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Crippleware is any software program that cannot be fully utilized until the user registers or, in the case of shareware , purchases the program. There are a number of ways in which the functionality of a program can be limited in such a way that the user can try the program but cannot take full advantage of its features until registration has been completed or payment has been made.

There are two types of crippleware program. One form involves activation of some, but not all, of the features prior to registration or payment. Critics of this approach say that a user cannot get a sufficient idea of whether the program will meet existing needs when only some of the features are available. The other form of crippleware allows the user to take full advantage of all the features of the program, but only for a few sessions. After that, registration or payment is necessary before the program can be run again.

The term is sometimes used for hardware whose functionality is limited to encourage a user to upgrade by purchasing an uncrippled version. This was done with some Intel 486SX microprocessor chips in the 1990s. The affected chips were partially disabled versions of the more powerful 486DX.

Another example of crippled hardware can be found in certain power amplifiers for amateur-radio use. The 24- MHz and 28-MHz amateur-radio frequency coverage in these amplifiers is disabled by the manufacturer to prevent use by Citizen Band ( CB ) operators at 27 MHz. This is because CB operators are legally limited to far less radio-frequency (RF) transmitter power than are radio amateurs. If the buyer can produce a valid amateur radio license, the amplifier is sold in uncrippled form.

This was last updated in September 2005

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