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Microsoft Reissues Anti-Piracy Tool, Lawyers Sue

Microsoft this week reissued a software component designed to detect pirated versions of Windows, citing a consumer backlash following revelations that part of the program phoned home to Redmond each day plus every time the user rebooted the machine.

Meanwhile, a new class-action lawsuit charges that the software giant installed the program on users' machines in a misleading way and did not give customers notice that the program would communicate data back to Microsoft.

Understanding the current controversy requires a bit of a history review. In June 2005, Microsoft began its Windows Genuine Advantage program, a piece of software that users had to install before they could download programs or other tools from the company's Web site. In April, it expanded WGA, pushing it out to Windows XP users in the United States and a few other countries who downloaded the company's security updates. At the same time, Microsoft began shipping its WGA notification tool, designed to nag users who fail the WGA test with periodic pop-up messages saying their copy of Windows may be pirated.

When it came to light that the notification tool also was continually sending data back to Microsoft, privacy advocates complained that the company had not disclosed clearly enough what kind of information its program would collect about users.

According to a story this week over at BetaNews, Microsoft is now officially rolling out the anti-piracy reminders to XP users worldwide: "The company has made minor changes to the program in response to customer concern regarding its 'phone home' functionality,'" so that "the update no longer checks a configuration file located on Microsoft's servers, but the program will still communicate with the company periodically."

The story continues: "When asked how often customers' computers will connect to Microsoft, the company told BetaNews [that] the frequency varies depending upon license type, but typically takes place every 90 days or so. This enables Microsoft to update our list of bad keys, and ensure that newly discovered counterfeits are not proliferating."

The dust-up over potential privacy problems with Microsoft's anti-piracy program was enough to drive at least one New York attorney to ask a federal judge in Washington to certify a class-action suit against Microsoft, charging that the company violated anti-spyware laws in California and Washington state when it collected information about consumers without clearly disclosing that activity in its end-user license agreement. (Click here for a PDF copy of the lawsuit.)

"What Microsoft did to induce people to load this [notification] program onto their computers was misleading, and Microsoft never said was going to communicate information about your computer and Internet address, but it did," said Scott Kamber, the attorney who filed the case.

BetaNews said Microsoft has since changed its EULA "to more clearly specify the purpose of WGA Notifications" and provided details on what customers should consider before installing the tool, along with an updated privacy statement covering its behavior. It remains to be seen whether these changes will satisfy privacy advocates and class-action lawyers like Kamber, who maintain that Microsoft should provide users with a way to remove the program.

According to BetaNews, Microsoft also recently provided instructions for how to remove the previous version of the notification software (instructions and third-party tools for doing just that have been available online for weeks now).

You might think this would lay the whole issue to rest, but you'd be wrong. Some notable technology bloggers have posited that Microsoft is preparing to push out a digital "kill switch" that could work with WGA to remotely disable machines found to be running pirated copies of Windows.

Dave Farber, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, reports in his blog that a reader had a rather interesting conversation with a Microsoft support representative about his concerns on installing the WGA software. Farber quotes his reader:

"[The Microsoft rep] spent some time telling me that WGA was a good thing, etc. I reiterated that I have accepted all the updates except WGA and just want to review the updates before they're installed on my machine. He told me that 'in the fall, having the latest WGA will become mandatory and if its not installed, Windows will give a 30 day warning and when the 30 days is up and WGA isn't installed, Windows will stop working, so you might as well install WGA now.'"

ZDNet blogger Ed Bott writes: "Hackers have been working overtime to find ways to disable WGA notification. If WGA becomes mandatory, would it mean that Microsoft could prevent Windows from working if it determines -- possibly erroneously -- that your copy isn't 'genuine'? That's a chilling possibility, and Microsoft refuses an easy opportunity to deny that that option is in its plans."

Chilling, indeed, and potentially very messy for Microsoft from a public-relations standpoint.

What about you, dear Security Fix readers? Have you installed the WGA notification tool? If so, were you aware that it was going to be installed? Have you been notified you are running an illegal copy of Windows, even though you own a legitimate copy?

By Brian Krebs  |  June 29, 2006; 2:14 PM ET
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I haven't, but I wouldn't be surprised if I have to the next time MS puts out updates. I had to get the validation tool (I think that's what it was) before they let me get the June updates.

Posted by: S. H. | June 29, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Another bad idea from Redmond. They've decided they are going to stop criminal behaviour by making all of us suspects, which to me makes them the criminal. How about they figure out how to provide software updates that don't blow other functionality out of the water first? How about notifiying us when something is broken by an update? I'm sure there will an announcement soon about the WGA having a major security hole in it.

Posted by: Joe P | June 29, 2006 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I was not aware that they had installed an "expanded" WGA and no, I have not been notified that I have an illegal copy of Windows. Regardless, I find this troubling. The thought that Redmond can remotely stop someone's computer from working is Orwellian. Linux looks more and more attractive.

Posted by: Michael T | June 29, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Since I go to MS each month for XP updates, I vaguely recall having to install first ActiveX and then later an anti-piracy tool. I never had any trouble, but did not know those installations caused the communication with MS that you mention. You do not say exactly what data are sent back to MS. What is it, do you know?

Posted by: Bartolo | June 29, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

What happens when Net Neutrality is imposed and Microsoft refuses to pay Verizon the extra money to offer traffic to their servers at increased speed? Will it then take 20 minutes for my machine to launch?

Posted by: Biagio M | June 29, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Vote with your dollars! Go elsewhere. MacBooks are $1000, easy to use and they talk to Windows file servers. Or use Linux on your current hardware. is a competent alternative to Word and Excel (ppt lags behind) -- at least until MS revives the trusted-computing nightmare (where "trusted" is a code word for "kill open-source projects").

I have to tolerate Microsoft in my office but I will not bow to them anywhere else.

Posted by: James | June 29, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I actually asked a question about this in your last discussion -- I haven't installed it yet because I have the automatic updates set to be approved before they're installed and I've hesitated to install this after my system crashed. So I'm in limbo right now -- I still have the automatic update telling me to install it because I haven't outright said I don't want it installed. But I really don't. I wonder if you can get around the blocked updates if you keep it as I have it -- never installing nor denying its installation?

Posted by: Katherine S. | June 29, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Who's paying for the internet connection? Oh yeah I am. Why is it that microsoft is not paying ME for using my internet connection collecting information to battle their piracy problems?

our connection speeds are clogged enough without adding this extra garbage to it.
Just a thought

Posted by: Tom | June 29, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I did not download the validation tool when if was put out as voluntary. I have nothing to hide. For June I had to get the validation tool (I noticed the EULA was the same as the pilot EULA when the thing was voluntary, too lazy to fix even that) to get security updates, which are necessary. When I get a new PC, I'll be going with Linux and play games on a Playstation. I have been doing both Linux and Windows. If windows use doesn't fall, applications makers (games etc...) will never consider Linux as worthwhile. I use Open Office and thus Bill doesn't hundreds every few years for Office apps. Office money is the what allows Microsoft to wield power, the OS just keeps them in business.

Posted by: Chretien | June 29, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Hey you have to understand where Microsoft is coming from on this. In the United States alone in 2005 there was a 21% piracy rate. (according to the Business Software Alliance How would you like a fifth of your companies profits drained away? There have been lawsuits in the past when Microsoft has tried to actually impare functionality for those that are running 'suspect product' and I doubt that MS is stupid enough to try it again.

And if you think about it of course MS can kill your computer. If you have antivirus software or even antispyware software then those companies could probably turn your computer into an expensive brick as well. You are an idiot if you flee to Apple or Linux just because MS has the ability to kill your computer as whoever provides you with system updates could, realistically, destroy your computer. I personally did not install the notification tool, but I was also smart enough to read about it when a EULA popped up on my screen. The only people who are complaining about this program are the pirates and the privacy advocates. Good for them. Get a life :)

Posted by: Mr. Wood | June 29, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

It should be rather obvious that this is the beginning of the end for Microsoft. The unprecedented invasiveness and utter disregard for consumer and corporate clients will steer them to alternatives, which IBM, Sun, HP, among others will gladly provide. And the upcoming Vista is just another bloated POS that could only be delivered by the nitwits in Redmond. God Bless America.

Posted by: David | June 29, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"You are an idiot if you flee to Apple or Linux just because MS has the ability to kill your computer as whoever provides you with system updates could, realistically, destroy your computer."

This is a huge non-sequitor. I mugger could blow me away - so could a cop. Guess which one I'm most concerned about? Some people and organizations are more trustworthy than others. Linux, in particular, is an interesting alternative. By the very nature of the beast, the process is much more open, and there's no single "mother ship" that's trying to keep track of (and control) which computers you are using the sofware on, and how you're using it.

Posted by: Huh? | June 29, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

The comment "in the fall, having the latest WGA will become mandatory and if its not installed, Windows will give a 30 day warning and when the 30 days is up and WGA isn't installed, Windows will stop working, so you might as well install WGA now." doesn't make sense unless WGA is already installed. There can't be a timebomb in WinXP, or can there?

Posted by: Dave H | June 29, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Microsoft should be well within its rights to kill pirated software (provided they tell you upfront what they're doing). Engaging in illegal software distribution is a crime and those companies hurt by the practice can do what they see fit to the criminals. They are really just defending their turf more or less. If you don't like the practice, by all means use an open-software solution. Just don't delude yourself into thinking that Microsoft is engaging in an illegal practice by stopping an illegal practice. Who would have thought 5 years ago that RIAA would be so successful in stopping file sharing?

Posted by: MSdefense | June 29, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"You are an idiot if you flee to Apple or Linux just because MS has the ability to kill your computer..."

There are so very many other reasons to flee MS other than this antipiracy measure. I would go so far as to say, you're an idiot NOT to :)

Posted by: James | June 29, 2006 5:16 PM | Report abuse

What about firewalls screwing up communications, then when the OS stops, you cannot get back to even using it to figure out what happened.

I have the Genuine advanage tool loaded cuz I got tired of it bugging me is all and frankly, its not a big deal. I run all legal copies and for the most part I don't care if it talks back to MS servers. Many other software titles do this already. However the frequency of call backs kinda alarms me. Do they really need to call home each time at boot and once a day on top of that? Once a week should do nicely or once during bootup. However I do not think they should disable your computer, just don't give them updates.

I think spyware and spam should be tackled than an OS calling home.

Posted by: CK | June 29, 2006 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Here's a story from a buddy who is a surgeon.

"...I just went to do my ward rounds, and found that all the PCs on the main desk on the ward had the WGA flags showing, declaring that "You may have been a victim of counterfeit software" and "This copy of Windows XP Pro is not a legal copy" etc etc, along with the buttons to "Buy a genuine copy now" or "Later"

Now the hospital runs THOUSANDS of PCs on a corporate licence, so how did WGA screw up? These PCs are all on the hospital intranet, and locked down tighter than a nun's knickers. Nothing can be installed or uninstalled by users, and all control is from the IT dept.

I'm going to call the network admin boss, who I know well, and find out what the story is, but if Microsoft and WGA have screwed up the hospital's PCs then there will be ructions at the highest levels.

PS: just spoke to the admin boss - he was amazed, as all updates are pushed out from network central, and NOT auto-updated from individual PCs. In fact the policies are set on each PC specifically NOT to allow updating. So how WGA came to be on there at all, let alone how it managed to phone home etc, are a mystery to him. He is on his way up to the ward as I type this to see what the heck is going on.

His parting comment:- "F*cking Microsoft!!!"

Posted by: R.Morris | June 29, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I dont even use Windows Update. I use AutoPatcher which does the same thing its just the fixes are always about a month behind.

Posted by: CAM | June 29, 2006 5:51 PM | Report abuse

First version of WGA Notification caused windows update to quit working on my machine, even though it never flagged my valid copy of windows as bad. I had to remove the first beta version before it could receive any updates. Then it immediately installed the new version of WGA Notification.

Everything seems to be working OK now, though.

Posted by: Terry V | June 29, 2006 6:05 PM | Report abuse

i dont break the law, i dont steal software, so i dont care what they do to stop it. doesnt effect me. anyone who complains should be instantly arrested.

Posted by: arklan | June 29, 2006 6:07 PM | Report abuse

If Microsoft spent half the time on fixing bugs and vulnerabilities, that it spends on Anti-Piracy efforts, maybe their products would be worth buying.

If their products were cars, they wouldn't sell any. The cars would be constantly in the shop being fixed.

I know "Perfect" software doesn't exist, and they'll all need patches occassionaly, but, MS has taken it to a new level, and expect us to pay for it, then beta test it for two years.

I will likely be moving out company to another os very shortly.

Posted by: Bill Gats is Satan | June 29, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

They don't call these bits "Billyware" for nothing you know. I'm not about to defend Microsoft for their actions. For all I know, the WGA is another "undisclosed" action by the Bush Administration to track terrorism, but I doubt it. Protecting intellectual property from theft is legal, but the imperious attitude their organization reveals provides an additional motive to switch to Linux for good.

Posted by: colonelklink | June 29, 2006 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't trust Micro$oft. They have dirty business practices around the world. And if you think about it, piracy only helps M$ in remaining the number one used desktop.

They've been charging us ridiculous prices and invading our privacy for too long. How can they possibly justify ~$300 per operating system? Especially one that will SPY ON YOU! One word... MONOPOLY!

Well, the times are changing folks. We're starting to see more secure, stable, and reliable operating systems being put out for up to 70% cheaper that do just as good a job as Windows if not better. (See Novell's Suse Linux 10.1)

I recall reading that the Taiwanese government had plans to support a Linux desktop program a few years ago to conquer digital divide in the region. Microsoft put an end to that by offering preloaded Windows XP licences with Outlook Express for under $60 USD.

Posted by: Tram | June 29, 2006 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Oddly enough people are dancing around the real problem. People here are saying "I don't steal software and it's not my problem and if you steal well too bad." It's not those people who steal any of us care about. That's their problem. It's the rest of us who actually bought or run legit copies of the Windows operating system and WGA has incorrectly found that our copies are pirated. I bought a Dell. I keep it updated religiusly and my license for XP is right on top of my unit. I have all the paperwork that came with it. Yet my copy of Windows has been identified as being pirated. Dell points at MS and MS points at Dell. I am in the middle with a system that I can't update unless I want to buy a new copy of Windows. Who helps us legitimate owners when we get screwed by faulty software? Why should Microsoft be allowed to use a piece of software that will at some point terminate users access to their own computers if it has a 10% failure rate at detecting legit copies? Do we allow Microsoft to say well 1 out of 10 mistakes ain't bad. In school that's still an A. Your one of those cup half empty kinda people aren't you.

Posted by: This sux | June 29, 2006 7:13 PM | Report abuse

"i dont break the law, i dont steal software, so i dont care what they do to stop it. doesnt effect me. anyone who complains should be instantly arrested."

-Microsoft Corp. Executive

No, but seriously. When I bought my legitimate copy of Microsoft Windows XP Professional, it was my understanding that I was purchasing an operating system, not an infringement on my privacy. I paid for the damn thing, leave me alone!

Wouldn't it be strange if Sears came into your house every 90 days and asked you for copies of all the receipts for your furniture?

I'm switching to Linux thank you very much.

Posted by: Brent | June 29, 2006 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Microsoft would be stupid to refuse security updates to machines with illegal copies of Windows installed. That would only put legitimate Windows users at risk as well. Especially considering roughly 90% of all Windows copies in China alone are pirated.

If legit users didn't update regularly, all of these "un-updated" computers would spread around the world would compromise them.

Posted by: Tram | June 29, 2006 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Vendors "encourage" product obsolence to move consumers to the next generation, for a nominal fee of course, to generate greater profits. WGA may be a precursor to M$ using it as a WINDOWSXP kill switch after VISTA is released.

In reading through the comments, I am surprised, at those defending M$. While it is wrong to steal software, M$ is just as guilty of "stealing" software as any other software pirate. We have a double standard, M$ wants us to be honest, but it won't be honest with us.

While M$ has a "right" to go after those who pirate their software, they do not have a right to break into your home and trespass onto your computer. Unfortunately M$ and the rest of the content industry seem to have been able to buy legislation which ostensibly gives them this right.

1984 is alive an well!!!!!

Posted by: Steve R. | June 29, 2006 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Downloaded the tool and, since it was a Windows machine, there was a hiccup of some sort during the installation.

It spent the next three days informing me that I was a pirate. If I'm a pirate, Sony is a pirate; that's who installed MY damned copy of XP.

Posted by: Adam W | June 29, 2006 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Since I use Firefox as browser, & non-MS security tools, & non-MS db servers, there is no reason for me to use Windows Update, and no reason to download/install WGA.

If I ever need MS updates, will go to non-MS sites to download. I'm guessing that Non-MS websites that offer MS/Windows Updates will become very popular.

Posted by: IKnowNothing | June 29, 2006 9:04 PM | Report abuse

I have gone out of my way to get all genuine MS software. Two weeks ago I made changes to the security settings on the files. It goofed up my computer. But not locked out. Went to MS update to see what would happen. And I got a message saying that I did NOT have gunuine MS software. Ghost my backup image and went back to MS update. Now I have genuine software.

My point : MS solution is NOT fool proof. And I hope that I can sue MS.

Posted by: Dan S. | June 29, 2006 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I routinely wipe and reinstall my daughter's computer every 3 months since even with every antivirus known to man she still manages to get too much junk on her computer.

On the third time, I did think Microsoft told me it was an illegal copy and I had to stay on the phone with a Microsoft tech support person (from Banglore, India that barely spoke English) for 45 minutes to get them to give me this severly long key to enter and they told me I would probably have to do this every time I want to reinstall from now on.

If we are going to be draconian about this crap, Microsoft just needs to assign my SSN to my computers and after that go back and assign me the TOTAL number of licences I deserve from the OS purchases I have bought from them since DOS 3.3.

Posted by: SWV | June 29, 2006 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Never fails. If MS sneezes folks will complain.

The real hue and cry of the story is a lot of folks operate on a pirate version of XP. It's not the privacy issue they worry so much (especially considering how easy they give away other information, be it on blogs or even online banking), it's that XP may be shut off completely.

So for all of those with a legal version, they have to scare them, so now they up the ante with "kill switches" (that'll get their attention!). Problem is they don't tell you: it'll kill a ***pirated*** XP version, not a legit retail or OEM version (nor will it damage hardware). Those who have the real McCoy are free of the hassle.

If folks whine about this, I can just imagine how folks are going to roll around wallowing when Vista comes out (rest assured their first campaign will highlight every flaw, then every security problem). Going to be a heck of a lot of folks with pirated XP being left out of the goodies for months afterwards (going to take a while for the hackers to break the security, and when they do, Live OSes can change code just as quickly to stay ahead. Consider it like anti-virus software that's strings are updated every day/week. That burns pirates to no end).

They brought it only on themselves. Now they'll have to pay the piper.


Posted by: SandyK | June 29, 2006 10:08 PM | Report abuse

microsoft insults the intelligence of the consumer in numerous ways. instead of developing a more flexible user controlled OS it wants to handle things its own way in the backgound irrespective of the consumer's will. they create flashy gimmicks instead of actual security or functionality improvements. instead of using the consumer's familiarity with windows to produce a more customizable experience including progressively advanced OS/pc/resource/networking, etc. management tools these condescending bastards harass you with messages concerning the unhealthy excesses of hard drive space, free ram and free will. finally, those law loving cowards who side with tyranny will understand the nature of their own betrayal when dispite their bootlicking they are counted amounst the so-called subversive.

Posted by: cleatus mcfarlan | June 29, 2006 10:20 PM | Report abuse

I used the 180-day trial version of windows server 2003 (essentially an XP) for a while. Totally legit, plus, the pile of sh*t windows is, it NEVER reached the age of 180 days -- I lost nothing by "having" to reinstall it twice a year 'cause I had had to do it anyway.

After finding out what a disaster vista was, I finally switched to Linux. The amount of free software I get with major distros would cost $1000's otherwise. And getting used to Linux was not more difficult than it was to windows.

Either way, please DON'T ever support m$ by buying their apparent crap. They need half the IT industry to constantly fix their rubbish "OS" with virus scanners and antispyware tools and anti-phishing utils and reg cleaners etc. -- those talented companies could instead be doing something sensible...

Posted by: Esperanto | June 29, 2006 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Tram wrote:
"How can they possibly justify ~$300 per operating system?"

Only n00bs pay full retail. For less than $130 you can get a XP Pro OEM license (sometimes even free, if you get the parts or ready built machine), under $180 for a retail version (shop at Newegg, and look for the deals).

But don't get an OEM license if you're a hardware fan, as you know you're going to upgrade the m/b within a year (let alone most of the other hardware). New motherboard=new license is required (well, officially). :x


Posted by: SandyK | June 29, 2006 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Transcript of my conversation in another WGA blog:
Me: "I think that if people happen to hack XP and are able to install pirated copies then that's Microsoft's fault for not securing the code enough to prevent it. Just like if I were to leave my front door unlocked and someone comes in and takes my TV then that's my bad for leaving the door unlocked, that's what I get for not being careful.
--Anonymous User"
Respondent: "Hey Martin, I disagree with you because we have law and order in this country and that's what makes us the best country in the world to live in. If people break those laws then should they go free just because a bunch of bloggers think so? He!* no!"
Me: "How did you know my name? I have never mentioned my name in this forum!
--Anonymous User"
Respondent: "How did I know your name? Your WGA told me!
--Microsoft Executive"

Posted by: Anonymous User | June 29, 2006 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I have legal copy of xp home that came with my pc from best buy and got a warning that it might be illegal, so i am sure there will be problems, if not my pc then somebodys.

Posted by: john | June 29, 2006 11:17 PM | Report abuse

All of this makes me glad the linux is finally maturing in to a real competitor against windows for the typical desktop.

Linux is truly free. It is secure. And now it's just about as easy to use as windows.

Give it a try. I use ubuntu, but there are many flavors...
for other free choices

Posted by: X-Windows Guy | June 29, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Next will come new "optional" fees to keep "services" running on your PC...

Slippery slope here, but the path is clear at least.

Posted by: Gentry | June 29, 2006 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Sandyk wrote:
"Only n00bs pay full retail. For less than $130 you can get a XP Pro OEM license"

Sorry, not on the same playing field as you. I'm Canadian so i buy in CND currency. I can buy an OEM for $177CDN +15% Gov Tax +shipping if I buy online which comes up to aprox $290CDN or well over $300USD after conversions.

On the other hand, I can purchase Suse Linux 10.1 online shipping and taxes included for $80CND

If this desktop does all the things I need it to do and is as compatible with Windows files as they say, the $80 looks much more attractive than the $300.

M$ has had a straight up monopoly for the past 10 years. Their software causes product lock-in where we are forced to use their file formats.

Luckily we're seeing standards being set with OpenDocument (OASIS) doc formats etc... opening the market to others in the software market.

This presents a serious threat to M$ because now there are free or next-to-free alternatives that use cross-platform compatible files.

M$ is very concerned about this threat, particularly Linux and the OpenSource movement:



n00b? maybe.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 29, 2006 11:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't see what is the big deal!! I don't see anything wrong with installing software that checks if your copy of Windows is legal or not. Put yourself in their position, how would you feel when everybody starts using a pirated version of some software you have created to make a living?! The "unlocked front door" makes no sense. MS will always try hard to prevent its software from piracy but no matter what they come up with, someone will come with a "work around."

For those of you who think switching to Linux to Mac.. It is absolutely up to you but think about it.. Why do you think Windows is the number one OS in terms of vulnerability? The answer to this is simple: Because Windows is number one in terms of popularity! The number of people who use Linux or Mac can't be even compared to the number of Windows users!!! This also applies to viruses, attacks, etc. Why should evil-doers bother creating malicious software that targets 3 users when they can create another software that targets 1000 (just an example.) When it comes to OS stability, why do you think it is always MS' fault if your system crashes.. Was it merely a coincidence that it happened right when you installed that new program you just downloaded?! There are hundreds, if not thousands, of poorly-coded and poorly-designed programs that can make your OS less stable or more vulnerable. You never think about that?

In other words, once you have a significant number of Mac and Linux users out there, they'll eventually start having similar problems since there will be more and more of these terrible programs, viruses, and spyware.

As for the WGA tool talking to Redmond. I believe that only happens if your copy is illegal.. Again.. what is the big deal?! Worried about your privacy? Give me a break!

Posted by: Moe | June 30, 2006 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Check out More versions of Linux than you can imagine. Most of them FREE for download. Suse, RedHat Fedora, CentOS, Ubuntu. Microsoft is burning it's legit customers every day and is going the way of the Dino's -- Extinction!

Posted by: EX-Windows User | June 30, 2006 1:21 AM | Report abuse

First you pay for something then they tell you that you don't own it. You must have their permission to let anyone else use it. Then they look all over your house to see what else you have, and if they find anything that they like, they take it. Then they say they'll be back to take the rest or your stuff later. People, I'm about fed up with Microsoft. If anyone buys Vista, they're crazy as a drunk fox.

Posted by: Bill | June 30, 2006 1:22 AM | Report abuse

Yes as gratified as I am to learn that you are all switching to Linux, lets focus here. For people who have had preinstalled software from OEMs like Dell and Gateway and HP and all these people, you may want to first check if you you still have that software on your computer. Go to the system properties and check the version of Windows that you have installed and make sure that it matches what is on the certificate of authenticity on the side of your computer. For example if you have a Windows XP Home COA, having the Windows XP Professional on your computer might be bad. Also look lower on System properties at your Product ID. That PID should say OEM in the middle of it if it came from and OEM.. tricky I know. If everything matches then it would be the responsibility of the people that sold you the software to help you. That means you need to bug your OEM and get managers and kick but until your OEM helps you. If it doesn't match just remember that your kids are often more tech savy than you or that the son of a gun who cleaned up your last virus said something about reinstalling your system... so yeah.

That hospital story is hilarious. I get the funny feeling that Somebody is fired. I know Microsoft is clumsy sometimes but I don't think that they would just carelessly block a product that they know they registered to a big business... This notification also bugs you to run validation and so maybe their network controls made Windows angry. And the rest of you have fun with Linux and the handful of programs that work with that ;)

Posted by: Mr. Wood | June 30, 2006 1:26 AM | Report abuse

Interestingly I declined this update permanently by doing the upgrades manually via IE. The automatic upgrade then reselected the permanently declined update the next time. The manual update also updated its control software which had the side effect of reselecting the declined software! Microsoft say people have a choice but but to my mind they are doing everything they can to force the installation. Almost certainly when SP3 comes out there will be no choice. If Microsoft could produce quality software I would not be so concerned but why should this software be any better and work with no issues. If they have put more care into this software then they are focusing on themseves not customers. Microsoft may have a legitimate grievance with piracy but why behave in a devious way it seems Microsoft's mentality may be no better than the pirates they compalin about.

Posted by: Steve | June 30, 2006 1:42 AM | Report abuse

"i dont break the law, i dont steal software, so i dont care what they do to stop it. doesnt effect me. anyone who complains should be instantly arrested."

Obviously you don't get it. People with legit software will be erroneously labeled as pirates. It happened to me with Media Player 9. It wouldn't play any of my store bought legit DVDs. It told me it had a DRM issue. In other words, it was saying my legit DVDs were illegal and therefore I was a pirate. This was not the case, but I was stuck for awhile, unable to watch my movies.

The same thing can happen with the OS.

Posted by: CN | June 30, 2006 1:57 AM | Report abuse

I use "windows one care" and it blocks wga from phoning home. it asked if I wanted to allow it and I chose block it.
I already have ran validation several times when downloading different software from microsoft. and it has passed each time, I have an oem version that came preinstalled, and has a separate partition where xp restore is located. no cd came with it. and the coa is illegible / unreadable. looks like my cat was sharpening its claws on it. once you validate and pass that should be enough, if you don't pass then have wga install and bug the fug out of you.
I did see some pc's at a store with the "you may be a victim of software counterfeiting" on the screens and the salesmen was trying to run some fix from hp to remove it.
makes you wonder what vista will do ,make you have your pc connected to a phoneline so it can call home like satellite (dish/directv) and they can and do shutoff receivers untill the phoneline is connected , for some packages. some grab crass red necker from redmond .
I do like microsoft though. they should start their own country. and move away from the volcano mount Rainier, before the thing blows its top and wipes out ms.

Posted by: Gill Bates | June 30, 2006 2:11 AM | Report abuse

Makes me glad all I own are Macs....

Posted by: Vale | June 30, 2006 2:31 AM | Report abuse

I have pre-installed win xp from vendors dell and hp that show up as not "genuine" now after quickly clicking "recomended" updates from MS. Now looking forward to add my name to "class action" law suit(s) to get some of that bill gates charitiable tax write-off $money returned to those like me who supported the original pirate nerd stealing the "gui" from Xerox corp.

Posted by: I have pre-installed win xp from vendors | June 30, 2006 3:11 AM | Report abuse

In my humble opinion, what a lot of people don't get is that there are other options to Microsoft. If you cant play movies using Windows media player then install something else. If windows are screwing people over, the only way to deal with it is to change O.S. And yes I know its difficult and annoying to change O.S. but why not dual boot. You can give yourself the option of booting with either windows or Linux. Try them out and then decide.

The key thing is you are a consumer and have a right to shop around and choose from a range of Operating Systems.
Windows have most of the market at the moment because a lot of people don't know any better. That needs to change, but it wont unless we are open to changing.

I would personally love to see a Google O.S.

Posted by: Pixie | June 30, 2006 4:46 AM | Report abuse

X-Windows Guy wrote:
"Linux is truly free. It is secure. And now it's just about as easy to use as windows"

Actually, it's no more secure as XP, especially when folks are hoodwinked into false security (and installing and configuring IDS on *nix is a r-o-y-a-l p-a-i-n).

The reason Windows is hacked and cracked so much is due to it's distribution. Like 90% of the desktop market. It's breath gives more people to do mischief (these thugs are like businessmen, they don't want to waste their energy on exotic flavors, as the terrorism doesn't hurt enough -- or bites them back [evilest grin]).

Once software becomes popular, it just gets cracked, hacked and baked more. Just ask the Firefox users, who got a rude awakening of what happens when a browser becomes popular (and it's dev team takes the same s-l-o-w approach to fix bugs and security issues -- Yeah, MS could've told them the same thing, and they pay their programmers at that!).

BTW, use OpenBSD. Graduate to a more secure OS. Would never use plain flavored Linux, as it's a popular *nix OS [read above] -- and the masochist who wants to break that OS, well, I did say the person would be a masochist........ lol


Posted by: SandyK | June 30, 2006 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Whoever wrote:
"On the other hand, I can purchase Suse Linux 10.1 online shipping and taxes included for $80CND

If this desktop does all the things I need it to do and is as compatible with Windows files as they say, the $80 looks much more attractive than the $300."

Go with a different flavor. IIRC, Suse 10 has issues, and buggy as hell.

The other point to remember, yes many files/programs can be ported to *nix, but in emulation mode (non native). If you can deal with the slowness, it's fine. But it's a waste on a powerful rig.

It's why folks do the dual boot route. No point in wasting $500+ on a half mode system just to save a little money (especially when folks sink $300+ on just a v/c).


Posted by: SandyK | June 30, 2006 8:07 AM | Report abuse

If Microsoft believes that a copy of its OS is pirated, the burden of proof falls on them to prove it in court. Bill Gates is not a judge, and the EULA is not a jury. Neither Microsoft, nor any other corporation, should be allowed to summarily dispense their own versions of 'wild west justice' based on suspicions or what may be erroneously reported violations.
If I suspect a neighbor of having stolen a tool from my garage, I can't just burn down his or her house to find out if my tool is hidden there.

Posted by: LTrotsky | June 30, 2006 8:24 AM | Report abuse

CN wrote:
"Obviously you don't get it. People with legit software will be erroneously labeled as pirates. It happened to me with Media Player 9. It wouldn't play any of my store bought legit DVDs. It told me it had a DRM issue. In other words, it was saying my legit DVDs were illegal and therefore I was a pirate. This was not the case, but I was stuck for awhile, unable to watch my movies.

The same thing can happen with the OS."

Let's see, I reinstall the OS maybe 4x a year (sometimes more, sometimes less), I've never had a problem with hardware incompatibility -- unless it's a hardware or other software problem itself [usually bad drivers -- like that sucky ATI TV Wonder card; or that even suckier HP scanner]. I install about a hundred apps -- okay I'm spotted, I'm a SourceForge junkie ;) -- and something is bound to conflict!

Either folks have these hardware and software issues (good example above is switching the DVD region code more than 5x or not even enabling it, that will cause the same errors); have a proprietary system (like a laptop); aren't installing their system right (and using tweaked drivers and other stuff); or lying through their teeth with having a hacked and cracked XP copy (or trying to operate on a volume license copy that MS banned the serial # on), or someone got bright, made a bad slipstream disk.

But just like 20 years ago with IBM, it's blame MS now (no such thing as user error; or bad hard or software; or lying through their teeth about a bad XP copy). :rolleyes:


Posted by: SandyK | June 30, 2006 8:28 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: TeaRex | June 30, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

I have felt like a test rat with Microsoft's other OS versions, so I don't trust the WGA, so it does not reside on my system. I have always had updates set to manual, and carefully selected the updates, and noticed the system would behave in odd ways after certain updates. Not odd as in not functioning, but more behind the scenes stuff going on in my computer than was told that the update was for.
Have used SP1 for past 12 to 18 months and downloaded SP2 about 3 to 6 months ago. XP was then a bit on the grumpy side so I removed SP2. Much better now.
I have not updated for the past 3 - 6 months, (before WGA) and quite frankly I don't trust what else MS does in their updates any more. By being selective with settings, security programs, and allowing cobwebs to grow over MS browser & media player, it works for me.

One more thing felaaaaas,,,,,, Hey, don't it feel better when you drop the issue, and ya just do what ya gotta do. If don't like Microsoft and think Mac or Linux is better, then go with that. If you don't like those options and prefer Microsoft, then you will have to put up with whatever they dish out, and that's just how it is. Why propagate the turmoil, just do whatever you need to do to get the job done. Get back in the flow.

Posted by: FussNoMore | June 30, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse


I just wanted to ask you if when you had problems playing DVDs, you were using the TV out of your Graphics Card. Certain DVDs are flagged not to allow playback through a TV out on a graphics card and it'll give you a DRM error.

Really though that kind of DRM stuff is an entirely seperate issue.

Posted by: Ryan Acheson | June 30, 2006 8:54 AM | Report abuse

if they push the digital kill switch via IP...Whole networks of computers could go down. I mean I live in a house of students, some of them dont have genuine...if they hit our router IP...our entire network will get hit.

perhaps it is time to step up on the security on the networks as well.

Posted by: Glenn | June 30, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Look at it from Microsofts point of view.. On the one hand Public Trust, on the other hand mucho money, forced spyware, and monolopy. hehe which do you think Gates chose??
"I'm shocked! shocked! he said to find out that there are pirates out there.."(like he invented the mouse and the clickable icon, right!)
so now he uses the ruse of "pirates" like himslelf to spy on us..all in the interest of Justice..ohferchrissake. just one thief watching another and the honest citizen in the middle.

Posted by: MFS | June 30, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

My biggest complaint was that the first version of WGA was beta. Windows Update shouldn't be delivering beta software.

I have installed all versions of WGA, and haven't had any problems, to date.

One positive is that WGA notified me when SP1 support was being terminated.

I don't care what Microsoft does to pirates, just as long as it doesn't screw up the computers of honest customers. Apparently, WGA sometimes does the latter.

It's Bush's NSA, not WGA, that's the real threat to privacy.

Posted by: John Johnson | June 30, 2006 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Who care who invented what first?! Look at cars, aren't they all made the same way?! Why should we care who invented them first?

Competition is always good for the consumer and right now, the "monopoly" is dying so I don't see why people are still crying and complaining about Microsoft! Why don't you go ahead and use something else if it's such a nightmare to use MS products?!

Back to my point.. Whatever is dominant will always be under high attacks and criticism..

Personally, I've looked at Macs and to be honest, I can't even imgagine myself using one.. To me it is for display-purposes only. hehe. But does that make me hate Apple? Not at all! Because I love other products they have like the beautiful iPod Nano.

Posted by: Moe | June 30, 2006 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I like turkey. Should I eat a turkey sandwich today? Maybe a little watermelon too...hmmm...

Oh, where am I?! I thought you were...geez...okay sorry...back to the wash...

Posted by: Joe Mamma | June 30, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I run pirated windows, I also have the copy I bought. I refuse to phone in each time I start modifying my computer, I did not pay for my OS so that I could spend hours on the phone trying to decypher what some tech head is trying to tell me in some language I don't know. I reinstall my os often enough, and change my hardware often enough that the extra time on the phone with someone that speaks worse english than my 4 year old cousin, and has an accent so thick you can't make out the 12 words he knows.

To sum it up I use a pirated version of windows because the 'legit' version causes so many problems its not worth pulling out of the shrink wrap (which I did recently because I finally got curious what was in the package :P)

Posted by: Meh | June 30, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Wow, SandyK, you seem to believe that WGA can do no wrong. Yet, I sit here with a top-of-the-line Dell Inspiron with the shiny Windows holographic seal and my product code stamped at the bottom and WGA mistakenly flagging my OS as pirated.

A month ago, I rebuilt my desktop, upgrading the motherboard and soundcard. I reinstalled Windows using my XP install CD *BOUGHT FROM THE MICROSOFT STORE IN REDMOND BY A MICROSOFT EMPLOYEE* (i.e., it can't get any more gen-u-ine than that). As someone else described, it rejected my product code and I had to spend an hour getting a new product code from a friendly operator in India.

The fact that WGA phones home is just insult to injury.

Posted by: JameyD | June 30, 2006 10:55 AM | Report abuse

All I can say is that the day MS puts in a kill switch every hacker out there will find a way to use it.

I can just see it now:

News Flash, "Entire US economy ruined over night as evey pc runnng windows software was permenently disabled"

Posted by: Prodivx | June 30, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I have thus far managed to not install WGA (though it continues to bug me to do so). I will not have to worry about it much longer as I am buying a Mac and selling my ThinkPad.

Posted by: Greg | June 30, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Id say its time to stop using windows updates altogether! go find the autopatcher on the net.. it runs about a month behind.

Posted by: stevo | June 30, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

The whole issue really boils down to Linux vs Microsoft. You're either all one, or the other. Sure, Linux suffers from the almightiness of MS, but hey, MS was there first (let's not go into how that came into being, it is mute now - history). Let's say MS did fall (meaning they had real competition (sorry, MS WILL NEVER DISAPPEAR, there are too many people (myself included) that simply like MS software). Many 'hacker' efforts are made to exploit MS - in the name of Linux, to discredit MS. Please note EVERYTIME a MS issue is brought to public light, the name 'Linux' seems to begin to appear in every article...hmmm... So really, what we are all victims of, is a fight between the Linux users (yes, I will go so far as to call them fanatics) and developers and Microsoft.
This 'tech war' is causing the costs to Windows users to skyrocket. To spell it out, MS has to spend BILLIONS of dollars to defend themselves (and therefore the common user). Who pays the price? We do of course.
Personally, I would love to try Linux, if Linux tech-geeks/supporters focused less programming energy on sabbotaging MS to make Linux look like a better an better alternative, and more on developing equitable software, and then advertising (you know, the straightforward, earn your name way). Then we'd all have an alternative to MS and Mac. I am not saying EVERY attack on MS or the MS OS is on behalf of Linux, many are just geeks out to prove to themsleves that they are just as powerful as the almighty OZ, the same mentality as any other crime based on a need for power (aren't they all?).
As far as the Genuine Advantage tool is concerned...Microsoft isnt interested in whether you visit porn sites, or write hate letters to the President, or your bank account passwords, or installing XXX dialouts, or rootkits to destroy a system you saved a year and a half to buy...they arent even mildly interested in your bra size (but obvioulsy others are). What they are interested in is defending themselves (and their users) against crime. Yes, crime. They are fighting SERIOUS technological crime- with what? The US court system? Ha!
They are using technology to defend themselves BEFORE the (relative) moment crime happens, because if they don't nobody else is going to... So quit whining about MS, and lobby for better laws (AND ENFORCEMENT) against technological sabbotage and crime. THAT is what the core issue is here...not a EULA (I am also not saying full discloure isnt necessary - it is). If we all focus all our energy on fighting the symptoms of tech crime, not on the core crime (issue) itself, this will become a never ending battle with us consumers as the ultimate victims.
If everytime you put a very expensive new security system in your house some faceless enemy hacked into it and shut your lights off randomly, or worse, took it over and came into your house stealing your identity, credit cards, etc. (and leaving) whatever spying and other unknown nasties they wanted to, you'd fight back! You'd do whatever you had to do to protect what is yours, and whomever else's that you are responsible for keeping'd call, write, scream, start civil action suits against, the company that manufactures and programs the 'vulnerable' system. You'd expect them to do whatever thay had to do to keep you and your family safe...up to and including monitoring your system to ensure that your system is legitimate. If you knowingly bought a pirated security system why should they be held accountable for maintaining your safety? To knowingly buy stolen goods is against the law! If you unknowingly bought a pirated system, you have a right to know and to hold the person you bought it from accountable!

We Americans need to wake up and realize how often our attention is intentionally diverted from REAL, CORE, issues at hand; from our National Government on down to our day to day relationships...
That's my opinion...

Posted by: Lesa | June 30, 2006 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Answering your question about installing WGA, yes, after I encountered problems and I had to reinstall Window on my machine, and later I tried to reinstall Real Player, it asked me to install WGA first, although I'm using the same machine and software that came with the it (HP) it told me my compy is illegal, the solution to contact the support people which is a long process, so I stoped half way, but I started getting this email from some one from tech, but he stoped sending emails after I answered one of his emails teeling I dont have the time to comlete the process.

Posted by: Elmuiz | June 30, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I hope Microsoft succeeds with WGA. Perhaps this will turn people away from Microsoft and end it's monopoly.

Posted by: goofindoo | June 30, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Microsoft is just as guilty committing "crime" as any pirate they go after. Look at all the anti-trust suits against them. Symantec, Adobe...and dozens more. They're trying to dominate everything from Operating systems to antivirus, to spyware. What goes around comes around.

Posted by: Bobthebuilder | June 30, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

its like us against microsoft. get real if I designed something and someone stole it. I'd be upset too. Quit acting like its the little guy against the Giant! Its MONEY! and that's all. Let me ask you how many times have you downloaded something into a friends computer without paying for it? Then when they try an upgrade etc. they, your friend finds out you did it illegally?

Posted by: Richardwbailey | June 30, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I have been using XP Pro with the beta of SP2, called SPI-RC2 with no problems, I have good anti virus software and three anti spyware programs. I go to dangerous sites, break all the rules and I do not have any major problems from which I cannot easily recover. I think a lot of this updating is just a ruse to keep tapping into users' computers. To become knowledgeable is to protect yourselves.

Posted by: 77Q4U | June 30, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse

This evening I went to download Windows Media Player 11 (beta) and got a message saying i shouls check for critical updates first, even though I have automatic updates switched on I still went and checked and got offered this Windows Genuine Advantage and thinking it shouldn't be a problem I went to install it but for once I read the licencing agreement first, and when it said it would not only check if my copy of windows was genuine but it would also take my computers serial number and processor details I declined the install.
Before when I've attempted downloading from microsoft it has asked to validate my copy of windows, which I've allowed it to do without any problems,and downloaded without any more hassle.So why can't they continue using this system?
Putting this change alongside the U.S. government's insistence that sites like Yahoo and Google keep and make available usage records,which they claim they need to do to help in the fight against terror makes me think the terrorists have already won.All our personal freedoms are being eroded slowly but surely.

Posted by: welshlion | June 30, 2006 7:29 PM | Report abuse

JamieD wrote:
"Wow, SandyK, you seem to believe that WGA can do no wrong. Yet, I sit here with a top-of-the-line Dell Inspiron with the shiny Windows holographic seal and my product code stamped at the bottom and WGA mistakenly flagging my OS as pirated."

That's your problem right there: Dude, you shouldn't have gotten a Dell.

I will never use a Dell server again, either. Only three days into service the DRAC card failed. And being the server isn't by my side or local, have to wait, wait, wait for it to be fixed. Only to get another crappy card.

Dells are but like Apples. Proprietary pieces of junk.

They should require folks to have to build their own computers to be online. If they did, probably 90% of these "MS is EVIL!!" whines will dry up too, since there will be no more n00b excuses of "I can't get my computer to work and I have a legit license" junk again. And real *nix gurus will be behind their rigs doing their job, not trying to be advocates of an OS that should've died with the dinosaurs -- butt ugly, too time consuming, and takes away from doing things -- like SLEEPING!!

It's not that I don't see any wrong in what MS does or it's software (oh, I do -- and I have fun debating it with them at their pads), but it's that the complaints are coming from *nix wannabe sys admins, Apple snots, and n00bs that shouldn't be close to a toaster, let alone a computer. Computing for these folks, is "can I o/c this processor?", meanwhile if there's a hardware problem, they're all of a sudden clueless with "URGENT: can't boot!!" cries (yeah, served you right for bragging. Now fork over another $3000 after you fried your computer to show off going past 4ghz (or another WHOLE ***10***fps), so you can show the rest of the world your stupidity again!). :rolleyes:

[And if folks think the whining is bad with an OS, try having them as customers to repair their mistakes. Again, they can never be wrong, their hardware can never go south, and their choice OS can never have a conflict (or be hacked, cracked, backed, trojaned, wormed and have 10 virii at once, because it's not a Windows)]


Posted by: SandyK | June 30, 2006 11:26 PM | Report abuse

lol I like SandyK... she has good points. Go read that stuff, suckas. And seriously most of the people here are missing the point. As I explained earlier there is no way in heck that MS is going to kill switch these computers. Check your histories! A while ago MS tried to keep pirated copies at the log in screen. This fledgling program died about two days after its birth because of lawsuits. Now we can all freak out and say 'Oh Bad Microsoft!' and take the word of an ignorant support tech (most of which are just there to help people that are too stupid to find the Print button in Word.) or you can look at history and think logically.
Someone above posted about getting into the class action lawsuit and then said that their OEM copy was reinstalled on their computer after they switched out their motherboard... Oopsie someone is to ignorant to understand licensing. Good luck with that.
Again all of you have fun on Linux. Sarcasm aside there are at least a few programs that work with Linux. ;) Alright don't flame me it is just a joke. Just do a little homework before you start whinning, and then we can have a discussion instead of a argument.

Mr. Wood

Posted by: Mr. Wood | July 1, 2006 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I bought an IBM laptop a while ago that didn't come with windows disks. It had a 7gig hidden partition with the installation on it which you access when booting up if you need to reinstall windows. I was not told this when I bought the machine and certainly wasn't told that the 40gig drive the machine was advertised with was only 33gig. I tried, and failed to get the install disks from IBM and tried to get a bigger hard drive from them but that failed as well. When I had to upgrade the hard drive there was no way to copy the windows partition over from the old one, so I had to use a... um... a copy of windows I found somewhere. it was wither that or spend an additional $600 on something I had already paid for.

Long story short, I got the upades from windows. Had it pop up every 15 seconds, regardless of what I was doing, telling me that my copy was counterfeit. So I just found the DLL files that the update had installed, renamed them and it's been fine ever since.

Posted by: Declan | July 1, 2006 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I think these WGA tool is a POS. I had a legit copy of windows home edition which came with my old laptop but it kept telling me it was fake. Since then I always went out of my way to avoid it. It always stuffed up my computer too.

I had that new WGA tool install without my knowledge. It also slowed down my computer, took longer to reboot and I had to manually log in each time. What an annoyance!

Posted by: Steph | July 2, 2006 1:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Mac user first, foremost and always, but I also use and teach Windows applications. When I bought my Toshiba laptop, I hadn't owned it six months before I got the Blaster virus, which was a nightmare. Being an experienced Mac user, I knew it was best to wipe the drive and re-install the OS, which I did. Then I caught another virus, and another, until I caught on that IE was the culprit. Freaky program, that one; it's like some kind of nasty, unwashed digital hooker that keeps catching STD's from every site it visits.

On my Mac, it takes no time to wipe the drive and re-install my software, which I do twice a year for good maintenance. But imagine my surprise when Windows informed me that I'd exceeded my maximum number of installations. As a Mac user, I can't begin to fathom what business it is of Microsoft how many times I wipe my drive and re-install, especially since they were paid in full for my copy of XP Pro. It's up to me to troubleshoot my computer as I see fit.

As far as I'm concerned, putting a limit to the number of times I can install software I legally purchased is completely unacceptable. I'm not going to tolerate it, and I'm not going to beg Microsoft for permission to use a product I bought and paid for. After meeting with the same frustration everyone else has endured with tech support from India, I found a good hack, installed my LEGAL copy of XP Pro and went on with my life. Does hacking my legal copy of Windows make me a pirate? No. It makes me a really pissed-off paying customer, and if this blog is any indication, I'm apparently one of many.

It's a teaching machine, so I don't ever update, patch or give Microsoft any opportunity whatsoever to service my computer. I don't conduct business or bank online with that computer, nor do I put any sensitive information on it. Since Macs aren't "important" enough to hack, I keep the important things on the one computer I have that has never had a single virus or spyware infection.

Nobody should have to take this crap. After all, who's the customer here? Who's paying whom? You pay them, and when you buy a software product, ANY product, you shouldn't need to constantly patch the thing to keep it running or secure your data from predators. It shouldn't force you to install software you don't need or want, nor should it threaten you with service disruption if you don't comply. It should just work...period!

As far as I'm concerned, once Microsoft decided that I'd formatted my drive too many times, all bets were off. When they pulled that nonsense, my legal obligation to them became null and void as far as I'm concerned. I paid for the software, and only loaded it on my computer. Beyond that, I don't owe them any allegiance or loyalty, and I'm not obliged to grant them access to my computer or files. That $180.00 I spent for XP Pro didn't include the right to spy on me.

As a Mac user, I don't have to kowtow to Microsoft. I use their products because it's expedient, not because I have to. I can go months without using a single Microsoft product, and never even notice it. I don't have to allow Microsoft to dictate how I administer my own property because I have alternatives. I use Windows because I want to; not because I have to. When Microsoft comes between me and the software I bought, I either hack it or I use my Mac to get the job done; no exceptions. I only paid to use their OS. I didn't pay to become part of their war on piracy.

Don't buy into the idea that their piracy problems are yours. If some guy robs a Walgreens in Boston, does Walgreens have the right to search the homes of everyone who owns any of their products to look for their stolen property? No. Does Walgreens have the right to sneak into your house and install surveillance devices to ensure that you haven't stolen any of their merchandise? No. So if Walgreens can't do it, how is it that Microsoft can? They can because they don't have to physically break into your home to install the surveillance equipment. They're smart enough to get you to do it for them by installing those sneaky service packs and forcing you to agree to the incredibly complicated end-user license that you never read to install it.

No matter how much they might want us to believe it, piracy doesn't hurt everybody... it just hurts them, and they know it. I'm not unsympathetic, and if we were talking about a small company run by a handful of people who are just trying to keep a roof over their family's heads, I could see where the loss of 20% of company profits would be devastating. I'm willing to go the extra mile to protect companies like that because little companies often put out excellent software.

By looking out for them, I reap the benefits because I get good tools and service. But it's a little hard for me to feel sorry for a company who's losing 20% of billions of dollars to pirates who are bootlegging what we all know is crappy software. You might as well ask me to feel sorry for the Exxon exec who only got a measley $400,000,000.00 retirement severance because high gas prices kept people from filling up their tanks. His family isn't going to be sleeping in their car because he didn't get that extra $80 mil.

Still think Microsoft's piracy problem is your problem too? Well, consider this: If Microsoft ever managed to recover the profits they lost through piracy, how big would your cut be? About 0%, maybe less. You own none of the profit, so why should you own the responsibility? You don't. Their profits or losses are their business, not yours.

We're being treated like criminals, and we're paying them to treat us that way. Think about it. Just because someone is caught shoplifting in a store doesn't give the store the right to open everyone's bag to check for stolen merchandise. Certainly, the store has a right to protect itself from thieves, but it doesn't supercede the customer's right to privacy. There has to be probable in concrete evidence of theft, or the search is illegal. Probable cause protects the rights of both the store owner and the patrons. Any cop will tell you that without probable cause, they can't get a warrant. This protects you from illegal search and seizure. Their suspicions don't mean a thing. They're limited as to what they can search without a warrant.

The same should be true for Microsoft, but it's not. The laws protecting you from illegal search are not being enforced, mostly because it's so difficult to tell when or even if they've searched you. There's no way that can be legal, even with an acceptance of the EULA. But they've got the legal loophole of the never-ending service packs, containing the surveillance tools they need to spy on you. Think about it. You have no way of knowing what's really being installed, and you MUST agree to the end-user license to install it. Once you do, you basically waive all legal rights to complain about what was installed. You installed it of your own free will. It's your fault if you didn't read the agreement.

Microsoft is only able to do this because they've fooled so many of you into thinking they're the only game in town. You buy into this nonsense every time you flame Mac or Linux as evil or useless, even though you don't actually use these products or know how they work. It's one thing to revile a product because you used it and it couldn't perform the tasks you needed to get done, but it's quite another to bad-mouth it because of what you've heard or read. That's a bit like saying you don't like eggplant, even though you've never eaten it. Others may tell you that it tastes good or bad, but you really won't know for sure until you've tried it for yourself.

I'm not suggesting that everyone migrate to Macs or Linux, but if you're suffering with XP because of loyalty to the product, you might be suffering needlessly, especially if you can afford to explore other alternatives. It's not about loyalty to a platform or OS. It's about picking the right tool for the job. It's about getting the work done.

If you run Windows servers, your path is clear. You're stuck with Windows. But by the same token, if all you do is type letters and generate spreadsheets, is XP truly your only choice? Does a Mac type a letter any less efficiently than Windows? Does Linux? Is Windows better at e-mailing than Mac? Have you ever test-driven them to find out?

As someone who regularly uses all of them, I can tell you that it's a bit like arguing the difference between a Hoover or Eureka vacuum. In the end, they both just suck dirt out of a carpet. Neither one is better than the other at sucking up dirt. Where computers are concerned, cut and paste works the same regardless of platform. When people read a printed page, nobody knows or even cares what platform you used to create it. So use whatever platform works best for you, but don't just put up with bulls**t because you feel some sense of loyalty to the product or the manufacturer. They're not loyal to you. They're all about the money, and you should be too.

If you are willing to put up with these antics, on your own head be it. But if you're not, then stop giving them your money. Microsoft doesn't care about you; they care about their bottom line. Put up with it if you like, but if you've had enough of buggy software and invasions of your privacy, do something about it. Defect! It's a word Microsoft will understand very well. Hit them in the wallet, and they'll start treating you more like customers instead of criminals.

Posted by: GL-F | July 2, 2006 6:41 AM | Report abuse

I had installed WGA on both of my machines when it originally was released under the auto-update functionality. Woe is me!

Dell desktop - I was rudely informed that my pc was running an illegal copy of windows even though the validation website said all was okay. Even after repeated calls never could get the issue fixed. Went through the process of removing it, and that was not a simple process.

HP laptop - All was okay but I was noticing a slower boot-up an shut down of my laptop. Traced the issue to WGA. Used the public removal tool and my performance reverted back to the original speed.

If MS wants to curb the current proliferation of unlicensed copies, they need to build the functionality into future versions, not try to back-hack existing copies. Learn from existing behavior and develop accordingly. It is always easier (and past practice demonstrates this) to develop a work around than it is to develop the original functionality.

Precious experience with MSRT (MS anti-spyware) should have fore-warned me (this was the only update I decline till WGA) of the apparent lack of user concern for MS rollout bolt-ons.

End story: I now have my Windows update to notify only when updates are available, then I do extensive reviews before I install them (and then only on a ghost machine till I can observe the inpact). I have become much more reluctant to install MS updates when released, but to investigate and observe resulting issues.
Sorry MS, but my original intent to migrate to Vista when available has been tainted with these recent events. Not saying I won't, just that I will be a lot of review before I do.

Posted by: Jack | July 2, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

I just simply applied a "crack" patch to Microsoft's WGA Software and solved the problem. No nag screens, no calling in to Microsoft's servers, plus I am able to download and apply all Microsoft Windows updates and other Microsoft software. When is Microsoft going to get it in their heads that people who use computers are going to do things their way, not Microsoft's way?

Posted by: LedAstray | July 2, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Including WGA Notifications as a "critical security update" is a cheap and sleazy betrayal of customer trust. "Automatic Updates" used to be about security; now it's being used by MS marketing operations to control piracy. Users can no longer be assured that the updates have anything to do with security.

It's a classic business blunder, when you mix a profit center (Windows sales) with a cost center (security expenses). As a misplaced attempt to achieve "synergy", all it will really accomplish is anger, frustrate, and disgust the company's customers. Meanwhile, the duplicating factories operated by Chinese Army generals on the mainland, will continue pumping out thousands of XP and Vista copies. MS is going after end-users because it has little or no ability to go after the suppliers.

In addition to countering WGA directly, you can take the following steps:

- Remove Microsoft sites from I.E. Trusted Zone.
- Disable the WGA add-on in I.E.
- Remove WGA as an allowed program in a software firewall.
- Turn off Automatic Updates.
- In a router's firewall: Block traffic going to the IP address range used by WGA servers.

Posted by: Ken L | July 3, 2006 1:13 AM | Report abuse

So in other words:

1. Waste time.
2. Waste time.
3. Waste time.
4. Waste time.
5. Waste time.

It's no wonder why I call these advocates wannabe sys admins, as they waste all their time trying to get around something others don't have to worry about -- especially if they have a legit license.


Posted by: SandyK | July 3, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Remember Scot McNealy's comment, "You have no privacy - get over it!" It's true - it's all a matter of your perception.

Microsoft is now the stodgy old man and Google is the young upstart. Maybe Microsoft should take on the Google approach? Make it clear that when you install the software that your information WILL be shared (and perhaps you'll receive a few targeted ads!). This approach seems to work for Google. Who are we kidding - nobody reads the EULAs anyway.

Just a thought to open your eyes.

Posted by: guyw | July 4, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

A few years ago I had a computer custom built for me. Windows 98 was part of the bundle. As soon as XP appeared I bought it - the Home Edition - and it served me well. The tech who built my system installed it for me. About a year ago I had a major crash - apparently caused by a different kind of Spyware. The person who built my computer repaired it and managed to recover my data. He also returned it to me with XP Professional installed instead of my version of XP Home. I thought nothing of it till I discovered that some recent downloads couldn't be obtained without giving my version number. My Home Version number - which I assumed assured my purchase - no longer worked because I was using the Professional version! Since it did not affect security updates - of which there are many - I shrugged it off. Stupid of me? Well - I prefer the word "naive".

Now - suddenly - I find spyware has been installed on my computer by Microsoft which 'reminds' me - intrusively - that I am operating an 'illegal' version. No - I am not. I may be the only person in the world in this particular circumstance - and IMO the REAL pirates have no grounds for moral outrage about this privacy intrusion - but I AM outraged by this intrusion - by the 'reminders' upon start up and the little crooked star that has appeared in the task bar. I did not specifically ACCEPT that update? Now I keep getting notices about WGA 'update'. To prevent it from loading, I have to click 'Custom' - which then tells me what the update actually is.

Yep - I am moving to Apple - and agree with the person who posted that there are 'better reasons' to do so. This misadventure is just getting me off my duff to make a long contemplated move.

Posted by: Sallie | July 4, 2006 5:12 PM | Report abuse

No one is looking three years from now. People used to say if I could stop people selling my software, I could lower the price. Then when they put on some unbreakable encryption, the price went up. Consider what it will be like when Micro$oft can kill your machine when you have not paid for your YEARLY license. You might as well send your bankcard number to them now.

Posted by: Norm | July 6, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

SandyK, you must get a good income from Microsoft to spend so-o-o-o much time monitoring every critical post and responding to it. How many other sites are you required to police?

Posted by: eb | July 7, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Just built a new computer and it wont boot when WGA is installed. Almost ripped my hair out yesterday figuring it out. Each time I would repair windows from CD and would go to get latest patches and then, when getting WGA, no more booting normally. I could boot into safe mode but not normal mode. I tried repair again for the 5th time and turned off automatic updates and did not goto MS update. The computer is working great now.

Posted by: Scroot | July 21, 2006 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Microsoft and Window XP Get Real! When you buy a car do you put a engine in it the first day you get it? I DON;T THINK SO ! And that is what's going on here? No Matter where you get your PC from IE. Pawnshop/Mom/dad/bro/sister/A friend/
If you not the frist to own it? They want you to buy a New Copy of XP for $180.00!
So if your Friend Sold you a Laptop that as XP already on it for $50.00 (Good Deal) Microsoft want's you to buy a new copy of XP for 180.00 every time it change hand.
(THAT IS HOW YOU GET PAYED)We call it pimpping

Posted by: EDOVE | August 30, 2006 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Personally, I feel if you are spending over 1+ hours trying to fix your machine, switch to Apple or maybe even give a free distro a whirl.

If you feel it is an invasion of your privacy, switch as well.

If you think about it, if you put all the problems, slow load times, spyware, malware, viruses, etc you are having into a time oriented spreadsheet and multiplied it by how much money you make an hour, you might actually save with an Apple.

I use both MS (legit) and a Linux distro (Ubuntu) for ease of use since I play video games (a majority of which will only work on Windows) and because I enjoy a bug free system that is free (Linux). Because of this abhorrent WGA sui generis crap, I personally refuse to buy anymore MS products.... I had a legit copy and now they are marking it as illegal. Not worth my time. My time is now better spent contributing to the Linux community to build systems that will allow the utilization of all my and other's programs.

As I was saying, do something and move to a different OS. If no one moves, MS will continue to abuse its customer. If people change OS, MS will be forced to take care of its customers.

A competitive market to keep all happy.

Apple's are awesome machines but you have pay for what you get.

Free Linux distros can be a little time consuming for beginners but have a huge pay off in the end.

You decide. Indulge in Bill Gates pursuit of happines no matter what pain you have, or continue using MS because you don't care and you don't have issues with windows, or switch because you feel that Bill Gates shouldn't A)Breath down your neck because of your fellow earthlings, B)Should stop trying to watch you and breath down your neck, or C) because "Your problem here."

Remember people, "ACTIONS speak louder than words."

Posted by: Raven | September 8, 2006 1:18 AM | Report abuse

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