The WGA fiasco continues

The WGA fiasco continues

Summary: When it comes to Windows Genuine Advantage, Microsoft appears to have the reverse Midas touch - everything they touch turns to lead and crashes to the ground with a thud. The latest episode? A set of instructions for removing one of the buggy WGA modules has errors that would embarrass a rookie tech editor.

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TOPICS: Windows
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[Update 30-June 9:30AM PDT: Apparently someone at Microsoft reads this blog. Several of the errors listed in this post have now been corrected. (One still remains.) The link to KB921914 leads to the revised article.]

How many ways can Microsoft screw up in the Windows Genuine Advantage fiasco? Whatever the number is, you can now increment it by one.

A brand-new Knowledge Base article (KB921914) explain How to disable or uninstall the pilot version of Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications.

Someone forgot to run it past a tech editor, though, because both sets of instructions contain mistakes that will, at a minimum, confuse inexperienced Windows users.

Mistake #1: The instructions (step 2b in both procedures) tell you to open Control Panel and then “Double-click Add or uninstall programs.” The correct name of this Control Panel icon is Add or Remove Programs.

Mistake #2: Both sets of instructions say “locate and then click Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications.” You will not be able to find this item on the list until you click the Show updates check box. And then you’ll have to know to look in the Windows XP – Software Updates category, which contains 59 items on one well-used computer I looked at - and those items are not listed in alphabetical order.

These are both rookie mistakes. Whoever wrote these instructions did so under time pressure and didn’t do the basic sanity check of having an independent third party try out the steps and report on any inconsistencies.

And here’s something that isn’t covered at all in the KB article. I just tried to uninstall the WGA Notifications software from my wife’s notebook. The instructions say to check the version number:

Make sure that the WGA Notifications version that exists on the computer is a pilot version. The version format for the pilot version is 1.5.0532.x. In this case, you can uninstall versions 527-532 only. For example, you can uninstall versions that range from 1.5.0527.0 to 1.5.0532.2.

OK, but on her PC the version number is 1.5.0526.0, and it was installed on May 6, 2006. That version number is earlier than any of the so-called pilot versions. Does that mean it’s a pre-pilot version? Alpha code? Why can’t that version be uninstalled?

I have three computers running Windows XP here. None are running a removable version of the WGA Notifications tool, so I can’t test the rest of the steps. If you want to play tech editor and report on any additional errors in this article, leave them in the comments.

Update 29-June, 7:15 PDT: In the Talkback section, fellow ZDNet blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes points out some errors in the sections of these instructions that I was unable to test personally:

Just going through the manual uninstall process. Check out the subkeys you have to delete.

First, there's a dupe:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\ CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Notify\WgaLogon
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\ CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Notify\WgaLogon

Second, this key looks bogus and I can't find it:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows \CurrentVersion\removeremove\WgaNotify

Removeremove????

Via e-mail, Adrian points out two additional mistakes:

For step 3 of the instructions, you can't rename WgaTray.exe to WgaTray.old without first making Windows show file extensions for known file types (it would be renamed to WgaTray.old.exe)

On step 8, there is no WgaLogon.dll and WgaTray.exe to delete because they have already been renamed

I've detailed the process here:

http://www.pcdoctor-guide.com/wordpress/?p=3104

Like I said, sloppy. 

Topic: Windows

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Talkback

33 comments
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  • Not an issue

    for me as I use Genuine Novell SUSE Linux.
    (drum roll....bada teee....)
    No nags with Linux.
    D T Schmitz
  • Those are real rookie mistakes!

    Just to confirm, I've removed WGA 1.5.0532.2 from a VMWare install of XP that I have.

    I have to add though that those instructions are mega unfriendly to anyone not used to renaming files or messing in the registry and could land people in a world of hurt. It would have been much easier for Microsoft to have released an uninstaller. My guess is that they don't want people to uninstall this update ...
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Hang on ... there are more bugs!

    I spoke too soon - I just went through the disable notification process ... there are mire bugs in the manual uninstall steps:

    Just going through the manual uninstall process. Check out the subkeys you have to delete.

    First, there's a dupe:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\ CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Notify\WgaLogon
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\ CurrentVersion\Winlogon\Notify\WgaLogon

    Second, this key looks bogus and I can't find it:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows \CurrentVersion\removeremove\WgaNotify

    Removeremove????
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Must be a slow news day!

    Nit picking doesn't become you!
    ShadeTree
    • No nitpicking

      This is a Knowledge Base article on an important topic. It should be accurate.
      Ed Bott
      • The people that are likely to attempt ...

        ... this will be able to get past these trivial issues just as you did. Those that are unable to solve it probably wouldn't attempt it. your agenda appears to make more out of this then there really is!.

        It was rushed out and should have been proofed. I find the same thing to be true of many of the blogs here. The difference is, nobody puts the blogs through the microscope as you are.

        For example;

        "OK, but on her PC the version number is 1.5.0526.0, and it was installed on May 6, 2006. That version number is earlier than any of the so-called pilot versions. Does that mean it?s a pre-pilot version? Alpha code?"

        A little research would have shown that the KB article is about removing the latest Beta WGA and not previously released versions. It is not that the instructions will not work for the previously released versions it is that they are not the focus of the KB article.
        ShadeTree
        • Where?

          You write: "A little research would have shown that the KB article is about removing the latest Beta WGA and not previously released versions."

          I did my research. I didn't find this information anywhere. There was no link in the KB article or in any source at microsoft.com

          And I disagree with your contention that errors are OK in a formal article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base that instructs people to delete system files and edit the registry. Is that same standard OK for other KB articles?

          This KB article illustrates how poorly thought-out and incompetent the whole WGA program has been so far.
          Ed Bott
          • ROI

            [i]Is that same standard OK for other KB articles?[/i]

            What's the bottom line for investing in more work on the subject? I doubt that it would pay Microsoft's stockholders to waste money on it.

            [i]This KB article illustrates how poorly thought-out and incompetent the whole WGA program has been so far.[/i]

            Again, paying for the kind of work that you're describing is not, on its face, justifiable.
            anonymous
          • Well, shoot

            Then from that point of view why not just eliminate the KB?
            Ed Bott
          • Try the KB article itself

            "This article applies to the version of Microsoft Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) Notifications that is distributed during the pilot program."

            "Make sure that the WGA Notifications version that exists on the computer is a pilot version. The version format for the pilot version is 1.5.0532.x. In this case, you can uninstall versions 527-532 only. For example, you can uninstall versions that range from 1.5.0527.0 to 1.5.0532.2."

            Did you also miss;

            "Important These instructions have not been tested on the general release version of the WGA Notifications. Therefore, these instructions are not supported. Microsoft will offer the general release version of WGA Notifications to users who uninstall the pilot version at a later date."
            ShadeTree
          • Oh good heavens...

            I read it. Did you?

            The version in question is EARLIER than the pilot program (526 < 527). It's not the general release version.

            So there appears to be some early beta versions of this tool out there that can't be removed.

            What are users in this situation supposed to do?
            Ed Bott
          • The earlier versions were not beta!

            If they want to safely remove them they should install the latest release as the KB article states.
            ShadeTree
          • I want to remove or disable them...

            as the KB article purportedly allows me to do. I don't want to replace these components.

            Why is this so hard to understand?
            Ed Bott
          • Just now on the opening page of this site ...

            ... there is a picture of Adrian with a link called "The WGA Fiasco Continues". When you click on the link it takes you to Adrian's blog on hard disk sizes. I am looking forward to your blog about how a major IT site should be able to get their links right. Touche!
            ShadeTree
          • Just now on the opening page of this site ...

            ... there is a picture of Adrian with a link called "The WGA Fiasco Continues". When you click on the link it takes you to Adrian's blog on hard disk sizes. I am looking forward to your blog about how a major IT site should be able to get their links right. Touche!
            ShadeTree
          • Correction, Ishould have said the news page! (nt).

            .
            ShadeTree
          • You are right, Ed

            The first version of this was back in early May and it was a fiasco trying to get a later version installed too. I am not even sure when or how that first one got installed!? I looked at each update as they come in and I never remember seeing that.

            When I first got the notification to get this 'pilot' program WGA Notifications Tool, it failed miserably, but said it was installed!?!

            When I looked at Add and Remove Programs, 'the version' that was installed was from very early in May and also the files for WGA were also dated for early May!? And I thought something was really wrong. Which I knew couldn't be right because this was a week before the June Patch Tuesday was due.

            This whole thing has been bizarre.

            Since I couldn't get the updates on Patch Tuesday because of the problem and because I knew there were alot of updates that were needed, I went through so many attempted installs of it only to fail, then try again on each boot, till finally I had to actually turn on fully Automatic Updates and reboot to try to get it, because I couldn't even get the Windows Update site to load at that point. It did finally install using FULLY Automatic Updates, when I rebooted. The dates on the files were right that time. And it was doing the phone home crap each time I rebooted faithfully confirmed by TCPView.

            I lived with (stewed over actually) that for a couple days, but I finally decided to use the RemoveWGA that was posted on WildersSecurity. After I did that, I also saw that there was still the settings file in the temp directory (and it wouldn't delete). I used Unlocker to remove it. Then searched the entire computer for any known related files specific to WGA Notification tool (within Software Distribution etc.) and removed them.

            Windows XP Pro is now relegated to no connection to the Internet at all (disabled NIC and I take off the RJ45 wire when I boot into Windows.

            Never again. If it can't get to the net, it can't try to install that crapware again. And if it can't get to the net, there's no real need for their updates either.

            Personally Microsoft should get a life! We as consumers and business users have enough problems with trust when it comes to the Internet as it is.

            If we can't trust the maker of the operating system to do the right thing by us, or not to install 'spyware' or 'crapware' or whatever you want to call this, then what's left?
            LilBambi_z
        • Not proofed?

          "It was rushed out and should have been proofed."

          It contained a reference to a registry subkey that doesn't exist ... how can you defend official documentation that contains that level of error?
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
          • I believe I said it ...

            ... should have been proofed. Let me ask you a question. How many times have you posted a blog that you later had to correct? Has it ever occurred?

            I'm not saying that the errors shouldn't have been caught. What I am saying is that they are not as critical as you and Ed are making them out to be.
            ShadeTree
          • Wow, that's a low bar you got there

            Kind of like if I put a sign on the freeway that says, Hackensack Next Exit, only the real exit is actually 50 miles away. You could argue that the sign "should have been proofed." But you would sound pretty silly doing so.

            They screwed up. Period. Technical instructions that go into the KB should be accurate. This doesn't even come close. Why is it so hard to say that?

            And yes, if I were to write a blog post that had this many errors in it, especially if people were relying on my instructions to perform an important function, I would expect to get criticized for it. I would then apologize and correct it.

            That's how professionals work.
            Ed Bott