No WGA "kill switch," says Microsoft

No WGA "kill switch," says Microsoft

Summary: A new statement from Microsoft's PR agency denies the rumor that the Windows Genuine Advantage validation tool will be used to shut off computers running "non-genuine" copies of Windows. But the new statement still doesn't settle the question.

TOPICS: Windows

Yesterday, at the end of the workday, I received this e-mail from a representative of Microsoft’s PR agency, Waggener Edstrom:

No, Microsoft anti-piracy technologies cannot and will not turn off your computer.  In our ongoing fight against piracy, we are constantly finding and closing loopholes pirates use to circumvent established policies. The game is changing for counterfeiters. In Windows Vista we are making it notably harder and less appealing to use counterfeit software, and we will work to make that a consistent experience with older versions of Windows as well. In alignment with our anti-piracy policies we have been continually improving the experience for our genuine customers, while restricting more and more access to ongoing Windows capabilities for those who choose not to pay for their software. Our genuine customers deserve the best experience, and so over time we have made the following services and benefits available only to them:  Windows Update service, Download Center, Internet Explorer 7, Windows Defender, and Windows Media Player 11, as well as access to a full range of updates including non-security related benefits. We expect this list to expand considerably as we continue to add value for our genuine customers and deny value to pirates. Microsoft is fully committed to helping any genuine customers who have been victims of counterfeit software, and offer free replacement copies of Windows to those who've been duped by high quality counterfeiters. There is more information at our website

I’m still trying to reconcile this rambling response with the terse statement I received from a Microsoft representative on Monday, flatly refusing to deny a report that WGA will become mandatory in the fall. (Read the full story here.) In fact, I can’t find anything in this new response that contradicts the earlier statement I received from a Microsoft spokesperson, who told me that “as the WGA Notifications program expands in the future, customers may be required to participate.” [emphasis added]

I’ve asked once again for an opportunity to speak with a Microsoft executive so I can ask some specific questions about the WGA program. So far, I’ve received no response to my requests.

If I hear back today, I’ll update this post. And I’ll have a lot more to say about this subject next week, hopefully with input from Microsoft.

Update 30-June 2:15PM PDT: Microsoft says they have no intention of answering any questions about WGA. According to the same Waggener Edstrom spokesperson who sent me the statement reprinted above, "We are not granting interviews on this, as all of the information we have to share about WGA Notifications is contained in the response I provided below and the PressPass article that I sent you a link for."

Whoever is giving Microsoft its PR advice on this issue is doing them a serious disservice.

Update 12-August: For a detailed discussion of what you'll see if WGA flags your copy of Windows as "not genuine," see Busted! What happens when WGA attacks and the accompanying image gallery.

Topic: Windows

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  • Nothing in there about ...

    ... genuine customers who are inconvienienced by WGA.

    I tell ya, this is gonna make more people switch off Windows Update.
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • Automatic Updates?

      I?m not sure if it?s SP2 or maybe another update that was downloaded prior, but when I turn it off it comes back later as ?on?. Could it be WGA is circumventing my ability to turn off updates?

      Also, I don?t know if there?s a timer built into Windows but I?ve noticed that the system starts acting squirrelly after a while when it?s off and there?s no internet activity (crushing the theory that I?ve been attacked). The system starts crashing.

      I had a client with Windows 2000 advance server and to keep it stable, we turned off Automatic updates. Over the past few years, the system started to crash quit a bit to the point it was annoying. We manually updated it and all seems fine so far. I don?t like updating unless I have to and I don?t appreciate M$ poking their nose in my server. I paid good money for the right to use it and I believe I retain the right to secure my data from prying eyes, including M$. The reason I buy firewalls, virus protection, and backup software other then use M$ products is for ?reliability? and ?security? reasons, not because I?m anti-M$, but you have to admit, they don?t know squat about security, so why would I want to use their products? And what?s to stop them from disabling one of my other programs just because they feel like it via an ?update?? I fear that one day, M$ may have an issue against Veritas and send an ?update? disabling the program. It?s not hackers I fear, it?s M$.
  • Microsoft said nothing new..... (as usual)

    Yeah, right. I have legit software on my computers, but I have to install their spyware (WGA) if I want anything updated (and that includes security updates). If I don't install WGA, it doesn't want to install anything else.

    It should have become obvious to most by now that Microsoft cannot be trusted any longer. To say that their spyware and low-life tactics is designed to enhance the customer "experience" is absurd. Tell you what Microsoft, I have something here I would like you to "experience". Dirtbags.
    • Your statement is false.

      Critical updates come down even if you fail the check. They only come down as part of autoupdate and cannot be loaded manually. Try getting your facts straight before you post them.
      • Dude, get a clue!

        WGA was a critical update.
      • Critical Updates!

        You obviously haven't a clue. WGA blocked critical updates three times on 3 different computers I run at home and at the office. Once I got through the WGA step. I immediately got 11 updates stacked up. The last time one of the 11 updates was ANOTHER WGA update! I learned long ago that I MANUALLY do the updates. I do NOT allow it to run automatically. I do a restore point right before I run an update cycle. SOMETIMES that helps but not always.

        Also I don't think that a "fix" for a future 64 bit version of Windows is a legitimate "critical" update for XP Pro or Windows 2000 Advanced Server. Yet Microsoft pushed that onto the critical stack for both machines about 2 updates back.

        There have also been "critical" updates for IE7 which I don't have on any of my systems. What the hell for?

        Critial updates for DirectX 9 which I also do not have on my computers.

        Critical Updates for Terminal Services which I do not have on any of my computers. Terminal Services is like potentially letting every cracker in the Internet Universe have my machine.

        As to the "enhanced experience" with WGA, Microsoft you are are so full of s---! I've found where all the Clinton Administration spin doctors got jobs!
        • WGA does not block critical updates ....

          ... from coming down through autoupdates. That is a blatant falsehood. Furthermore there have been no critical updates for IE7 that have come down on any systems except those running IE7. If you are running Windows XP SP2 you most definitely have DirectX 9.
  • The kill switch is already in the Windows code

    Anyone that has ever put off "activating" their copy of WindowsXP until the grace period expires knows that the kill switch is already in the Windows code. The computer boots up with a message that says you can activate Windows, or you can shut the computer off - the computer is essentially dead without contacting Microsoft. On a desktop machine, it doesn't bother me much, but this code is also in Windows Server 2003. Having the server at your local hospital shut down because it lost its connection to Redmond is a little bit disturbing.

    WGA can be a powerful deterrent to people using pirated copies of the Windows OS, but it can also create strong motivation to upgrading the OS on your Windows machines. Unlike WindowsNT or Windows2000 which, in theory, can run for decades into the future, WindowsXP and Windows Server 2003 can be "turned off" by Microsoft. Certainly Microsoft can turn off the infrastructure that "activates" those versions after they have reached the end of their service life (no longer profitable to MSFT). Sure, you can can reload the orignial OS on your old computer and it may even run for 15 or 30 days, but when it comes time to activeate that "no longer supported" software, you can buy the new version or turn it off.
    • Don't mix up WGA with the initial windows installation WPA 30-day period

      Mixing up WGA with WPA where WPA has the 30-day grace period for activation after the initial installation of windows is probably what got this WGA Kill Switch rumor started in the first place where someone, as blogged by Ed Bott, called Microsoft and most likely got an idiot underpaid bored ill-trained Microsoft Support Clerk who misspoke when asked about WGA and got WGA mixed up with WPA's 30-day period and erroneously said WGA would kill windows after 30-days if not installed. You know how support clerks can stupid and how they may give out wrong information. The Microsoft Support People have to retrained to not mix up the WPA 30-day period with WGA. Don't mix them up. Don't spread the rumors.
      • You're ignoring the MS statement

        If this were truly a mixup with WPA, then why didn't Microsoft point that out when I asked them? They didn't then, and they didn't in their follow-up today. In fact, they said earlier this week that "as the WGA Notifications program expands in the future, customers may be required to participate."

        If you're "required to participate" and you don't participate, what happens? Hmmm?
        Ed Bott
        • The kill switch is already in there...

          After 30 days of inactivation doesn't it disable most if not all features?
      • The kill switch is already in the Windows code

        I'm not confused by the difference between WPA and WGA. My point was that the "kill switch" is already installed on your Windows computer. It doesn't matter what program flips the switch (WPA or WGA or something else we don't know about yet), once flipped, you have to do whatever Microsoft says to flip it back.
        I'm not a lawyer, but I think that if you agree to the Windows XP EULA, you agree that Microsoft can terminate your use of Windows for a number of reasons. Obviously, running a pirated version of the OS would be one of those reasons. In otherwords, if you don't have a legitimate version of Windows, you should probably *expect* Microsoft to kill the OS. I have to assume that there will be a few ligitimate license holders that will suffer an accident - you know, Microsoft was just cleaning the gun and it went off.
        • RE: Kill Switch

          This is still a method to activate the Forced Upgrade to Vista (and future versions).

          That said, Vista Beta 2 IS better than XP. I am in on the public beta.
          • Vista...

            So far, I have to say after a few hours of "attempting" to install Vista.. It is more aggravating to install than XP.

            It has no driver support for SATA2 and some people in some cases can get it to work but it's very sporadic.

            I have tried every method from XP drivers, X64 drivers, copying drivers from the Windows XP, installing Vista when logged into XP, trying drivers from different motherboards but same chipset. The list goes on.

            I can't believe after this long they still don't natively support SATA2.. (ie: Sil 3112)
      • it's not a mix-up

        In some ways, WGA is associated with WPA. I purposefully ran two illegal copies of Windows XP Professional upgraded to SP2 against each other. One had WGA, the other not. After 30 days, the computer that had WGA installed prevented me from logging in. The machine without WGA is still running.

        To further test, I re-ran the same test but circumvented the WGATRAY.EXE issue on the machine with WGA installed to remove the pop-up notifications. Again, both machines had been upgraded to SP2. Again, the machine that ?had? WGA prompted to activate after the 30 days, but the machine without it is still running.

        Please note both machines and both tests were conducted without connectivity to the internet.

        So, in conclusion, WGA is associated in some way to WPA. I would venture to say that WGA forces compliance with WPA.
        • Question about your 'test.'

          If you had no internet connectivity, how did you even install WGA?

          Of course you were prompted to activate after 30 days, that copy, obviously was a retail copy requiring activation and the other copy would have to be a coroparate copy, it's activated right from the CD.

          You HAVE to activate a retail copy of Windows, WGA, or no WGA, even a clean install with no service packs at all, you have 30 days from install to activate.

          Corporate copies, on the other hand, don't have to be activated. They did this because most corporations will buy license for dozens, hundreds or even thousands of computers. You can only activate one computer with one key, corporations with that many machines use one key (usually already inserted in the install image) so activating after the fact with Microsoft would be a disaster. So guess what? Those versions NEVER need to be activated. WGA or NO WGA. They are "pre-activated."

          This has NOTHING to do with WGA. I don't think you understand what WGA even is, after reading your post.
          • Just to be clear.

            I just re-read my post and wanted to point out, companies buy for as many PCs as they expect to use and Microsoft issues them one key for use on that many machines.

            They way I wrote it before it seemed like I was stating that the companies were re-using one key that was intended for one computer.

            Hope that clears up any potential confusion.
    • M$ Kill switch and " good customer experience "

      This is why I have been collecting LEGITIMATE, COMPLETE COPIES of WindBlows software off the internet sellers. They have the COA and other documets INCLUDED before I buy.

      My M$ use STOPS at Windows 2000. I am going LINUX for SERVER and WORKSTATION needs. Open Office for correspondence. SAMBA to talk to other WindBlows machines. I recommend the same to CLIENTS who want an UPGRADE..

      Who needs WGA? I don't!

      This is MY computer and I PAY for access. M$ DOESN'T pay ME to use their S__T!!

      The STICK ain't working, M$!!

      When Bill quits throwing the same TANTRUM he threw about MBASIC, we might get along..

      Until then, the MICROCOMPUTER community says FO Bill!!

      ( Yes, I remember Bill's TANTRUM. Yes, I have STRONG feelings about this, Yes I've watched the DECLINE of software under M$ )
      Old Timer 8080
  • Another wrong tactics for Microsoft..

    I still can't understand why Microsoft is HARSHLY promoting WGA for a what they consider a old product-Windows XP. People who own a illegal copy of Windows XP will switch back to Windows 2000 if WGA is required (they can easily buy or download a copy of Windows 2000). By doing so, Microsoft will also be sued by customers for "stealing" their private information. Mmmm, if people have to use a geniue version of Microsoft OS system, why don't they just wait until Vista releases. Ohhhhhh, is that what Microsoft thinking: by making Windows XP unfriendly to customers, indirectly force them to switch to the flamboyant Vista?
    • Cost is a factor....

      And the fact that their product may not be backward compatible, the cost is a major factor at this point. Though touted as running under the minimum requirements, we all know from past experience that running at the minimum is ridiculous. You couldn?t possibly get anything done. And it?s also a noted fact that with each progressive update, things tend not to be compatible. Take the current suite of Office products, through the ages, they?ve all proven to not be compatible to each other. Word 2003 is not compatible to Word 2000, and Word 2000 is not compatible with Word 97.

      Also, the price to run Vista is a bit out of reach for most companies who, through trial and error, and experience may not feel the need to update to Vista is a valid one. Most companies here in Los Angeles, are still running versions of Windows NT with Windows 2000 clients and are protected by Cisco firewalls and a dedicated IT staff. XP has proven problematic on so many levels that it would be financial suicide to upgrade. Most companies also employ special software that, to date isn?t compatible with Vista. I think it unwise to constantly update to the latest and greatest if it?s not necessary. My fear is that through an update, these legacy products may cease to function giving the user the notion that the product is no longer compatible with todays programs thereby prompting for an upgrade of the OS. I believe this is why so many companies refuse to allow the computers to upgrade themselves.

      In my experience, with XP Professional, in a working environment with a company with a complement of 20 users, when SP2 hit, it launched the firewall disabling everyone from accessing the server and each other. Had this been in an environment with 1000 users or more, that would have been a nightmare.