Busted! What happens when WGA attacks

Busted! What happens when WGA attacks

Summary: When Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage software kicks in and identifies your copy of Windows as "non-genuine," what happens next? On the surface, at least, Microsoft is all tea and sympathy: "You may be a victim of software counterfeiting," says the official message that takes over the Windows startup screen. But that's a funny way to treat a victim, because everything in the WGA experience is intended to get you to open your wallet and pay for a new product key and Windows CD, even if you already own a perfectly legal license. I've got all the details here.

TOPICS: Windows

When Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage software kicks in and identifies your copy of Windows as "non-genuine," what happens next? On the surface, at least, Microsoft is all tea and sympathy: "You may be a victim of software counterfeiting," says the official message that takes over the Windows start up screen. But that's a funny way to treat a victim, The entire program is couched in language that would make Orwell proud. because everything in the WGA experience is intended to get you to open your wallet and pay for a new product key and Windows CD, even if you already own a perfectly legal license.

With Microsoft’s assistance, I’ve just installed two illegal copies of Windows XP on a test system here. The idea was to show Windows customers what the WGA experience is really like. (I’ve documented the experience with a series of screenshots and accompanying notes in this image gallery. I encourage you to see for yourself exactly what happens if WGA reaches out and touches you.)

What I found made me more sure than ever that Microsoft is just plain out of touch with what its customers are experiencing. Here are some conclusions I’ve come to:

  • You’re presumed guilty. Although the web pages ooze with concern for the poor “victims,” the actual text is cold-blooded. Microsoft acknowledges that many people have legitimate licenses but end up with bootleg copies of Windows installed because a repair shop or a friend does them a “favor.” But the utility to replace the bogus product key with a legitimate one is buried on the website. It’s literally the last option on a list of six choices.
  • It’s all about the Benjamins. The most prominent element in the WGA Notification screen is the Buy Now button. You’re encouraged to whip out your credit card and send Microsoft (or one of its partners) $149 to get a new product key and a new CD. Even if you click the tiny see all options link to see what other choices are available to you, three of the six options involve handing over money.
  • Help is not on the way. A Windows customer who sees this message is likely to be scared, confused, and angry – or maybe all three. But there’s no easy way to get help. The Contact Us link leads to a generic Microsoft page. There’s nary a phone number to be found. The only specific help is the WGA Validation Problems forum, where the list of scared, confused, and angry customers is growing daily.
  • It inspires confusion and uncertainty. Yesterday, Microsoft told me my installation of Windows XP was Genuine, and I was entitled to full support. Today, I’m a possible victim of piracy, and I’m cut off from the resources that were available to me yesterday. What changed? Who knows? What about my other “genuine” Windows copies? Are they going to suddenly be flagged as illegal?

The entire program is couched in language that would make Orwell proud. I’d love to spend an hour in Redmond, locked in a room with the WGA team, so I could explain exactly how wrong their approach is. If I had my way, I’d tear down every existing web page and start over. Here’s a hint: Stop treating every customer as if they were a thief.

Topic: Windows

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  • Good luck getting your hour with the Microsoft WGA team

    You will have even less luck speaking to them via their official support forums...There they only play dodge ball if you pitch hard ball questions.

    To make matters worse, once they banned me from their support forums one of their MVPs from there followed me here to continue the insults....Carey Fricsh, in fact.

    Good luck getting your hour audience, but if you do, take your lawyer with you then watch to see if you are followed on your way back to the airport.
    • For any MS MVP who's lurking

      I left windows for linux after W2K--I would not install XP with its activation. And guess what--two friends who laughed at me then are now asking me about linux after having followed the saga of WGA.
    • Thanks

      Very useful information. Your blogs have helped me to *prevent* the WGA 'update' to install om my (paid for) XP.

      It's sad to see Microsoft acting like this. It shows that they are becoming more and more confident. Typical monopolistic behaviour. If only people would be less sheep-like and realize that they are gradually becoming MS-tax-payers.

      It would be nice to see what George Ou would have to write about this. It would be kind of hard to defend this (but maybe he would see WGA as a 'feature'?). George, if you are reading this, can you also provide some statistics?
    • True Stories:

      A: First customer bought BRAND new NAME brand Laptops from SAM's WHolesale. Set it up for them. Came with XP SP2. Did the "UPDATE" thing. 2 Days Latter "ILLEGAL COPY" appeared. Had to do a system restore.

      B; Monday of this very week. Another customer, GATEWAY desktops with XP SP1 kept getting the "UPGRADE" nag. User did the COMPLETE upgrade, SP2, and ALL of the "RECOMMENDED" updates after that. Guess what? YOu got it it, ILLEGAL COPY and then ALL THE "$&%^#*(#" GATEWAY drivers were gone, another ssytem restore was in order and I turned off the UPDATE NAG crap ...
    • Wonder How Her Supervisor Feels About This

      She should be helping customers on her hard-earned $5 an hour sitting in her cramped cube instead of hurling insults....

      She can hurl insults all she wants, she just proves what pompous incompetent morons Microsoft MVPs are.
      • Microsoft

        The velvet sweatshop.
        • Microsoft

          The furlined mousetrap.
          • Microsoft

            The purloined softwarez.
    • promoted

      Most probably all they did, if anything, to Ms Frisch - or should I say Ms. Hasaparmapedalam of Goa - was to promote her for work well-done & raise her pay to $5.01/hour.
      Liam SWz
    • I pray someone can get them to take there hands of there ears

      What Microsoft is doing is rude and unreal, they think its a perfect world, there products can go wrong. Its been proved many times and I know a placed that listed many things they did, they need to fix, some have never been fixed.

      I can't buy retail Microsoft because some bug makes all my software have a problem sometimes, or Micrsoft makes it seem wrong, or something. Until they create a better security or I use a better antivirus and security, with all these exploits around anything can happen.

      Look at the things that can go wrong:

      1.I bought a different registry cleaner once that removed everything that was in the Computer and I needed to reinstall Windows.

      2.I bought a well known antivirus that caused false positives, until I solved the problem, called Windows Updates, Limeware.

      3.Its possible someone could create a problem the forces windows report its not genuine, when it is genuine.

      4. The last 2 picture in your list are tools that make my Computers say there non-genine everytime, it does not matter how many time I buy the product, it will do it again, because I bought several Computers, each time theey are used for several months and I get everything I need from Microsoft, yet if I use those tools, it starts with Activated or Genuine, then run it again, it gets worse, not activated or non-genuine, how can this be valid tools to test with, when it can go from valid to invalid windows software in just minutes.

      You try to explain there tools don't work right, they ignore you, they ban you, there more concern about faking the results in there forum and they can clean out the words people wrote until they get what they want then tell people it doing great.

      There won't be any progress with Microsoft until they see or accept what is happening or several companies make software and have drivers to use on any Computer, then if there is big shift to some other Company maybe Microsoft will wakeup and accept there is a problem.

      Microsoft is making people blame others for there possible fault, something is happening and only happening the way it is. Look at all the stores they sell there software and get customers sent from microsoft, or repair shops getting the blame for what there doing, they can't all be dishonest, someone is getting mistreated.

      I tried to explain there is a problem, I was banned from there forum, there rude and clown around, I doubt they will if there is a shift by people buying something else, someday, someone, will make something as good or better, and be happy with it, no more fighting to people that ignore or disbelieve, something causes these problems, they just happen, why should anyone be mistreated from these pranks.
      • You , my friend, are not the most dexterous speaker...

        But you are very sincere. My heart goes out to you....Yes, it is sad that they push guys like you around and attempt to take advantage of you.

        It's in fact, criminal.

        I can visualize some poor kid struggling with his used Christmas present computer that his estranged non-custodial dad managed to by him, or one that his single mother got free gratis from her generous friend....I can just see his disappointment when WGA destroys the nicest thing anyone has done for him ever.

        Try to explain EULA to him.
    • Blocking Tools

      There many tools on the web to remove this piece of crap from M$. Google for WGA removal & you will find one for your use....Had enough in IL
  • Linux fans must be salivating

    Between WGA and DRM, Microsoft is certainly sowing the seeds of doubt in many users minds that Windows is the way to go...

    (coming from a long time Windows fan)
    • it was spyware when it was first rolled out...

      ...since it installed a "critical update" with out consenting of what information it actually collects and sends, and how often.

      Many legit users were frazzled and the only solution was to perform a system restore, then re-update and deselect the "critical update". Done that many times prior to MS's official removal instrutions for the pilot beta version, all were legit and passed wga, they were just cautious of spyware apps - was no different to a drive-by malware install to users that are conscience of privacy...
    • Yes we are! It is a glorious day with many new recruits.

      Mepis Linux 6.0 "The Windows Killer" is out. People are trying it and beginning to understand the power of Linux. It is overwhelming at first to have such powers but you get used to it after a while. It is like switching from a Ford Escort to a Lamborghini Murci?lago. It takes a little getting use to but after a while you understand why a Lamborghini Murci?lago is better than a Ford Escort.
      • The real McCoy

        The Macintosh still wipes the floor with both Windows and Linux. And no, Apple's hardware is not more expensive than comparable PC hardware. It just happens that most of their systems are really high-end, especially now with their big move to Intel.
        • Just because you own a apple doesn't make it better than linux or windows

          You are still dealing with the same corporate mentality the EULA and the DRM not to mention phone home. So in what world does that make OSX better than Linux? Linux is free and has the GPL and Free of the DRM and corporate mentality. FreeBSD is better than OSX but not Better than Linux even though OSX is based on FreeBSD. Linux and FreeBSD are FREE, Free of Cost, Free of EULA and Free of DRM. AND BTW Mepis will eat your apple and throw it out the windows.
          • Think again.

            The DRM in OS X is actually in the iTunes software, not in the operating system. Even if you take issue with the DRM in iTunes, that isn't going to hold back the use of OS X. This is a much cleaner, neater approach than the one which would seem to be employed in Vista.

            And FREE is not always the same as BETTER. Linux and FreeBSD (and Solaris also) are very good, quality systems. But I'd rather stick with OS X myself, particularly considering that I use Final Cut Studio, have a fairly sizable collection of music (and now a few TV show episodes) I have purchased through iTunes, the awesome Xcode development tools which come with OS X (plus Runtime Revolution) - the list continues.

            When I finally get around to purchasing and setting up the dedicated server I am planning for, I'm not sure yet if it will be running OS X server (on an Apple X Serve) or Solaris (Sun hardware). Either way, my dependence on Windows is now very low, and I hope to reduce it further still.

            Also, please note that you still end up paying for the hardware your software runs on...

            And no, FreeBSD is *not* better than OS X. It is different from OS X, but not better. If you are going to say that it is better at some *particular thing* or in some *particular category*, please specify that category or thing when making your claim. You might sway me in some specific area, but most definitely *not* as a whole.
        • there's the door

          now please leave
          Scott W
    • wiping chin

      all joking aside, I personally don't see this as being funny in the least, and think that OS users regardless which they like think before they post.
      Remember most have been on the other side at one time or another.

      That said, Microsoft should (IMHO) should think loud and hard before things get out of hand. They will/could end up alienating long time users, not to mention the possible law suits that could/will more than likely result.

      I know that if I bought a legitimate PC and my version was labeled invalid, and they tried to muscle money out of me.. somebody would end up hearing from my attorney.

      Whats worse is that since the PC manufacturer uses (OEM) they are the people they'd need to contact.. In a recent matter, the manufacturer indicated to a customer that they'd need to contact Microsoft, and Microsoft gave 2 choices, call back the vendor, or pay up and this was a national brand!

      I guess all I'm trying to say is that there is nothing funny about good people getting hosed out of good money due to a poorly implemented validation program.