the first 30 days, you will have to get an Activation key as well. When the Activation dialog pops open after you launch Manifold, enter your serial number and then press the Get Activation Key via the Web button and then press Accept.   Do not press the Get Activation Key via the Web button unless you really intend to get an Activation Key. Once that button is pressed the operation cannot be cancelled.


Manifold is licensed for use on one machine at a time. You get five Activation keys per serial number to allow re-installs if necessary, not to allow simultaneous use on five machines. Do not waste Activation keys. Read this entire topic carefully for tips on getting the most out of your license. Installing the same serial number on multiple machines and using that same license on multiple machines at the same time is not allowed by your license and may result in your license being permanently revoked.

Troubleshooting for Experienced Users

This checklist is for people who are re-installing Manifold and have not read the installation and activation instructions for a while. In case of any difficulty with activation, consider the following:



A reminder: Any use of a serial number, such as checking status via the Serial Number Status page, should be done using Copy and Paste from the original serial number email. Do not use the "masked" version of the serial number, which ends in a series of X characters, that may be displayed in the Help - About dialog. The masked version displayed in Help - About has had the final characters altered with a series of X characters so that someone who has physical access to your computer cannot steal your Manifold serial number. The masked version displays enough of the serial number so you can determine for your internal record keeping which serial number you used on a particular machine, but not enough of the serial number for someone to be able to steal it and use it to obtain Activation keys or other wise use it.


Assistance with activation may be available for the original licensee of a Manifold license.  See the Support pages on the Manifold web site for any current free or paid technical support offerings for activation.


There are usually two ways to get assistance with serial number and/or activation questions:



Any requests for assistance that do not follow procedures published for free support will require paid tokens.  


Tech Tip: The fastest way to solve any activation problem is to read and apply the instructions in the short Legacy Install and Activate topic, followed up by a reading of the relevant support web pages on the Manifold web site such as the Activation Guide and the Activation Troubleshooting pages. Even though tech support responds very rapidly to activation questions it is faster to read even a long topic carefully since that will usually solve the problem right away.

Your Serial Number

Your Manifold serial number identifies your license to use a specified Manifold System edition.  A serial number specifies a product license. it is not locked or tied in any way to one person or to one machine. It is not locked or tied in any way to any product download. For that reason, please keep your serial number secret. Do not think that any registration or activation procedure locks a serial number to you: it's always available to anyone who has it, so never give a serial number to anyone you do not trust to use that serial number however they want.


If someone else learns your serial number, they can use it to steal your license rights from you. They can use the serial number to install Manifold on other machines. When they start using the same license on different machines at the same time you might be using Manifold, it could be that your license will be revoked.


A serial number works only for the product for which it was issued. For example, a Release 8.00 serial number cannot be used to turn on a Release 9 license. The email in which your serial number is delivered to you makes it clear what product that serial number is for. Keep track of your serial numbers:  that is easy to do if you are careful not to lose the original serial number email.


Do not lose your serial number. You will need your serial number if you must ever re-install Manifold.  If you lose your serial number, it will not be possible for Manifold to provide it to you again.  Think of that serial number as a prepaid cash card that if lost it cannot be recovered.


For permanent installation and continued use, your license requires you to activate your Manifold license. Activation requires fetching an Activation Key that matches the serial number and also matches one particular computer. This may be done through the web in a fast and easy manner or it may be done manually if desired. Once a Manifold license is activated on a chosen computer system it will run without time limit on that computer.


Important: Each serial number allows five activations. The purpose of those five activations is allow re-installation in case of hardware difficulties or upgrades. The purpose is not to license usage of one license on five different machines.  If you use the same serial number to try to run one Manifold license on more than one machine at the same time, Manifold may automatically revoke that serial number and you could lose your licensing rights.


Plan your installations so that activations are not wasted. If you know you are going to install a new motherboard into a particular machine, do not activate Manifold on that machine a week before you will install the new motherboard. That will waste an activation key on only a week's functioning and then when you install the new motherboard you'll need to use up another activation. It would be smarter to install the new hard disk first and only after do a Manifold activation.


Install anti-virus software and use prudent Windows administration policies so your machine does not get trashed by viruses every month, forcing an overly-frequent need to re-install Windows. If you re-install Windows, you'll use up another activation key.


Five activations are plenty if you install Manifold only on one machine as allowed by the license and if you follow prudent machine and Windows administration policies. Manifold can run for years given five activations. In fact, given Manifold's traditional provision of free activation keys over time it is really difficult to run out of activations if you take advantage of low cost or free opportunities, even if your machines die from time to time.


A serial number normally gets an additional, free Activation key every year.  See the Additional Keys page for information.   In addition, in special situations, such as in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Manifold may issue additional free Activation keys to each serial number.


Once installed a Manifold license will run as long as that computer continues to operate in sufficiently unmodified form to not require re-activation.

Activation via the Web

When Manifold has yet to be activated, it will raise the Activation dialog every time Manifold launches. This dialog can also be launched from within Manifold by using the Help - Activate command.


To activate Manifold automatically via Internet:






Launch Manifold and in the Activation dialog paste your serial number into the Serial number box, and then press the Get Activation Key via the Web button.





Release 9 pops open a confirmation dialog to be sure we want to fetch an activation key.  Press OK.  





After a few seconds (be patient) an Activation key appears.   Press Accept.


Activating Manifold automatically via the web will connect to the Manifold activation service, will automatically send the activation server your serial number and the system ID and will fetch an Activation key, decreasing by one the number of activations allowed for that serial number in the central Manifold serial number registry.


If the serial number has already been used to accomplish five activations or if the serial number has been revoked for any reason, the attempted activation via the web will fail.


If you have previously provided a serial number to allow Manifold to run for a limited period before activation, when the Activation dialog opens it will show a masked version of the serial number, with X characters concealing the trailing portion of the serial number. You cannot use this masked version for activation. You must paste the original, complete serial number into the dialog before getting an Activation key over the web.


Note: When we press Get Activation Key via the Web Manifold must be able to connect to the Manifold activation web service via the web. If Manifold cannot connect to the Manifold activation web service a dialog will pop open allowing editing of proxy server configuration in case a proxy server is blocking outbound web access.

Activating without Internet

If you do not have a direct Internet connection for the machine on which Manifold is installed, or if your IT department has access controls that prevent Manifold from reaching out over the web to the activation servers, you can use Manual Activation:  Use some other machine to visit the Activation web site to get the Activation key you need.


Instead, take a moment to copy your serial number and System ID into some electronic form: write the serial number and System ID into a text file that you put on a USB drive or other portable media.  You can then go to a machine with Internet access, open that file, visit the Manifold manual activation web site, copy and paste the serial number and System ID into the Activation web site, get an Activation key and then copy and paste the Activation key back into the text file on your portable media.   Back on the installation machine you can then easily copy and paste both serial number and Activation key from the portable media into Manifold's Activation dialog.


If you will be traveling to locations with no Internet access whatsoever, please plan ahead and activate your copy of Manifold before departing civilization.

Manual Activation

Get an activation key manually as follows:



Because serial numbers, System IDs and Activation keys are all long sequences of numbers and letters, it does not make sense to get an activation key manually if there is any possibility of doing activation automatically via Internet.  When visiting the Manifold manual activation web site, use a reasonably modern browser with javascript enabled.   

Wait 24 Hours between Getting Activation Keys

Using the same serial number within any 24 hour span to fetch an Activation key, even if the System ID is different, will result in the same Activation key. This is both a safety measure and an anti-piracy measure. It is a safety measure so that people who mindlessly push buttons multiple times on web sites or dialogs do not use up all their Activation keys in a matter of seconds, and it is an anti-piracy measure to discourage cryptographic attacks and attempted installation on multiple machines.


That means that you should wait at least 24 hours after getting an Activation key for your desktop machine before getting an Activation key using the same serial number to activate a Manifold license installed on your portable computer. If you do not wait 24 hours, you'll get the same Activation key back even though you used a different System ID for the portable computer. The resultant Activation key, therefore, will not work. This problem is easy to avoid: simply wait at least 24 hours after using a serial number to activate Manifold on your desktop machine before using the same serial number to activate Manifold on your portable computer.

Serial Numbers

Every Manifold System license is identified by a unique, permanent serial number. The serial number encodes the Manifold System edition that is licensed and the date and time the serial number was issued. It does not encode the user, it is not tied to a particular machine and it is not tied to a particular download.   Anybody who has your serial number can use it.  Keep it secret.


Serial numbers are long alphanumeric strings that look like:




For a serial number to be valid, it must be reproduced exactly as it was issued by Manifold. Do not change upper case to lower case, do not remove hyphens, do not add space characters and do not  make any other changes. A serial number must be entered as a single line without any paragraph breaks. If your email system splits long lines into two lines, make sure to reassemble the serial number as a single line when using it.


 Manifold serial numbers do not end in a series of X characters. If you are trying to use a serial number that ends in a series of X characters, you are wrongly attempting to use a masked version of the serial number that has had the last few characters concealed with X characters to prevent theft.  Use the original serial number sent to you by email.


When a Manifold license is acquired from Manifold, a new unique serial number is generated. The serial number will be sent to the licensee by email using the email address provided at the time of purchase. If you acquired your license directly from Manifold, you have been emailed the serial number for your license.

System IDs

The Activation dialog will always show the same System ID for your computer unless a major change is made to the computer's hardware or software. The System ID is a long alphanumeric string that looks like:




If we activate Manifold via the web we do not have to worry about handling System IDs. If we choose to manually activate Manifold, we will need to copy the System ID from the Activation dialog to use at the Manifold web site for activation.


The System ID box is read-only in the Activation dialog because the System ID is always generated by Manifold to uniquely identify an activation request.  The Activation dialog will let us use Copy to copy the System ID from the box in the dialog.

Activation Keys

An Activation key is required to permanently install Manifold to your computer system. Each Activation key is unique and matches only the one serial number and the one System ID used to obtain it.


Activation keys are very long because they encode three important pieces of information:



Activation keys are very long alphanumeric strings that look like:




An Activation key is a single line of text with no carriage return or new line characters.  



System Date Must be Accurate

Serial numbers and activation keys encode the date they were issued. They will not work with system dates that are obviously wrong such as a system date before the date of issue of the serial number or Activation key. Permanent installation also encodes the date as well. Your system date and time must be reasonably accurate (within the correct day of the date) for activation to work.


If after activation Manifold suddenly raises the Activation dialog again and no major hardware or software changes have been made, check the system date.  If someone has reset the system date to an obviously wrong date, or if a motherboard battery or other failure has reset the system date to an inaccurate date, Manifold will ask for activation.   Fix that by setting the system date to the correct date and all will be well.

Activation is Remembered

Once your Manifold System license has been activated on a particular computer, that activation status will be remembered even if Manifold is uninstalled and then reinstalled.   A portable installation can be plugged in and launched with no need to activate again.   The computer system will "remember" that your Manifold System license has been activated. For example, if you installed Manifold System from the original release first issued you could uninstall that original release and then download and install an update for that same version without needing to activate again.


This does not work, of course, if you make changes that would destroy the activation status on your machine in any event. For example, if you uninstall Manifold and then change your motherboard or install a new version of Windows, when you re-install Manifold version you may need to use an Activation key.


Note that this applies only to that same Manifold version and updates published for that same version. For example, if you have a Manifold 9 license you cannot download and install an update published for some future version such as a future Manifold product and expect that the new product will be functional. If you want to move up to a newer Manifold version you may need to acquire a license for that newer version.

Installation on a Notebook Computer

The Manifold End User License Agreement allows you to install your Manifold license both on a desktop machine and also on a portable computer used by you, so long as the two computers are not used at the same time.


Activating your license on a desktop computer and also on a portable computer will use up two activations. Two activations are required because each individual activation, that is, each individual Activation key, will get fetched by a different System ID that identifies that particular activation request.


Important: You should wait at least 24 hours after getting an Activation key for your desktop machine before getting an Activation key using the same serial number to activate a Manifold license installed on your portable computer. If you do not wait 24 hours, you will get the same Activation key back even though you used a different System ID for the portable computer. The resultant Activation key, therefore, will not work. This problem is easy to avoid: simply wait at least 24 hours after using a serial number to activate Manifold on your desktop machine before using the same serial number to activate Manifold on your portable computer.

Example 1

John Doe orders Manifold via the Manifold Online Store on July 7. He receives an email with his serial number in a few minutes.  A few days later he downloads the Manifold installation. He is then called away on a business trip before he has a chance to install Manifold.  He is not able to install Manifold System until 22 July. John logs in as Administrator for all of his installation and configuration activity with Manifold.


When he launches Manifold for the first time on 22 July he is not sure exactly what to do about activation so he copies the serial number from the email sent to him and uses it to launch Manifold without activating his license. He feels he has plenty of time until August 8 to figure out what he wants to do before he needs to activate his license.


John works with several different computers. He installs Manifold on several different machines during his first few days of use to see if he needs to make any performance upgrades. He installs Manifold on his notebook computer as well. All of his machines run Windows 10 except his notebook computer, which still runs Windows 7.


After a few days he decides to upgrade his notebook (finally) to Windows 10. To assure a clean install of Windows he reformats the hard disk and installs Windows 10 and then he begins reloading his software. He re-installs Manifold, using his serial number. Because it is not yet August 8, John can continue using his serial number to make as many preliminary installations as he wants without needing to activate his license.


As August 8 draws near, John decides that he will use Manifold on his notebook computer and on his new desktop machine at the office. Every day that he launches Manifold the Activation dialog reminds him that he has only a few days left before he must activate his license. However, John is a procrastinator and gets involved in another project for a few days.


The next time he works with Manifold is on August 12, a few days after the preliminary installation has expired. When Manifold launches it tells John the preliminary installation period has expired and asks him to provide a serial number and Activation key. John realizes it is time to stop procrastinating and to activate his license.


John launches Manifold on his desktop machine and activates his license via the web. He would like to use Manifold right away on his notebook computer, but he remembers reading the portions of this help topic that tell him to wait 24 hours between activations using the same serial number.   He waits a day and a half to be sure he is past the 24 delay period required to get a new Activation key using the same serial number.  


He then launches Manifold on his notebook computer and realizes that his notebook does not have a web connection. If his notebook computer had an Internet connection he could have activated his license over the web. Instead, John will have to do a manual activation.


John copies the System ID from the Activation dialog and pastes it into a text file that he saves to a zip drive plugged into one of his notebook computer's USB ports. John unplugs his zip drive from the notebook computer and plugs it into his desktop computer. He opens the text file and copies the System ID. John visits the Manifold activation web site and provides his serial number and the System ID for his notebook computer. The activation web site obligingly spits out an Activation key. John copies that Activation key to the text file in the zip drive along with a copy his serial number.


John knows the Activation key is good for only 72 hours so he does not procrastinate this time. He makes use of it right away. John plugs the zip drive back into the notebook computer and copies his serial number (copied from the original email) together with the new Activation key into the Activation dialog to permanently install Manifold on the notebook.


He now has a permanent installation on the two machines (a primary desktop machine and an optional portable computer) allowed him by the Manifold License. He has used two activations. He still has three activations left on his serial number should he ever need to reinstall Manifold.


Because John does not want to get confused about where his licensed software is residing he takes a moment to uninstall Manifold from all the different systems he installed it to while experimenting during the preliminary installation period. No serial number or key is required to install or to uninstall Manifold System. A serial number or activation is required only to launch Manifold.


After a year, John decides to upgrade his desktop with a new motherboard and a new manycore processor.  After the hardware upgrades, John does a fresh Windows install on his desktop computer and then (logging in as Administrator) re-installs Manifold System as well. He activates that Manifold installation. He still has two more Activation keys in case he ever needs to install Manifold again.


After another year, John purchases a new notebook computer with a hot new manycore processor, built-in SIM card support and Windows pre-installed. He installs Manifold on the new computer. He now has only one original activation left on his serial number, but he knows he gets a free activation ever year and he can always get more activations at an absurdly low price by buying an additional licence.

Example 2

Henry Doe, John's younger brother, a student, also acquires a copy of Manifold via the Online Store. He pays no attention to the email he receives except to note the serial number. When Manifold arrives he installs it and then copies and pastes the serial number. He does not activate the license.


After a few weeks he decides it is time to get activated, but he does not "trust" web-based activation and decides to manually get an Activation key from the Manifold activation web site. When the Activation dialog pops up he copies the serial number from the dialog and attempts to get an Activation key on the web site. This does not work because Henry has copied the masked version of the serial number from the dialog, which has X characters substituted at the end. He is not using the original serial number sent to him by email. Henry, of course, never reads any documentation so he thinks it is just fine to copy the masked version of the serial number from the Activation dialog.


Henry emails tech support and swears he is copying and pasting the serial number accurately. Tech support responds by asking Henry a series of detailed questions, some of which check up on typical errors (one question asks if Henry copied the serial number from the original email or from the Activation dialog). Henry is offended that they would ask him to confirm such simple things so instead of reading the questions and responding accurately, Henry just skims the questions and sends a testy reply, "Yes, I'm doing all that."


Manifold's experienced support personnel can tell right away that Henry is not very good with details, so they ask him each question individually again in a different way and they ask him to give the exact serial number he is using. As soon as they see the X characters at the end of the serial number they solve the problem. Henry copies the serial number from the original email, gets an Activation key and activates Manifold.  He says to himself, "Wow! That was easy!"  This experience transforms Henry for the better.


Henry realizes that perhaps things will go better if he reads the manual instead of trying to "wing it" all the time. He reads Manifold documentation every night and becomes an expert. His grades soar from C's to A's. He uses his newfound Manifold expertise to invent a new method for finding diamond-bearing Kimberlite pipes. He stakes claims on fabulously rich diamond properties and becomes very wealthy. He marries a beautiful French actress who is entranced by his continued hobby of reading Manifold documentation in depth.  His friends admire his ability to cite any Manifold Help topic from memory. [This paragraph contributed by Manifold tech support].

Example 3

Jane Doe orders Manifold System via the Online Store. She receives an email providing her with a serial number. Jane downloads the Manifold installation from the Product Downloads page and installs Manifold. The first time she launches the product, the Activation dialog pops up asking her for a serial number and Activation key. She has forgotten about the serial number email message, but quickly finds it in her email inbox and pastes it into the Activation dialog. After a few more days she decides to permanently install the package so she activates Manifold over the web.


After a few weeks of work, Jane encounters problems with her Windows system when an application she recently installed is not working properly. She decides to simplify her system to see what could be causing the problem by uninstalling some of the applications she has installed recently. She uninstalls Manifold using the Windows Control Panel Add / Remove Programs dialog. Removing Manifold proves it is not the problem. After removing a few other applications she traces the problem to a freeware screen saver utility.  After cursing lame software authors she removes the offending utility.


To re-install Manifold she installs it again from the installation file she previously downloaded. When she launches Manifold, it automatically launches without the need to enter a serial number or an Activation key since Manifold has already been permanently installed on this computer system. If Jane had re-installed Windows or made other substantial changes (such as rolling back her registry or other major alterations), she might have had to use up an activation to re-activate Manifold System, but since she has not made any major changes everything works automatically for her.


A month or two later when Manifold launches it tells Jane that a new update is available. She downloads the update, uninstalls the previous version of Manifold and then installs the update following the update's installation instructions. Manifold launches without opening any activation dialog. Once again there is no need for Jane to enter a new serial number or to re-activate Manifold.

Command Line Activation

Manifold may be activated from a Windows command line. Command line activation options are a relatively limited tool and are only intended to be used to switch editions of Manifold that are installed on the same machine or to force a non-interactive edition (such as might be offered in future products) to raise the Activation dialog.


There are two command line switches for activation. One switch is for activation of Manifold System itself and the other switch is used to activate an extension:


manifold.exe /activate:serial,key Activate Manifold System.


manifold.exe /activateExt:serial,key Activate an extension.


In the above, serial is the serial number and key is the Activation key. Because a System ID must be noted in order to get an Activation key with a serial number, the user must be able to launch Manifold interactively at least once on a machine to obtain the System ID.


Supplying an invalid serial number or a valid serial number without an Activation key will pop open the Activation dialog. This is a handy way of using a command line to force a Manifold installation to raise the Activation dialog so that the System ID may be obtained. For example, using the command line switch:


manifold.exe /activate:dialog


...will pop open the Activation dialog since "dialog" is not a valid serial number.


See Also



Legacy Install and Activate


Using SHA Checksums