Paul Thurrott bitten by ‘Windows Genuine Advantage’

“Aside from basic trust issues–Apple, for example, does not burden users with Product Activation or any similar anti-piracy technologies in its Mac OS X operating system–Microsoft made two major mistakes with WGA,” Paul Thurrott writes for SuperSite for Windows. “The first was to silently post a beta version of the tool to Windows Update as a Critical Update, thus ensuring that it was quietly and underhandedly installed on hundreds of millions of customers’ PCs: I mean, seriously. Is Microsoft honestly making guinea pigs out of its entire user base?”

Thurrott writes, “The second mistake was that WGA Notifications was also ‘phoning home’ information to Microsoft on a regular basis. That’s right: Not only was the software secretly installed on your PC, but it then regularly contacted Microsoft servers and provided them with data about the instances of pirated and nonpirated software out there… After a few days of freaking out customers, Microsoft finally changed WGA in mid-June 2006 so that it wouldn’t phone home every single time a PC rebooted, which is how frequently it had been doing so. Now, WGA will still send back piracy data to Microsoft the first time it tests a system, and then it will only sporadically phone home after that. The company also released a set of instructions for disabling or removing the ‘pilot’ version of WGA though Microsoft contends that the final version of the software, due soon, will not support these activities.”

Thurrott writes, “After the dust had settled, sort of, I was still sort of curious what WGA looked like on a system that was suspected of being pirated. This week, I got my wish: A copy of Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, installed in a virtual machine, came up with various WGA alerts after I installed a bunch of updates from Windows Update.

“You’re probably wondering how it is that I’m running a pirated copy of Windows. It’s a legitimate question,” Thurrott writes. ” Truthfully, I can only imagine what triggered these alerts. The software was installed to a VM a long time ago and archived on my server. I no doubt used a copy of XP MCE 2005 that I had received as part of my MSDN subscription. If the WGA alerts are to be believed, it’s possible that Microsoft thinks I’ve installed this software on too many machines, though that seems unlikely to me. I can’t really say.”

“Anyway, that’s what it looks like to be a suspected pirate. Like many people who will see these alerts, I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I’m sure that’s going to be a common refrain in this new era of untrusting software and companies. Ah well,” Thurrott writes.

Full article with screenshots here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Chris” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Take: “Ah well?” That’s it? That’s the reaction? A bit blasé, don’t you think? Microsoft has their sufferers so beaten down, it seems that they’ll accept just about anything. And to think we thought an annual fee to “protect” Windows from itself was the capper; now they just say “ah well” when Mafiasoft calls paying customers thieves. Where do you want to bend over today? The power of Stockholm Syndrome never ceases to amaze. Most probably, Bill Gates himself could show up at Thurrott’s front door, punch him square in the nose, calmly get back into his limo without uttering a word, and Thurrott would still be lined up at midnight for Windows PigLipstick if and when it’s ever released.

Life’s too short. Get a Mac.


  1. I purchased a copy of Windows when I installed Bootcamp on my MacBook Pro 17. Cost me $150. Then I decided to try Parallels as well. I wanted to be able to compare and contrast the two environments, and I know that sometimes I want to do a quick and dirty thing in Windows like apply a firmware patch to a piece of hardware or something, and other times I’m forced to seek out a Windows computer because I might be in there for some time, and Bootcamp is better for those cases.

    Well Microsoft would not allow me to use the same serial number on the same computer.

    MS forced me to purchase a Windows Genuine Advantage serial number for Parallels, another $150.

    I have now spent $300 for Windows on my Macintosh.

  2. Ah well. I think you MDN fans are really digging for anti-MSFT action. Paul is clearly pro-apple, anti DRM in this monologue. He used to be a real MSFT cheerleader. He wants to like MSFT. Heck, I’d like to like MSFT and everyone in the world as well. So it is sad that MSFT has failed once again at least in this regard.

    I’m with you Paul. Another sad paragraph in this chapter of MSFT history. It’s not much more than that though. Paul doesn’t use this copy of Windows for anything other than some testing, so it’s no big deal. If it’s on a VM, there’s a strong possibility that it’s been copied.

    I can relate to MSFT wanting to get a handle on pirates. I used their crippleware on my PC, my Bootcamp and Parallels. That’s 3 copies just for me. Now MSFT would like to charge me for each copy, but I think most people would prefer to see per-user liscensing, or even per-family licensing, which is why I buy my Mac OS updates in Family packs.

    I buy software I use, but some pricing is a bit hard to swallow. Those packages will be largely pirated. Hear me Adobe?

  3. “Microsoft finally changed WGA in mid-June 2006 so that it wouldn’t phone home every single time a PC rebooted, which is how frequently it had been doing so”

    Holy crap no wonder the phone lines are always jammed. Thats a lot of phone traffic.

  4. The funniest part (if you read the screenshots) is where he goes to buy the kit and get the message:

    “The Windows Genuine Advantage Kit is not currently available in the region you have selected”

    At the bottom of the screen his “region” is the United States! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”LOL” style=”border:0;” />

  5. Actually Windows is a royal POS, we all know that.

    Microsoft mistreating it’s customers and producing a rotten garbage can of a OS is actually GOOD for Mac sales. Once people try Mac OS X, they are just floored how well it “just works”.

    Once you go Mac, you don’t go back.

    Unless it’s at work, then you got no choice. But it’s not your problem, just call IT to fix the POS Windblows box from Hell.

  6. Personally, I don’t mind at all if MicroSoft checks my PCs for valid software. And I also wouldn’t care if Apple did the same with my Macs. I know a lot of people who pass out copies of stuff like it was candy. Windows, Office, Photoshop – you name it. They see nothing wrong with doing it, and just look at me like I’m nuts when I mention that it’s illegal.
    Heck, I would love to have Photoshop CS, but I can’t afford it, so I make do with Photoshop Elements. If people were honest and didn’t have the attitude that they deserved whatever they want, whenever they want it, and for free, then we wouldn’t have to worry about these things. There are a lot reasons to rip on MicroSoft, but I don’t feel that this is one of them. Just my humble opinion.

  7. At my work, we have a totally legitimate Win XP install (preinstalled on the computer we bought) that refused to work with the original serial number. The easiest way to deal with it was to enter a different serial number that came with a different XP install.

    Is that considered piracy? We paid for both of them. We just don’t want to waste time on the phone with MS. Time is money. Is that wrong?

    Re: Getting punched in the nose by Bill Gates

    That was how I felt after buying Win 3.0 and trying to actually use it.

    Fool me once, shame on you, yada, yada, yada.

  8. I hate the way that MS is doing this anti-piracy stuff, but before we rip them too badly, is this really much different from the stupid DRM crap in iTunes? The entire point of both is to stop piracy. It’s kind of hypocritical to rip MS for trying to stop piracy and then ignoring Apple doing the exact same thing with their music, isn’t it?

  9. I love the term “Genuine Advantage”. I guess the “Advantage” is that Microsoft won’t cripple your system. Kinda like how you pay a mobster for “protection” from the mobster himself.

    If Microsoft came out with a “service” where anyone who didn’t pay up got anally raped with a cattle prod, they’d call it “Microsoft Tushie Total Comfort”. ‘Cuz, you know, it feels so good when they don’t do it.

    BTW, this obsession with piracy is further proof that Microsoft knows they’re no longer growing. When they were growing, piracy was left alone because it helped them dominate new markets. Now it’s robbing them of the only steady revenue they have left.

  10. Jackson, you are an idiot (if you’re going to toss insults around, expect them back) and a prime example of the apathy of MS users hinted at by MDN. Yes – it’s a world-wide “pilot” program, about which notification little notification was given to the end user and which – and at least you got this right – is ridden with bugs; all the more reason that it should have never been released in its current form.

    Now get back to your spreadsheets.

  11. Never had a problem with Windows activation here. Of course, I never had an illegal copy of Windows, either.

    After all, Adobe requires “activation” on ALL of their products. No one’s screaming about that. I actually recommend Apple doing so with their Final Cut Studio, also. They’re already ALMOST there anyhow. Don’t believe me: Try installing Final Cut Studio on a laptop and a desktop on the same network. It won’t work. (Adobe allows this.)

    Don’t use illegal software and you have nothing to worry about.

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