Confused over WGA? You're not alone

Confused over WGA? You're not alone

Summary: Arrrggghhh! Microsoft has finally tagged my phony copy of Windows XP. I'm officially a pirate now and can finish my in-depth report on WGA. Meanwhile, here are some comments on my latest post, many of them betraying a misunderstanding of Windows licensing, Windows Product Activation, and WGA. I've responded to some of the most interesting comments here.

TOPICS: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage servers finally noticed that the copy of Windows XP Professional I installed last weekend was using an unauthorized volume license key. That’s good news, because it means I’ll finally be able to finish the detailed report I’m working on that explains exactly how WGA actually works and what you’re likely to see if you get flagged as using a pirated copy of Windows.

As you may recall, I reported yesterday that four separate validation checks had declared it Genuine, allowing me access to updates and downloads that should have been blocked.

That post drew lots of comments, many of them betraying a misunderstanding of Windows licensing, Windows Product Activation, and WGA. To help set the stage for tomorrow’s report, I’d like to respond to a few of those comments here.

Presler: Of course [the volume license key found on the Internet] will work … because the stolen VL key that you got is legitimate... although the users of that stolen key (you and your friend) are illegitimate.

First of all, there’s no “friend” involved here. I downloaded this key from an anonymous website. And the problem of leaked/stolen volume license keys is the single largest problem WGA is intended to address. A volume license key used with the correct media can be installed without requiring activation. If it’s stolen, Microsoft marks it as stolen and flags it via the WGA servers. And no, it’s not legitimate, as I pointed out at the beginning of this post.

dplant: The issue with the invalid key you recieved with the original disk is what I would hope you would expect for an illegal copy. The key you got off of the internet? Is this a key used by a volume license customer?? Then how could MS invalidate it without completely pissing off the legit customer? Is this not what the pirates count on to get away with their theft?

Microsoft can and does invalidate volume license keys if they establish that they have been stolen. According to Microsoft representatives I’ve spoken with, they work very closely with the legitimate customers to make sure that the impact on them is as minimal as possible. But yes, VL keys do get revoked regularly.

Michael Kelly: Who cares about false negatives anyway? If there's a false negative that's MS's problem. I really don't care and I don't see why anyone else other than MS should care.

I’ll let Richard Flude provide the reply for me, courtesy of a follow-up comment: Because WGA affects everyone as everyone has to jump through the WGA hoops even those that have never used pirated software. Why force honest people to jump through these hoops if it isn't even effective at catching the dishonest people?

bportlock: Do you really think that Microsoft is going to develop WGA, sneak it in to people's PCs and then turn round and say "Whoa! What a mess we made of that one!" No - they'll play the stupid game and keep denying anything's wrong in the vain hope that they'll get it fixed before too many pain-in-the-a*s journalists and bloggers write too many stories that it is all a first rate disaster.

I can dream, can’t I?

gwrigg: Mr. Bott, if you want some dirt on WGA, and how Microsoft is mis-handling user problems, check out the first post in this thread in MS's WGA forums. … The thread starter, MVP Susan Bradley, seems to get what people are ticked off about, but thus far she's getting an amazing runaround from the MS staffers in the thread…

I have spoken with several people who have been longtime Microsoft advocates who are completely dismayed by this whole program and how poorly it’s been implemented. I wish more of them would go public with their concerns.

Infosrama: There are many keygenerators out there which can generate the keys for you. Also there are hacks that can disable WGA, and this is not a surprise.

A product key that has been spit out by a key generator should be detected by WGA. I have seen many tools that will disable WGA notifications, but none that will fool one of the Microsoft update servers into allowing access to an unvalidated copy.

Troubled241: I have an older Compaq Windows Xp CD with SP1, just worthless to me, because I can't use it on my Fujitsu, or my others. I can understand not being able to use it on my fujitsu, or others, its just that if I give it to someone who could use it, it still would not work, because its been used, yet someone told me, I can if I tell microsoft it was used and not being used on another Computer. Therefore, its best, if I dump it in the trash, they most likey want to prove its bad and not worth keeping and can't reuse. How could anyone assume microsoft would allow that, they what to make money, not reuse something that there is no profit from.

If it's a Compaq OEM CD, it can't be reused. The license associated with an OEM Windows copy locks it to the machine it was originally installed on. It can't be sold, traded, given away, or reused except on that original hardware. Now, how many people do you think understand the ins and outs of Windows licensing?

stv: so, what was that key? I have this friend, you see, who is curious about what product key you found on the Internet, so why not put it up here? Thanks. (ha, ha)

Nice try.

Topic: Microsoft

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  • WGA BS

    I posted to that thread but they deleted my post. Although MVP Susan Bradley claims that Microsoft management "doesn't get it", she, Phil Liu, are technologically impotent; unable to solve the WGA validation problems with legitimate installations. Consequently, the unresolved problems with WGA is driving legit installation users toward Linux and the MacOS. Billy Gotes must be hedging his Microsoft stock price decline with stock in Microsoft's competitors.

    "gwrigg: Mr. Bott, if you want some dirt on WGA, and how Microsoft is mis-handling user problems, check out the first post in this thread in MS's WGA forums. ? The thread starter, MVP Susan Bradley, seems to get what people are ticked off about, but thus far she's getting an amazing runaround from the MS staffers in the thread?"
    • Me Too

      Golem, I also posted to that thread and got deleted by Thought Cop Phil. I told Phil he should strap on some kneepads and go offer Ramon a humble apology.

      As far as Susan Bradley is concerned, I don't know that she's even claiming to have the technological competence to resolve any WGA issues. However, she DOES see the impact it's having out in the general public (Ramon being a prime example), and she's trying to call the attention of the MS higher-ups to it by way of the WGA forum. The impact on the general public is the part that Ms. Bradley gets, and Phil Liu DOESN'T.
      • Not true, Phil gets it, he just wants to keep his job

        Ms. Bradley is sympathetic with us but she has nuthin to lose except her MVP status....Phil however, must toe the party line or lose his job.

        I watched all yesterday as Phil avoided my questions....Then I witnessed him come back in the middle of the night and delete each of my posts one by one....He must have set his alarm clock to do it...I know it was him cause in each thread he would berate me then quickly remove mine and his posts...Until one by one, I no longer existed on their forums....Today, I attempted to sign on there and discovered I was officially 'banned'.

        So Phil is just trying to keep his job, but I bet it costs him lots of pride to do it.
        • I saw that too

          If you discuss something there, its much different than somwhere else, somewhere else you could get answers. In there forum its more about ignore the problem and not let someone see it.

          They think its a perfect world and those problems don't exist. I remember one day, it was about how good windows XP was, how good they are at solve every problem someone has, there so successful another happy user, they erased several or ignored several to make it look better.
        • Good Point YoD ... Phil is a Coward, Then

          Point well taken, Yodaddy. You've been watching the forum more closely than I have.

          In that case, I change my assessment of Phil from "woefully ignorant" to "intellectual coward" and "deliberately dense."
          • Myself, I don't think he is a coward....

            I saw where he went beyond the canned answers and showed a little sympathy for people once or twice, but he got jerked back into line pretty quickly...

            He's in a very stressful job right now...The public is screaming foul, and his bosses are watching closely/dictating his replies...He's stuck in the middle fersure.

            I figure the guy's got a mortgage and kids in school....Not everyone can be like me and tell the boss to stuff it.
          • Point Taken YoD

            Would it be a fair statement to say that Phil is a guy in the decidedly unenviable position of administering a forum concerning a piece of shoddy technology that's infuriated legions of users, and that he's caught between those infuriated users and the dictates of the MS higher-ups? Unfortunate for Phil, indeed.
          • Choices

            Everyone has 'em.

            Sometimes we're faced with deciding whether our integrity can be bought.

            Attempts at dismissal can be fought if an employee has the facts to support a case. Especially if the facts bear up unethical conduct, such as lying to the public.

            If that's the case, then suddenly the employee actually becomes too dangerous to dismiss. A wrongful termination case would be vert damaging.
    • I don't buy it

      [i]Consequently, the unresolved problems with WGA is driving legit installation users toward Linux and the MacOS.[/i]

      More like, "driving them towards impotent whinging."

      Microsoft has the whip hand here. Microsoft knows it, the users know it, and all that noise you hear is the squealing as they vent -- because they know that venting is the [b]only[/b] thing they're going to do.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • YBK

        Places the hammer firmly upon the crown of the nail...

        "[B]-- because they know that venting is the only thing they're going to do[/B]"

        American consumers have become complacent and just roll over and take it... again and again and again. And companies know it, the government knows it and the rest of the world knows it. The only people that don't seem to know it... are the ones that keep rolling over! ?:| ]:)
        Linux User 147560
        • Nice defeatist attitude there

          Great message ya got there: "Just give up and switch to another OS. Don't protest or fight back."

          Despite your cynicism, my history with Microsoft says they can and do change policies when the right person sees the light.
          Ed Bott
          • Hey all I am saying

            is the truth of the modern American buyer. The level of apathy in this nation is amazing. When is the last time you saw a boycott of a product due to poor quality? Last one I remember was back in the late 70's when I was a kid. I can't remember exactly what it was, but I do remember everybody stopped buying from a particular company... they fixed their shyte PDQ.

            Now all people do is whine and complain. Maybe 10% of them will take action. Me I flipped Microsof the bird and moved to Linux in 1999, and I have been functioning just fine without them. Sorry but what I see is a nation of overweight, apathetic "me, me, me" greedy folks. Maybe my travels to the rest of the world and what I remember about this nation when I was growing up are influencing my opinion. But the fact from my perspective is that what I write is what I see.

            Americans just accept poor quality and poor service now. They snivel a bit but then fall right in line with the rest of the herd. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
          • The Horse Might Learn To Sing

            [i]"Don't protest or fight back."[/i]

            We've already argued that protest is impotent.

            As for fighting back, would you care to suggest how? [i]Rambo Does Redmond[/i] doesn't quite seem likely.

            [i]Despite your cynicism, my history with Microsoft says they can and do change policies when the right person sees the light.[/i]

            If your only hope is to throw yourself on the mercy of the Czar, by all means do so. Sometimes it works.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • POTP

            Protest would be the best approach. All that is needed is to get the issue of WGA into public opinion. The only reason that Microsoft has gotten this far is because WGA is still hidden in the shadows.

            So either spread the word to everyone you know about what WGA is and how it will affect them, or admit you're no better help than Frisch or Liu.

            Fighting back: Sever business ties with Microsoft. Yes, I for one am doing just that. I have a spare laptop here with a messed up Windows XP installation. I'm going to switch it over to Linux this month and see how that goes. I'll evaluate the results of that prototype for our other four Windows XP systems.

            Linux sites report a dramatic surge in Linux downloads since the WGA debacle has become public in the IT world.

            Meanwhile, all of our future computer purchases will be Mac.
          • ED, do you think that might happen?

            Do you think the right person may see the light and correct this disaster?
          • Possible

            Microsoft has seen the light on ill-considered decisions before. The question is whether this is a group of stubborn junior executives refusing to consider customer needs or whether top management is pulling the strings on this.
            Ed Bott
          • My measure of a Man...He looks a lot like you, Ed

            I own several horses....They keep me er,...Honest?

            No, they keep me Masculine?....No, not exactly...Gez, what's the word for it?

            I can't select exactly the right word for it, but they insist/demand I treat them in a straight up fashion. Whenever I do, they reward me in ways that make me try even harder to ensure they continue to trust me and rely on me.

            My wife and child demand the same...They keep me honest and make me strive to be their Man...I'm "Yodaddy" to them all....My car tags read "Yodaddy"...My wife selected them....she made me thump my chest when she called me that.

            If there is one thing Yodaddy has learned to protect, it's his status as 'Yodaddy'.

            I've got to be brave, bullet-proof, totally honest and upright with those in my world who rely on me.

            If Microsoft wants to be the Daddy of all software, then they gotta act the part. It isn't hard to earn such honor, and it isn't hard to keep it...It fersure is worth the effort to be the Man to all who depend on you.

    To: Ed Bott,

    Can you send me your FAX number to my email address? I have some information about Microsoft's (CALL HOME) feature called WGA. I kept this info since 2001. The information is 2 pages long and I prefer to FAX this info to you, so you can evaluate it. It talks about Microsoft's ANTI-PIRACY feature and how to disable it. Quit simple really.
    • Sorry

      First of all, I can't get your email address from this system. Second, as I explained in your comment on my Windows Expertise blog, your information dating from 2001 cannot be about WGA, as it didn't exist until 2004.

      Please feel free to send me an email if you want to discuss further. My address is in my bio.
      Ed Bott
  • How about OEM vs Retail?

    We all are starting to understand that an OEM license 'marries' that copy of XP to the motherboard of the computer it shipped with...And that the license becomes invalid if you swap out the original motherboard for a different one...And we understand that as long as the swap is with an identical MB, then MS will allow you to revalidate the OEM license only after you call them and somehow convince them all you did was swap in an exact replacement motherboard, but if the MB is no longer made and you have to replace it with ANY other compatable motherboard you are screwed....Ok, we all understand that.

    BUT, supposedly the RETAIL version that costs twice as much as the OEM version allows you to swap motherboards as many times as you want....They say if you pay us 200 buck instead of 100 bucks, you can make changes to your computer....Well I've tried that with my expensive retail version and now MS doesn't want to honor their agreement....They keep trying to treat it as a OEM version.

    So what it boils down to is WGA treats both OEM and RETAIL versions the same way....If you make a change to your computer both versions become 'INVALID".

    What a sorry way to treat customers!

    My posts to their SUPPORT forums were deleted!...They don't have a problem with unhappy customers, well at least none are allowed on their forums.