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I want to make an app that runs for 30 days and then stops. The platform is Windows or linux. The following approaches seem feasible but can be broken:

  1. Use system time: Easily broken by changing system time

  2. Use a piece of information on the computer hardware: Easily altered

  3. Use internet to connect to external server and verify: Network can be messed with

  4. Use EULA: well which person has so many lawyers to enforce it How do these trialware apps protect themselves?

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    No measures will be 100% waterproof. Decide for yourself how much time you are willing to spend on making it harder to use your software illegally. Time that you could also spend on improving your software. Users who are making efforts to use your software illegally are not likely to pay to use your software legitimately. – Rik D Nov 19 at 14:14
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Software that operates in this fashion usually has a license key. When the software is installed the key comes along with it. A trial version will have a trial license. When the software starts up it checks if the key is valid. Usually, this is done via a connection to the internet where a service will check to see the license.

No date checking is done on the client, it's all through done through the key on a server that no one is adjusting the time on. Change the key, invalid, software expired, invalid, etc.

You can explicitly state that software requires a connection to the internet to work properly over this trial period. Or you can be less rigid and let the user use the software without a network connection and perform checks every so often. That depends on how leeway you want to be with your license during this time period.

Additionally this information that is stored locally (the license) can be encrypted for further protection to prevent tampering.

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  • Additionally, usually when a user gets a trial you will collect some information from them like name, email, address, etc. This allows for a human followup if they are beyond the trial period but haven't purchased. – Jon Raynor Nov 19 at 12:40

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