If Microsoft's WGA Is So Successful... Why Change It So Completely?

from the not-quite-so-successful,-huh? dept

Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program has been nothing if not controversial. The anti-piracy system tries to determine if you're using an unauthorized version of Windows, which it will then disable. That works great for Microsoft if it's actually catching unauthorized copies -- but the problem is that it was catching an awful lot of legitimate users at the same time, causing plenty of damage in the process. However, Microsoft has continued to stand by WGA, and just last week the Associated Press ran an article highlighting what a huge success WGA has been, not only in slowing piracy, but in encouraging others that similar means could be useful in slowing piracy elsewhere.

Perhaps that article was a bit premature. The Associated Press is now running a new article about some fairly significant changes that Microsoft is making to WGA, including that it will no longer disable copies of Windows that do not pass the WGA test. Instead, it will just make those copies annoying, by making the wallpaper black and putting a white notice on the screen alerting the user to the fact that his or her copy is unauthorized. Every time the user logs in and once an hour a reminder will pop up, asking the user to buy a legitimate copy. However, it will continue to work. And, if a user does decide to buy a legit copy, he or she will get a 50% discount... meaning that if you want to buy a legit copy, you're now better off pirating a version and then buying a legit replacement. So, for all that talk of how successful WGA has been, it appears that the collateral damage of effectively bricking many computers simply wasn't worth it. Those rushing to implement similar solutions to WGA after last week's article may want to think again.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Casper, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:23am

    Because it sucked...

    That was the worst idea I have ever seen. I was locked out of my laptop twice, because Vista had "issues" with the WGA and multi users. Since this was a testing session, and the goal was for me to decide if I would recommend implementing it, the results were less than favorable.

     

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    Robert Crearle, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:23am

    WGA

    I belive that most people using cracked versions of Vista or XP pro are smart enough to use one of the "Very simple" cracks available that fools WGA that they are using a legit copy of Windows. These fixes always pass the WGA test so it seems silly to aggravate so many leagal users.
    We see no less than 20 people a month using illegal copies of Vista Ultimate and XP Pro, and they have never had WGA problems.

     

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    Peter Thomas, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:30am

    "Numbers of fake copies of Vista are at half the l

    If you want a laugh, check out the BBC News article on this story. I quote: "[Microsoft] said efforts to tackle piracy had seen numbers of fake copies of Vista at half the level of XP, the previous Windows operating system." Well, duh! That's because XP still has popularity over Vista! If you make an operating system that sucks, yeah, less people will pirate it! I suppose it could be construed as a successful anti-piracy initiative, although I think Rule #1 of business is to sell a high-quality product, which Vista simply is not. I'm migrating to the Mac next year for my video work, still keeping my Windows XP/Linux machines for certain web-based jobs. The best of all three major platforms!

     

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    Logan6, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:33am

    Whoohoo! 50% off, here I come!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:40am

    i see their bluff.....

    Yea, i see the bluff on what MS had to say...

    You have a 'unauthorized' copy. wow, nice add about the half off discount.... call MS.. can i get that?!... "sure"

    3 weeks later, your in court with a lawyer and MS slaping a lawsuit for you owning a pirated copy...


    I mean really.... didn't anybody else see it coming?

     

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      anon, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:52am

      Re: i see their bluff.....

      if i had a nickle for every pirated copy of windows...

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:16pm

      Re: i see their bluff.....

      doff your tinfoil hat. it doesnt work that way. they just want your money. since youve pirated it youve proven youre an appropriate target for a lower price point.

       

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    Thom, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:41am

    50% off

    I wonder every time I read such an article, is this a 50% discount off of Micrsoft's suggested retail price of Windows? If so, doesn't that really mean no savings at all off of actual retail?

     

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    Greg, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:51am

    Not saying this is a great idea or anything, or that WGA isn't horrible, but at least Microsoft realizes, between this and the $3 copies of Windows in piracy-happy parts of the world, that bargaining for part of something is better than demanding all of nothing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Re: i see their bluff..... by anon

    if i had a nickle for every pirated copy....



    i wouldn't bother buying windows... id just buy microsoft.

     

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    Todd, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:12pm

    re: I see their bluff

    Really? Have you heard of Microsoft filing any lawsuits against end users for using a pirated copy of their software? Because I haven't.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:29pm

      Re: re: I see their bluff

      It's called the BSA.

      They check business's software licenses and then fine them for each one they don't have.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:32pm

      Re: re: I see their bluff

      I'll show you just one of the many article on Microsofts website.... take a look, you'll find plenty more that MICROSOFT has done...

      http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/sep06/09-19MSPiracyCounterfeitingPR.mspx

      you'll find their just like the RIAA and the MPAA. if they find your PC with a pirated copy, they really don't care where they get the money from, there getting money, and more then you'd expect to pay for windows itself.

       

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        ehrichweiss, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 1:34pm

        Re: Re: re: I see their bluff

        an AC wrote:

        "you'll find their just like the RIAA and the MPAA. if they find your PC with a pirated copy, they really don't care where they get the money from, there getting money, and more then you'd expect to pay for windows itself."

        Did you bother actually *reading* that article? They state specifically that they're only targeting resellers, not end users. If that were the case they'd have far more than 20 defendants in court.

         

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        Evan Carslake, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 3:44pm

        Re: Re: re: I see their bluff

        They aren't even looking to find individual users using illegal copies, their court winnings would be mere decimal amounts of pennies to them. They are after the people actually counterfeiting their software, and distributing it, and making money doing it.

         

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    Mikael, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:14pm

    Annoying

    The WGA thing really annoyed me when I had built my first true gaming machine about a year ago.

    I spent almost three grand on a rig, purchashed Windows XP Pro Sp2 legally from Circuit City.

    After about an hour and a half of finally getting everything set up the way I like it (tuning it to get rid of useless effects) my machine gives me a warning about the WGA. Then I restart my computer (by flipping the switch) and it doesn´t want to let me log in saying I need to purchase a *legal* version of XP...

    That´s when I bought a 360... after a month, I got the ring of death.

    I hate microsoft.

     

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    Pro, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:18pm

    WGA

    I actually have a legit copy of XP and i still use the Bypass of WGA on it, i do not want WGA reporting to microsoft anything about me or my machine.

     

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    zcat, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:29pm

    My experience with WGA

    A friend of mine bought a new computer recently. With Vista on it. It had been sitting in the shop for more than three months, so almost as soon as she turned it on (and after telling it the 25-letter product key, twice) it was complaining that it hadn't been validated recently and was going to consider itself pirated. But we could activate it online if we wanted.

    Great. Except that she had never set up an internet connection because the computer was brand new, and we couldn't set up an internet connection now because Windows was sulking.

    Eventually we figured that we would have to ring the toll-free number. That wasn't too hard, we had to dial about 32 digits down the phone and the automated voice at microsoft gave us about 48 digits to type back into Windows. And then everything was working again. For the next 24 hours or so Windows still had a little notice on the desktop saying it was pirated, but this eventually went away by itself.

    After that I copied all the old documents over and installed the applications Laura has been using on her previous computer; Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice.... and now I'm starting to wonder why I didn't just go ahead and put Ubuntu on it.

     

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    Lucretious, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:32pm

    So how many minutes before the hacker community creates a patch to disable the nag screens etc?

    jesus, these people never learn.

     

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    Bill, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:32pm

    Student rate

    Avoid the issue and buy at student rates. For example, a retail bundle of Office 2007 ultimate plus Vista home premium sells for nearly $800, but the student can get it for $234. Usually titles selling for over $500 retail, you can get for $100 or less at student rate.

     

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      Greg, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 12:47pm

      Re: Student rate

      The catch there is that you have to be a student (or know a student who will let you use their discount, but that might be a legal gray area), and a lot of times there are limits to how many times a student can buy a particular piece of software. It's not a universal or perfect solution at all.

       

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    Paul, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 1:08pm

    FUD

    WGA is/was successful for Microsoft and the amount of false positives is/was extremely low for the total amount of computers running Microsoft Windows.

    Even if only 15 people out of 15 million computers experienced the issues it would still be enough to put a bad reputation on the service, and despite being successful Microsoft might save face in the eyes of weary consumers by getting rid of it. A sort of "good faith" bargain to win back loyalty.

     

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    Darth, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 1:12pm

    Corporate idiots!

    It's funny that ppl can be so naive!
    When they sit down in their snazzy conference rooms, brainstorming new ways to handle the piracy issue...do they HONESTLY think that we are stupid?
    Maybe when they decide on a new strategy, they all let out their "EVIL LAUGH"!!!

    i guess it will take a whole 10 minutes for some 16yr old russian kid to figure out a way around the new WGA system.

     

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    Old_Paranoid, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 2:06pm

    WGA

    If you change your base configuration or install drivers that play games with the apparent system configuration, you could easily get hit by the WGA issue. When I installed Flight Simulator 10, the system I installed it on was not network connected. I had to activate it over the phone. It took perhaps 5 minutes, but I had no problems.

    I have gone the phone route a number of times without problems, sometimes speaking to a customer service representative about what I had done to my system before reinstalling.

    It has been a bit of a pain in the ass, but I have only had to deal with it a few times.

     

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    Brian Bergstein, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 2:16pm

    AP on the subject

    Mike, keep in mind that the original AP story didn't say WGA was perfectly implemented. It just made the point that Microsoft claimed WGA worked at reducing what it calls piracy. The point of that piece, which was a sidebar to a longer story about the BSA's tactics, is that the BSA's aggressive approach has failed to reduce the "piracy rate," but a technology that locks down use actually is showing some effect. In other words, the story was not meant to trumpet WGA in particular, but rather to raise the general idea that if the software companies want to reduce what they consider piracy, they're more likely to have success at that through lockdown technologies instead of through hard-core and selective enforcement of legalistic licensing agreements. I'd say the point of the original AP story would now be obviated only if Microsoft was announcing that it was suspending WGA entirely, rather than fixing its flaws.

     

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      Mike (profile), Dec 5th, 2007 @ 12:28am

      Re: AP on the subject

      Mike, keep in mind that the original AP story didn't say WGA was perfectly implemented. It just made the point that Microsoft claimed WGA worked at reducing what it calls piracy.

      True, true. I wasn't blaming the AP (or you specifically, since you wrote the article) for misleading coverage. I just found it amusing that so soon after a "hey look at how well WGA works" article came out, the company made a pretty major change to the software...

       

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    dave, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 2:51pm

    "..once an hour a reminder will pop up..."

    maybe my version of windows is pirated... occasionally windows pops up a reminder to 'Reboot now so updates can install'. When I dismiss the windows it comes back every fifteen minutes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 3:29pm

    Of course, don't forget Linux Genuine Advantage™

    Linux Genuine Advantage™ is an exciting and mandatory new way for you to place your computer under the remote control of an untrusted third party!

    According to an independent study conducted by some scientists, many users of Linux are running non-Genuine versions of their operating system. This puts them at the disadvantage of having their computers work normally, without periodically phoning home unannounced to see if it's OK for their computer to continue functioning. These users are also missing out on the Advantage of paying ongoing licensing fees to ensure their computer keeps operating properly.

    http://www.linuxgenuineadvantage.org/

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2007 @ 10:27pm

    a lot of the folks i know that had a cracks version of windows are now switching to Ubuntu. In fact I'm on Ubuntu right now ;)

     

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    Aaron Martin-Colby (profile), Dec 4th, 2007 @ 11:22pm

    My own neck

    At the risk of prosecution, I would like the point out that I am currently using, as in using it to type this very post, a pirated copy of Windows XP. The last Windows product I bought was Me, and Microsoft is wondering why I refuse to buy anything?

    I have a legit copy of Vista on a desktop and a laptop. I hate both of them (albeit for different reasons). I think I even have a legit copy of XP lying around. I never use it because the hacked, pirated copy is easier to play with and doesn't scream at me every time I change my video card.

     

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    Improbus, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 6:44am

    WGA Pffftt!

    WGA wasn't why I gave up on Microsoft ... that was Vista's fault. I am now weening myself off of Microsoft and switching to Linux. I installed Ubuntu 7.10 on my last computer and I am loving it.

     

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    meth, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 7:53am

    bleh

    WGA bit me a week back on XP pro. Randomly on boot it decided I had changed to many components and I'd have to reauthenticate my computer. Keep in mind nothing had changed in three months since I built the thing and installed a brand new copy of XP on it. In the end the result was call the phone number and read off the long number and re-enter another long number. bleh.

    Before that I tried to get info online though. The MS website WGA directs you to with Microsoft is anything but nice. Everything is accusatory. Hell they even popped up a "survey" at one point with loaded questions, "the have you stopped killing old people" type questions. Not a single option of, "do you think we made a mistake in flagging you" anywhere.

    So now I wonder, I'll be changing a few items out yearly, how often am I going to have to do this re-authenticate song and dance? As for Vista, from what I've seen of it, I'll pass. I dont need an OS that like clippy wants to second guess me constanly.

     

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    Ro, Dec 5th, 2007 @ 6:33pm

    Windows Genuine Disadvantage.

    I've got legitimate copies of XP and Vista, but decided to use cracks to bypass all this Activation and WGA crap.

    It's easier using a crack than fishing around for half an hour at night to find some silly cd key. I recommend it to many friends who have been bitten by problems with legitimate software.

    Why would I want my computer to contact Microsoft every 180 days? How is that a genuine advantage for me? Why would I want to be hassled by Microsoft, when all I want to do is work?

     

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    Brandon Eubanks, Dec 6th, 2007 @ 5:47pm

    office for much less

    actually MS has a version of office that students can get for much less through April I believe. All you have to do is be enrolled in a higher education program and have an e-mail address from that higher education program. You can then get Office 2007 Ultimate for $60 US. The program is called ultimate steal.

     

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    Brandon Eubanks, Dec 6th, 2007 @ 5:55pm

    of course you could

    Of course I only have an MS operating system for gaming, and because of the requirements of my education. Otherwise I'd just use all the great open-source software out there. I currently run a dual-boot vista/ubuntu. I only use vista/office for my education because thats what my school teaches on. I also use vista for gaming. Other than that though I use ubuntu for everything. I share profiles for thunderbird/firefox/lightning between vista/ubuntu and it works great.

     

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