MS says WGA has caught 60 million Windows cheaters

MS says WGA has caught 60 million Windows cheaters

Summary: According to a Microsoft manager, 60 million people have failed the Windows Genuine Advantage validation test. Microsoft claims the tool is nearly perfect at rooting out improperly licensed copies of Windows, with "only a handful of actual false positives." But the numbers don't add up.

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TOPICS: Windows
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Two weeks ago, I reported on a terse e-mail exchange with Microsoft, in which a spokesperson acknowledged that 80% of all computers that fail the Windows Genuine Advantage validation check do so because they are using stolen or pirated volume license keys.

I asked what I thought was a reasonable question: Where do the other 20% come from? According to the same spokesperson, those installations are caused by “various forms of tampering and unauthorized OEM installations.” I couldn’t get any more details.

Two days ago, After looking over this list, the numbers don't add up for me... Microsoft’s Alex Kochis, a member of the WGA product management team, published a blog entry trying to add more details to the discussion. In When a 'False Positive' isn't a false positive, he passes along one staggering statistic: “About 1 in 5 of the 300 million PCs that have run WGA validation fail.”

Yow! By my calculations, that’s 60 million people who’ve been informed by Microsoft that they’re running “non-genuine” copies of Windows.

But according to Kochis, Microsoft’s validation tool is nearly perfect, and virtually everyone who’s been tagged by the WGA Validation utility is indeed a pirate or a victim of a pirate:

To be precise, an actual 'false positive' would occur if WGA identified a specific copy of windows installed on a system as non-genuine or unlicensed when in fact it was genuine and licensed. Of the hundreds of millions of WGA validations to date, only a handful of actual false positives have been seen. Most of these were due to data entry errors that were quickly corrected and only occurred for a short period of time.

Given the extremely small number of technical failures of WGA why else might someone think that their system was falsely identified as running counterfeit Windows? If they aren't actual 'false positives' what are they? It turns out there are a number of scenarios that could result in a WGA validation failure that a user might be surprised by or even deny… [emphasis added]

He goes on to point out four scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: High-quality counterfeit copies of Windows. Apparently this number isn’t very large at all. As Kochis notes, “So far we've provided hundreds of free copies of Windows to users who've been ripped by high-quality counterfeit…”
  • Scenario 2: The user installs the same copy and key to more than one PC at a time. I don’t understand why this scenario occurs at all. Is the Validation utility really looking at individual keys and identifying people who are reusing a retail or upgrade copy? In this case, shouldn’t activation fail when the user tries to install the second copy?
  • Scenario 3: A friend or acquaintance offers to “fix” your computer and installs a pirated or “cracked” copy of Windows. I can definitely see this one happening, especially when a system is compromised by a spyware or virus infestation.
  • Scenario 4: You take your PC in to be repaired and the repair shop takes a shortcut by reinstalling a volume-licensed copy of Windows. Again, I can see exactly why this happens. How many customers bring in their official restore media? Not many, I’d wager. How many repair shops want to take the extra time (and charge the customer) to restore from the official media? What happens when the media that came with the PC is out of date and the shop has to install a service pack and several dozen patches? In that scenario, should the customer have to purchase a brand-new license when they already paid for one?

After looking over this list, the numbers don’t add up for me, and they certainly don’t explain why Microsoft is attacking this problem with such a vengeance. Scenario 1 is rare, and Scenario 2 shouldn’t occur at all if Windows Product Activation is working properly. In scenarios 3 and 4, some of those customers might be “upgrading” from Windows 98 or Windows Me, but I suspect that most already have a valid Windows XP license, and the person doing the repair took a shortcut to avoid the hassle of a manual install using a possibly outdated version of Windows. In those cases, the end result of the validation check is that the user is going to either have to reinstall their legitimate copy or jump through some hoops to change the product key. It’s a bookkeeping change that hassles the customer and doesn’t bring in any money to Microsoft’s bottom line.

Think about it: 60 million people have been hassled by Windows Genuine Validation. And for what? The numbers don’t add up.

Topic: Windows

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328 comments
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  • This i believe

    >Think about it: 60 million people have been hassled by Windows Genuine Validation. And for what? The numbers don?t add up<
    not of this world
    • 60 mill legitimate users.

      I have had about 150 computers come to me in the past week alone that are flashing the message. With the serial number printed on the side of the computer. What kind of crap is that? I have to spend my time to back up all thier files install a pirated copy of windows with the WGA crack. Over a LEGAL COPY. I think microsoft has lost it. the richest company in america forgets who made them rich. There fooling themselfs and screwing there customers. I hope this makes many people start looking to linux as an alternative. At least they don't bite the hand of the feeder. and they ask for nothing in first place. A far cry from the 400 asking price of MS.
      IceTheNet@...
      • You just admitted to being the ....

        ... reason for WGA. Thanks for being part of the problem instead of the solution. Furthermore what you are doing is a criminal activity.
        ShadeTree
        • Not the reason...

          The supposed reason for the WGA is people who install unlicensed versions of Windows to avoid purchasing it legally. But presuming he's telling the truth, he has every right to have Windows on those machines and every right to install patches and updates (which are really mostly patches themselves). While he may be violating the licensing terms, you're confusing the chicken and the egg. If the WGA hadn't broken the Windows installations, he wouldn't be installing cracked versions. So stating that he's part of the cause as a result of his actions is just using a specious argument.

          And what exactly do you think is the solution from the user's standpoint? As far as MS is concerned, the problem is fixed, because it does what they want. And it doesn't cost them anything, except the customer's good will. And who needs that, when you have an effective monopoly? But the user still needs the machine to work. Even if MS is going to send 150 copies of Windows, are these machines supposed to sit idle while waiting for the discs to come in? As far as criminal activity is concerned, while I haven't read the XP licensing agreement for some time, I don't recall anything that allows them to terminate it unless the user violates it. If the error is in the WGA system (which probably isn't covered by the EULA), then MS has illegally terminated a contract. Perhaps not a criminal offense, but certainly an actionable one.
          mds_z
          • Here, Here - Absolutely Correct

            This is ALL MS at fault not the poor schmuck who thought buying it from Circuit City or BestBuys or Wal-Mart or where ever was a good purchase. Going to some of the larger volume re-sellers - i.e. HP/Compaq - they don't even give you disks - if you have a problem you must call them to have them send you the stuff and it could be weeks after the fact.

            No, MS is totally in the wrong on this. First because they were very "sneaky" in putting out the WGA and to this day we still don't know exactly what is being installed during the update. Second, as mds_z has alluded, the EULA doesn't even cover this WGA and so may be in breach in and of itself.

            I would suggest to all to send your bill for repair to MS and follow up in the courts - set a legal path that MS is so fond of. The other alternative is to look at all the other alternatives. As MS keeps screwing us around, they are the ones to point us in the other direction.

            "Customer Goodwill?" MS lost it years ago with it's faulty O/S . . .
            Sheeva
      • WGA False Positive

        Here's the easiest way to register a false positive;

        Have your system clock wrong. I used the calendar to check a date in the next month, forgot to reset it. WGA flagged my Dell OEM laptop installation.

        Rob
        Rob Groh
      • Your right I saw it too

        How many of these people, they say they caught, are really presumed to be using the wrong software, when the real problem goes unnoticed.

        I proved it myself they own WGA Diagnostic tool turns my genuine Windows XP into something I must remove and buy another unless I use System Restore to regain my proper place again.

        I several Windows XP CD that are genuine yet there presumed to be bad software, I used Anti-WPA and it works fine, yet I don't use them because I'm not sure about how secure my Computer is.
        troubled241
  • 60 Million hassled?

    300 Million have been hassled by microsoft.
    rhargat@...
    • 100 % legal Windows XP user

      They sure hasseled me. I was without a internet connection on several accassions. It simed as if anything that was deleted in your "Windows Folder" made you illegit. What really got to me the most was I paid for that program and they treated me like a criminal.
      Rumsfeld2006
  • Unfortunately Ed, this is MS's choice...

    we'll just have to wait and see how it pans out. This could bite them in the rear if indeed 60 million people are having these problems. Thats an awful lot of headaches to MS, and I really doubt they'd want to try and force that many people to go out and purchase another copy, talk about disgruntled people. If they continue on this path, their stockholders will see it where it hurts the most, their wallets, and changes WILL be made. I don't see this as very good PR for MS in any way shape or form, word of mouth travels a great distance.
    Monkey_MCSE
    • 60 million really isn't that many

      It's only 0.87% of the worlds population.
      voska
      • 60 mill disgruntled phone calls....

        might only be 0.87% but I wouldn't wish to take those calls.
        Monkey_MCSE
        • and you also

          wouldn't want to be someone whose company has software that was affected by WGA. *raises hand* I am not kidding. 80 + customers a day. 400 + people a week. And that is to me alone. This is on TOP of the regular people that I work with every day. Now MS would let you believe that it only validates the version of WIndows. From what I have seen it validates the files too and disables some of them. Some of the system files that the programs that I support use. And MS may be saying that it isn't doing this but I am telling you they are lying. I am all for MS validating their crap. (Yes at this point I am saying crap because I am ticked - see how happy you would be after getting yelled at for the millionth time) That just makes good business sense. But there is a f****ng difference between validating and disabling..
          Shelendrea
          • Of course there is

            [i]But there is a f****ng difference between validating and disabling.[/i]

            Validating doesn't drive revenue, disabling does.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Yeah, but who's revenue?

            I went back to using Mac. Bye, bye Bill; Hello Happiness.
            thegestunkenaraygun
        • .. to a 900 number

          ...

          Profit!
          Yagotta B. Kidding
        • I was one...

          untill I attempted to reinstall the product key attached to the Dell Laptop. I received the message that the key wasn't valid for this version of XP. Turns out that Scenario 4 applied in this case - XP Pro was loaded to repair problems when the COA was for XP Home. The shop that had previously "repaired" the laptop was out of business. The owner has a nice bill - due to the lack of integrety of the repair shop he had taken it to.
          Hey U
      • Well...

        That is a stupid comment to make. 60 million is around the population of France.

        How do you propose Microsoft deal with 60 million people and possibly more, who start complaining that they are legitimate, legal users?

        To take it closer to home, what will [b]you[/b] do if your Windows is deemed invalid by WGA/Microsoft? How long would you be prepared to wait until the mess was cleared up? What would you do if Microsoft "decided" that you were not in fact holding legal licenses?
        zkiwi
        • I'd ignore the problem

          Just me personally but if I know for fact I have legit license to have that OS and Microsoft shut me down I'd give them a call, one call, and if that results in nothing I'd just grab pirated copy that does work. They are out there reguardless how Microsoft tries to defeat them.
          voska
          • What a piece of work...

            you are. It's "not a problem" to you, and you'd just zoom out and get a pirated copy anyway if it was.

            Most people out there have some moral sense. You apparently do not from what you have just written. 60 million people affected, not a problem. If it affects me, hey, grab a pirated copy, not a problem.

            Thanks for showing your "true colours".
            zkiwi