Microsoft to roll out new version of WGA

New version expected to reduce "nagware" complaints

Microsoft on Tuesday released a revamped version of its Windows Genuine Advantage tool that it hopes will reduce complaints arising from paid-up users of Windows XP caught in the dragnet of the controversial anti-piracy program.

The main change in WGA Notifications is a new category of results for PCs with Windows installations of questionable validity.

The change addresses a problem raised by the other half of Microsoft's anti-piracy program, WGA Validation, which was introduced in mid-2005. PCs that were scanned by WGA Validation and failed to prove to Microsoft's satisfaction that they were running non-counterfeit copies of Windows XP were formerly labeled as "non-genuine" by Microsoft.

That caused WGA Validation to disallow access to certain Microsoft software, and WGA Notifications to send periodic messages asking users to reinstall XP or buy a legitimate license for it, leading to "nagware" complaints from some users.

Many users also claimed that WGA, due to technical glitches or other issues, mislabeled their genuine copies of Windows XP as pirated. Microsoft has maintained throughout that the rates of such "false positive" errors were very low.

At the same time, its online forum for WGA-related problems has registered nearly 20,000 postings from aggrieved users.

Tuesday's change in WGA Notifications is aimed at addressing complaints from users who have yet to pass WGA by creating a new "indeterminate" category for copies of XP that failed to prove they were genuine yet did not use a license of XP known by Microsoft to be pirated.

Microsoft keeps a database of pirated XP licenses, most of which are stolen from corporations using a single volume license to install multiple Windows on multiple PCs.

Users with copies of XP labeled "indeterminate" are also provided with more information to troubleshoot the problem, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

The majority of Windows XP users, whose copies of XP have already passed Microsoft's WGA program, can safely ignore the updated tool.

Microsoft initially rolled out WGA Notifications this summer as a "critical" fix via Automatic Updates. Many users, calling the program equivalent to spyware, complained they downloaded the pre-release program without their full knowledge. Microsoft subsequently changed WGA Notifications to become an opt-in, normal priority download, a status that does not change with the new version, the spokeswoman said. The program was also shifted out of the testing stage in late June.

Users running copies of XP that Microsoft has already determined to rely on one of four pirated Windows license keys are now being asked to download the revamped tool. That will be gradually expanded over the "next several weeks and months," according to Microsoft, though users will continue to be able to de-select the update from being downloaded and installed.

The new version of WGA Notifications will also not incorporate a "kill switch" that cripples PCs that fail to prove that they are running genuine copies of Windows XP. That more aggressive feature, called Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM), is being introduced in the upcoming Windows Vista OS.

The release also features a new installation wizard and will display validation results as soon as the tool has been installed. The software doesn't need to be rebooted after its installation, Microsoft said.

Microsoft plans to update the tool every 90 to 120 days, as a way to react to re-evaluation of the software and any changes in software piracy.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Computerworld
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?