WGA strikes Vista, Office 2007

WGA strikes Vista, Office 2007

Summary: Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program was an add-on to earlier versions of Windows and Office, but the Genuine Advantage code is baked into Windows Vista and Office 2007. And if you thought that Microsoft's next-generation WGA would work better than the current one, think again.

TOPICS: Windows

Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program was an add-on to Windows XP, Office 2003, and earlier versions of both programs. But the Genuine Advantage code is baked into Windows Vista and Office 2007, as I learned earlier today.

Over the weekend, one of my test copies of Windows Vista RC1, downloaded from Microsoft's servers and installed in a virtual machine with a legitimate product key, began behaving strangely. The new Windows Vista Welcome Center wouldn't open. Control Panel wouldn't display any icons. I couldn't reach Windows Update. I couldn't check the Windows Activation module to confirm that this copy of Windows Vista had been properly activated.

I tried normal troubleshooting techniques, including using System Restore to roll back the configuration and undo any recent changes. None of my efforts were successfuly, so I left the VM running and started working with a backup copy.

This morning, when I returned to the VM window, I was startled to see this dialog box:


Apparently, something in Windows Vista's WGA code has decided that this copy of Windows isn't Genuine. And if you look at that dialog box, you'll notice that it doesn't offer any way to resolve the problem. Fortunately, the new Windows Easy Transfer utility worked, and I was able to use it to move all the data from this VM to a clean install. But this sort of problem without a solution shouldn't be occurring on a release candidate. I've heard reports that other beta testers have encountered similar errors with Vista RC1 but haven't been able to confirm the details yet. (If it's happened to you, send me an e-mail with details.)

A few minutes later, I checked my RSS reader and found this post from Excel guru John Walkenbach. The short version: He tried to download an Excel template using the new Office menu in Excel 2007 and was prompted with an Office Genuine Advantage dialog box. When he ran the validation tool, the resulting message informed him that his copy of Office 2007 was ineligible for updates because a copy of Office XP Professional installed on the same computer is "not genuine."

I opened my copy of Excel 2007, clicked to download one of the online templates, and received the same initial prompt John saw:


Update: John graciously sent me a screen shot showing the WGA failure message he received and gave me permission to reprint it here.


Fortunately, my copy of Office 2007 passed the validation test. But John's conclusion is right on the money:

Yes, their bogus software concludes that my copy of Office XP (not Office 2007) is not genuine. When I click the button in order to get genuine, I go to a Web site that tells me Office 2007 isn't activated (which is not true). I eventually find a page that will tell me more details -- but it doesn't work with Firefox, so I have to download a program. Eventually, I find out the reason why I can't download an Office 2007 template:

Microsoft Office XP Professional with FrontPage: Validation Failed.
The product key used to install Office has been blocked by Microsoft.

Apparently, it checks every version of Office on your system. If any of them is suspect, you're locked out with no apparent way to resolve the problem -- short of buying a new copy or uninstalling the product. At no time does it ever suggest that the problem could be with their software.

And make no mistake about it: The Genuine Advantage software is wrong far more often than Microsoft is willing to admit. I'll have more details on that story tomorrow.

Update: If you think this is just a beta issue, think again. As I report in this follow-up post, Microsoft's support professionals admit that WGA problems "are coming up more commonly now."

Topic: Windows

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  • Whoa up a second...

    Last I seen Microsoft said do NOT install (Beta) Office 07 on (Beta) Vista yet as there are compatibility issues.
    • don't install together... ?

      Considering both are supposed to be available to consumers by the end of this year, with M$ thus far refusing to push the release date of Vista, ?compatibility issues? of this magnitude should have already been addressed... .
      • Wait till the end of

        the year and see if your right.
    • people like to...

      jump the gun on beta software. I love it ;)
      Especially MS beta's, I stay away from them.

      I think its fairly pointless to criticize the bugs in a 'beta' build. Unless you only forward them to the party working them out.
      • OTOH, if everyone stayed away from the betas...

        ... then there would be no point in having a public beta program either.
      • Hey clueless

        Vista is out of Beta and is RC. All of the bugs or atleast most of them should be out by now.
        • Hey super clueless!

          Beta is beta until it goes RTM. RC just means that they are considering this code for RTM of all the beta code they have.

          Where DO you get your information???
          Confused by religion
      • Ed isn't jumping the gun

        It's not at all pointless to criticize this 'bug'. The WGA issue has been a problem for far longer than the latest release candidate, and if memory serves me correctly, for longer than the last [i]couple[/i] of beta releases. Microsoft has been notified about this issue - in the form of users calling their support line after loading a legal version of their software and getting the same type of message as in Ed's article.

        Since it's obvious that Microsoft won't do something about it, it's a perfectly good time to make it an issue in the public domain.
    • Wouldn't installing both be the reason for doing so

      What's the most common combo out there. Windows running Office. So if I was beta testing that's what I'd try.

      Still you have to remember that Release Candidates are not Beta versions. So Beta on a Release Candidate shouldn't be a problem.
      • Sorry but no

        MS is quite explicite when they say the two should not be isntalled together at this point. Now you may or may not like that fact but its still the facts.
    • I'm having a blonde moment

      But I am not blonde. You get the idea.

      If we are not supposed to download it because of compatibility issues then why is it still available?
      • Not that blonde.

        Office 07 runs fine on XP. But it IS not yet finished and is NOT ready to run on Vista.
    • Office beta on Windows beta

      > Last I seen Microsoft said do NOT install
      > (Beta) Office 07 on (Beta) Vista

      Then you ain't seen Microsoft's 2007 Office System preview site <http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/beta/getthebeta.mspx?showIntro=n>, which states: "The Technical Refresh is recommended if you want to use Office Beta 2 with Windows Vista RC1."
      • Read the rest of that page.

        You'll see what I mean.

        NON-Production machines.
    • Not true, fully supported combination

      Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh is officially supported on Windows Vista RC1.

      <p>Direct quote from <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/faq.mspx#topic7">Office 2007 Preview FAQ</a>:

      <p>"Does the beta work with Windows Vista?

      <p>"Yes. However, to use Beta 2 in combination with Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 (RC1) we recommended you download the Beta 2 Technical Refresh."
      Ed Bott
      • Aw, just ignore Axey, Ed.

        If it AIN'T from MS it CAN'T be good, and if it IS from MS, its all goooooood!
        • Please do, and remain in ignorance.

          Your choice.
      • ANd what else does it say?

        Oh yeah, it's a BETA and should NOT be placed on a production machine and MAY have issues.
        • I get the impression that you got burned on that one.

          How many times did you have to go through this before you learned?
    • I don't believe it

      [i]Last I seen Microsoft said do NOT install (Beta) Office 07 on (Beta) Vista yet as there are compatibility issues.[/i]

      You must be mistaken. Mike Cox has had his whole company running nothing but ever since his rep delivered the first copies.
      Yagotta B. Kidding