Solving the lost dongle problem

Martin Payne | | 3 minute read
Dinkey Pro/FD DinkeyOMS

If a customer reports that a dongle is lost or stolen, are they telling the truth or trying to get an extra licence? How can you balance good customer service with protecting your revenue?

What should you do if a customer reports that their software security dongle has been lost, stolen or damaged? In genuine cases you want to get users up and running again as quickly as possible. At the same time, giving a new dongle to someone that doesn't need one is the same as giving them a second copy of your app for free. Appearing mistrustful of your customers can damage your relationship with them, but if you had complete trust in them then you wouldn't need copy protection! This is the lost dongle problem.

If a dongle has been damaged, you can ask the customer to return it and verify the damage before replacing it. This may be prohibitively time-consuming or expensive however, especially if the customer is located in another country.

If a dongle has been reported as lost or stolen then there is no way to check whether this is actually the case. Perhaps the customer is being deceitful, or perhaps they really have lost the dongle, only to find it again at some later date. Either way, they have gained an extra licence, and if you replaced the dongle for free or at cost, you are now out of pocket. If a dongle has been stolen, or a lost dongle is found by another person, then an unauthorised third party now has access to your software.

Teach the customer to value the dongle

One strategy is to emphasise to your customers the importance of keeping track of the dongle. For example, you would be careful not to lose your passport or wallet because these possessions are important. Vendors often charge the full price of a licence for a replacement dongle - if this is expensive then it can concentrate the mind! But customers may feel aggrieved at paying for another full licence if they have genuinely misplaced their dongle. In fact, this is one of the biggest complaints that customers have when they use software that is protected by copy protection dongles.

Periodic expiry dates

Another technique to fix this problem is to set an expiry date in the dongle, which is then updated regularly e.g. once a month. If the dongle is reported as lost, damaged or stolen you can make a note not to update the expiry date for this particular dongle in the future. In that way the dongle can only be used up to the expiry date. This method can work well if your licence model is to rent your software per month, for example, but otherwise it can be a lot of additional work as you will have to issue a unique update code for each dongle every month.


DinkeyOMS can completely automate this process with its Dongle Blocking feature. If a dongle is reported as lost, damaged or stolen then all you need to do is set that dongle to "blocked" via the online portal. The customer will not be able to use this dongle again, or if they use it offline then at most for a specific number days - configurable by you. You can then issue this customer with a temporary software key so that they can continue using your protected software until the replacement dongle arrives.

DinkeyOMS is an online management system for Dinkey Pro dongles that can be used to program, manage and update all the dongles that you distribute to your customers. It can also be used to automate dongle updates via an online payment system.