@hallv5, yes when you activate the shell extension (as you described) it will stay activated... ..until you activate IP or IPE (one or both of those will demand activation).
As someone described it.. It's the battle of activations..
As I understand it there are two 'activation' errors currently existing with IP/IP4. One relates to the program itself either failing to activate or requesting re-activation after installation. And one that relates to an error when attempting to change individual icons for file types rather than installing complete icon sets.
I wasn't referring to the general 'activation' problem/s that occur when an attempt to run IP/IP4 is made. In the instance you're referring to I was describing the recurrence of the 'can't find..activate.exe' key error when an attempt is made to change an individual icon via the 'change icon' function under the properties tab of an individual file type.
After the 'clean start' process I described was completed I was able to enter IP4 with no problem. When I got the 'can't find..activate.exe' error on attempting to change an individual file type icon copying the 'activate.exe' file from C:\Program Files\Stardock\Object Desktop\Icon Packager to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Stardock\IconPackager allowed me to change the individual file type icon.
Subsequently (meaning 'just now) I experienced a "new" variant on the problem where (under the above circumstance - having copied the 'activate.exe' file to the appropriate directory) IP4 was asking for activation info (email/sn) when the "apply' of the 'change icon' tab is selected. After entering the requested info for IP4 the change on the individual icon for the file type was processed and the icon was changed.
It's a bit sloppy, but it does work if you want/need to change the display icon for certain file types not covered in an icon set.