Microsoft Mistakenly Accuses 2.6 Million Half A Million Of Having Pirated Versions Of Windows

from the ooops dept

Remember Microsoft’s “Windows Genuine Advantage” program? The one that would tell you if you had a pirated copy of Windows, but was coming up with all sorts of false positives, causing trouble for plenty of legitimate users? Well, now it appears that Microsoft is ‘fessing up to the fact that it may have mistakenly labeled somewhere around 2.6 million legitimate Windows users as “pirates.” Update: Techweb has updated their article (without ever noting that they did so, or why they made the change), lowering the number from 2.6 million to around 500,000. Of course, they hid that in the stats by pointing out that it’s less than half a percent of the 512 million systems validated through WGA. No matter what, though, that’s a pretty large number of people falsely accused of piracy, and raises plenty of questions not just about the additional overhead costs for Microsoft in dealing with all of those false positives, but in the legitimacy of the entire program.

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Comments on “Microsoft Mistakenly Accuses 2.6 Million Half A Million Of Having Pirated Versions Of Windows”

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dataGuy says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve always used windows (unless you want to count CP/M and other OSes from back in the day) and pretty much hated it from Windows95 on. Everything I’ve read about Vista makes me now very willing to consider switching to Mac or Linux.

I’m looking for less DRM headaches in my life and do not want to have DRM imbedded in every function of the OS.

Poomer says:

Re: Re: buy a mac

and then download mac compatible bitorrent clients
mac compatible games
mac compatible videos and players with codecs that run the bittorrent downloaded pRon

macs are visually cool but just as annoying and frustrating when something doesnt work
or for diagnosing a problem…

I would rather go with a FREE Linux OS – FEDORA and deal with the frustration bcoz its FREE!

haywood says:

Re: Re: Re: buy a mac

I was thinking that myself, MACs are fine for idiots that take everything to be repaired and use it the way it comes, but not so nice for folks whose computers Bill Gates wouldn’t even recognize as Windows machines. For me a new computer starts with a bare case and daily deliveries of parts for a week or so.

Bumbling old fool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…is there anyway to avoid getting Vista on my next PC?

Yes, of course. Don’t buy another PC. Unless your computer is dying, vista offers absolutely no reason to upgrade. (and don’t you dare point me to the wikifud articles on how great vista is)

When your PC is dying, seriously consider alternatives to buying another Microsoft OEM box. Mac is an alternative. Just try it, you may feel liberated.

simon says:

Re: Re:

well, don’t buy vista, don’t use-it and if you by chance look out for another use for the pc, try linux, or try to get arround lock-ups from windows, there are always work-arrounds that’s the nicest thing about programs 🙂

just think more then what if , and try to think how can I …

you’ll find answer even on google :))

btw: i still wait for riaa and mpaa to sue search engines over as a torrent file distributers :))

Buzz (profile) says:

Wow, they're gooood...

You know what’s funny? I’ve seen friends with pirated versions of Windows (they openly admit to it), but they aren’t flagged as being pirates. I guess I should clarify and state that they merely used pirated serial keys (the OS itself was ‘genuine’). And now innocent Windows users are being marked as pirates.

I dunno. Maybe I don’t understand the big corporation mentality yet, but I personally would fear being the head developer for anti piracy measures after seeing the nightmare that is Microsoft. Why go to all the effort to have a system disable itself if it’s marked as pirated? This is why I believe Microsoft should have broken the Windows franchise into two parts with each release: the core operating system (bare essentials with a cost around $20) and the core utilities (all the bells and whistle, maybe even MS Office, for the additional $5000). Again, I don’t work for a large company, so I’m sure there is a big marketing strategy involved, but I just think they could regain a lot of trust by doing something like that. They’re rich enough… 😛

misanthropic humanist says:

Re: Wow, they're gooood...

Well, they sort of do that already Buzz. Remember that scene in Schindlers List where Oskar is trying to explain power to Goethe?
Power is what you have when you don’t have to use it.

Microsoft have trodden a dualistic line for years. They’ve openly ignored massive piracy to ensure that Windows became the dominant operating system in the world. They even ignore large corporations who don’t have full licensing paperwork. For a long time they have sold “subsidised” versions of Windows to developing countries. And of course they routinely ignore individuals with unlicensed copies the way a an elephant ignores flies on its back. This is never an openly stated policy, it’s just the way things work.

IBM could halt every business in the USA tomorrow if it unleashed its patent doomsday device. But collapsing the North American economy wouldn’t make them look very good. Or do them much good financially in the long run.

Microsoft show just the same sort of tolerence, but not for merciful reasons. Once they know the hook is properly in place then the line will be reeled in. The hook is having all your documents and resources in a non-translatable proprietry format. The line and rod are called “Vista”.

Vista is the chef d’oeuvre, the masterstroke that Microsoft have been planning for ages. Many businesses are cornered and see no choice but to upgrade to Vista once XP is finally decommisioned.

That’s when the screw will tighten.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Legitimate Keys

Since the beginning of online activation I have had to call them a few hundred times. (I build and repair PCs for a living.) I found that if you call after 1:00pm EST and go threw the hoops to get a person, they really don’t care why your activating over the phone and give you a confirmation number really quick.

Before any one says anything, every time I call them its for a legitimate key.

I have found a lot of information on how it keeps track of the PC its being activated on. I also have found a way to never have to activate XP again after activating it the first time, but it only works on that same PC. Saying that, I have complained almost every time I call them, saying I don’t know why I have to activate it. It worked over the Internet the first time I did. Maybe if I complain enough they’ll stop doing it.

Jason Bateman says:

Re: Legitimate Keys

“I found that if you call after 1:00pm EST and go threw the hoops to get a person, they really don’t care why your activating over the phone and give you a confirmation number really quick.”

I too have found the same results. And also, I am in the same business as yourself, building and repairing PCs.

Also during these times, I am on the phone with MS for no more than 10 minutes (usually only about 5) and the legit WGA/KEY installation issues are resolved. Mostly reaching an person of Indian background, but who cares, Im not asking for technical advice, I am just exchanging WGA/KEY confirmation numbers and then I’m quickly off the phone.

edstamos says:

Re: Linux

it’s not a requirement for all users to become programmers. that’s what an IT department is for. after all, reducing their stranglehold on PCs in the business sector will make a bigger dent then having X number people with Home editions switching to linux.

that said, the real difficulty is getting users to migrate to a different OS. for people like us (programmers, PC enthusiasts, anyone with over 1TB of por^H^H^H disk space) it’s not difficult. after all, we live and breathe silicon and those funny tubes the internet is composed of. but some people have a hard enough time mapping mouse movement to cursor movement, or understanding the difference between a download and an upload. sit them in front of a computer without a “Start” button or without a “My Computer” icon on the desktop…or for heaven’s sake, without a desktop manager! and they’ll be as lost as Paris Hilton at walmart

Wizard Prang (user link) says:


Oh yeah, as soon as all PC users magically become programmers to write their own drivers…

I _am_ a programmer… and I have never had to write any drivers for my Ubuntu box… I must be doing something wrong!

When I installed it, network, video, printer and sound were all operational without having to do the reboot/insert-driver-disk thing. Can Windows say the same?

I am not Linux zealot – there are also Windows 2000, 98 and XP boxes in my house, and the Ubuntu machine has been by far the most maintenance-free machine, needing on average, three or four reboots a year.

To be sure, Ubuntu has its limitations, but it is perhaps a little disingenuous to dismiss it out of hand.

haywood says:

As usual, I'll grumble about direct X

Linux will not be ready for prime time until it can emulate directX. I’d switch in a heartbeat if it did. The future as I see it involves XP being used as if it were open source and the faithful keeping it going with patches and upgrades to emulate the desirable features of Vista and its future offspring without the annoying part.

thorkull says:

Re: As usual, I'll grumble about direct X

Linux will not be ready for prime time until it can emulate directX. I’d switch in a heartbeat if it did. The future as I see it involves XP being used as if it were open source and the faithful keeping it going with patches and upgrades to emulate the desirable features of Vista and its future offspring without the annoying part.

TransGaming already has most of this fixed. Next objection?

kurt says:

It's how they got there..

Windows got to there position in this market because of piracy. Most of us would have chosen something else had we had to pay fpr al of those copies over the years. MS beware – Linux is catching up and its cheaper and friendlier than yours. Check it out ubuntu, linux xp, freespire, fedora. These do everything that 90% of the people out there need to do.

misanthropic humanist says:

orderly queue for the lifeboats

Okay guys. No pushing, there’s room for everyone….

For complete noobs I suggest

You can buy a distro for as little as $10, c’mon that’s almost the cost of the CD and the shipping.

Next in line

You can download for free and you get support for free! Not quite as much like Windows for the first time user though.

If you want to support all modern Linux distros how about donating
a few bucks to these guys. Debian is for experts, but is one of the most powerful and general configurations.

And if you want to support free software at it’s root then support these chaps and

A good runner up for the desktop is

And if you run a business and want to pay for a very powerful and well developed enterprise suite then there is only one

Desktop users who aren’t sure yet if they want out or whether to go down with the ship should try a LiveCD distro first. All the major distros now have a Live CD.

haywood says:

Re: Happened to me...

It happened to my sons roommate as well. A perfectly legit Dell desktop with the factory installed XP home bought new. Numbers are just numbers till it happens to you, then percentages don’t really matter. If I were in charge, I’d rather let millions of pirates go free than accuse one paying customer. Actually the accusing isn’t the worst part, as you say a paying customer shouldn’t have to reload their machine and lose the months perhaps even years of work it took getting it just the way you want it.

Sarah says:

Re: Re: Happened to me...

“As you say a paying customer shouldn’t have to reload their machine and lose the months perhaps even years of work it took getting it just the way you want it.”

Exactly. Mine was a Dell machine as well, my work machine. IT department decided it was easier and faster to re-image than to waste hours arguing about it with Dell tech support, who pretended that they had never heard of the problem. I wish now that I’d insisted on them getting a new key from Dell, though, because there’s no telling how many productivity hours I’ve lost from settings that didn’t transfer like I thought they would. Le sigh.

It wasn’t my money, but it still really chaps me that a couple of hardware upgrades to a machine means that you get treated like a crook. This could just as easily have happened to me at home, but I’ve made sure that WGA doesn’t download on my home PC.

Mark Rosedale (user link) says:

They still make billions of dolors

I don’t understand why Microsoft is going through all this trouble and whining about this. They continue to pull in billions of dolors and just throws money at en devours like the Zune and Xbox. In reality all of the Piracy hasn’t hurt them one bit. And we all know that Piracy has been a problem since the beginning. I don’t know what they think they are going to gain from all of this. Frankly I am annoyed enough with this Windows Genuine and their Vista anti-piracy acts that I am not sure that I want to stick with them as an os. If they can’t trust as a user there are serious problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

where did 2.6 millian come from? The article clearly says:

“Microsoft has been tight-lipped about the false positive numbers, but Tuesday Lazar said it was ‘less than half a percent.’ At that rate, as many as 571,000 people have been incorrectly identified as pirates.”

They were discussing a percent of the positives that were false, not percent of the total systems that were false positives.

512 million ran the scan
22% of 512 million failed = 114 million
half of a percent of 114 million are believed to be in error = 500,000

haywood says:

Re: Correction

“Unfortunately, the cited article has been corrected to say 512,000 false positives. Still rather a lot, though…”

It is like the unemployment statistics, seriously underreported. My bet is a lot of the accused contact their hacker buddies and learn how to commit the crime they were accused of, they have already tried playing it straight. I know one innocent who packed the computer up when they moved and just left it in storage rather than deal with it.

noalear says:

Vista.. seriously, its not that bad. Unless you plan on attempting to pirate (you hooker) Vista, which is just retardulous anyway, you wont have any problems. Im running an early beta of Vista (way before RC1) on a gateway laptop that has a Geforce FX Mobile something-or-other. In XP you will look for days and days trying to find a driver that works with xp well enough to get you to 1440×900. Good luck finding it. I installed the vista beta, bam, it downloaded it straight off the internet and it was set up with the latest driver. I have never had any problems with it crashing, unless I was using the early Office Beta, which the program would crash once in about 30 uses. The new Office beta doesnt crash ever.

I’m not a Microsoft fanboy, for sure. I hate Macintosh. The reason I hate a mac is because Mac users have yet to learn how to use more than one finger at a time apparently, and If i see that god damn spinning color wheel for no reason what so ever one more time Im going to eat the next iPhone I see.

But Vista- better than OSX Walrus or whatever they have moved on to now.

Mitch the Bitch says:


You are a sad bunch of losers arent you…

Whe really gives a flying fuck what OS you run?

Each has its strengths and each has its weakness.

Why the constant fn crying about Microsoft? Dont use windows and stfu about it already…



PhysicsGuy says:

As usual, I'll grumble about direct X

a big yeaaaaahhhh right to that one. i’d LOVE to see how well oblivion runs with that. it’s one thing to run a game, it’s another to run a game without crippling it by turning everything down, you’ll know the ins and outs of the .ini better than you know how to spell your own name trying to get it to run smooth with that … god i hate stupid people… “next!”

N3rdkw says:

No mac

Mac focuses too much on graphic interface, using up too much computing power, not a problem unless you’re running on a slow mac. This said, it’s still a waste. Plus, macs are just too damned difficult to “mod.” Virtually everything you put in, it stores it somewhere discreet so that the next time you want to use it, you’ll be looking through the search engine for 10 min. before anything comes up. Organization on a mac is just absurd.

Damon says:

Yeah they accused me

I have had to call MS twice because MGA said that my hardware had changed and I needed to call MS. Both times I waited on hold for 20mins and had to cuss out some poor Indian guy. Both times I had upgraded my video card. I was pissed. Who the fuck does MS think they are spying on my hardware configuration. I have 3 copies on Winblows in my house and all three were purchased. I won’t buy VISTA ever !

Vincent Thomas Carney says:

Microsoft Bashers

If you hate and despise Microsoft so much, do not use the operating system. Use fireFox or some other browser. Stay away from everything Microsoft. Most people who bash Microsoft are husy small minded, jealous people who wish they had bought Microsoft stock when it was $5 a share. Again. If you hate Microsoft, DO NOT USE IT!

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