How to Copy-Protect Demos and Trial Software

Martin Payne | 27 Oktober 2020
Software Protection Copy Protection Trialware

It is common practice for software developers to release demo versions of their software so that potential customers can evaluate its functionality before purchasing it. This licensing model is usually known as trialware, demoware or "try before you buy". This article explores how software demos can be provided in a secure way while protecting IP and revenue streams.

As a software developer you will very likely want to release a demo version of your software. You want potential customers to be able to easily access evaluation versions of your software to maximise your exposure and the chances of aquiring new customers.

But how do you achieve this exposure in a secure way that protects your intellectual property and revenue stream? This article explains the details.

There are two main ways of releasing demo software. These are as follows.

Time-Limited Fully Functional Demo

The potential customer can use your software with full functionality (ie, access to every feature), but only for a limited period of time.

This method is often preferable because a customer can fully evaluate your software. However, many developers are wary of taking this approach because of concerns that a customer could tamper with the software and use it indefinitely for free. In addition, developers are often concerned that their intellectual property (IP) is at risk.

Time-Unlimited Restricted Demo

You restrict the functionality of your software so that a potential customer can get a feel for how your software operates, even if they cannot execute every feature.

In this type of demo it is common that the basic features of the software are available, but more advanced features are blocked.

Creating Secure Trialware

Clearly it is extremely important that trialware is distributed in a secure way. Especially as the intention is to freely distribute it to as many potential customers as possible.

The Dinkey Pro system from Microcosm addresses the software protection needs for your demos and trials as well as the licensing of the full version. Dinkey Pro is a dongle-based copy protection system but it includes software-based features to enable simple and cost-effective copy protection for demo software.

Dinkey Pro/FD Software Protection System

The Dinkey Pro/FD system allows developers to securely protect their trial software releases and prevent IP theft.

To create a restricted demo you can use our API to check for the presence of the dongle. If a valid dongle is not found then your software will run in the limited demo mode, otherwise if the dongle is detected then your software can choose to run with no restrictions. Using this technique you can distribute the same protected software for both the demo and full versions of your software.

The Demo Software Key feature is an inexpensive software-based solution to help you create fully functional demos. A demo software key can be installed on any number of computers but only once on any given computer for a limited period that you specify. This prevents an end user from using your demo software indefinitely.

If a customer wants to purchase your software then you can send them a correctly configured dongle and the software installation will continue to function as a full version.

Dinkey Pro/FD is a very flexible system. It is also possible to produce other types of demo software. For example you can use demo software keys to implement a restricted time-limited demo. Or you could demo certain features of your software in a time-limited/unlimited or restricted/fully functional manner.

Software copy protection and licensing system using dongles to protect your software against hacking

USB dongle-based software protection and licensing system

  • Hardware-based security
  • Driverless
  • Multi-platform support

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