Microsoft on WGA

Microsoft on WGA

Summary: Is SPP more accurate than WGA? How many systems fail the WGA validation test? What should you do if you paid $149 for a Windows Genuine Advantage Kit but think that your copy is genuine? Get answers to these and other questions - direct from Microsoft.

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TOPICS: Windows
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In my previous post I severely criticized Microsoft over their implementation and handling of the Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy scheme.  Approximately one in five systems fail validation It's only fair that I allow the company the right to reply.  The comments didn't come in time to appear in the original post so I'm posting them here.

Q: What is Microsoft doing to eliminate false positives?

The Windows Vista Validation tools are very accurate at determining if a copy of Windows is genuine or not. We have found that many customers who originally felt their copy of Windows XP had been inaccurately labeled as non-genuine were surprised to learn that they were indeed running non-genuine software, often at no fault of their own. Microsoft works closely with these unknowing victims to remedy the situation. The false positive rate for WGA Validation failure is a fraction of one percent, and in these cases a bug was at fault and subsequently repaired. We are constantly evaluating the criteria for validation and continue to improve the process for customers.

Q: What steps will there be to protect the user against being falsely accused of piracy?  What processes exist to resolve problems?

In the event of a mistake, customers will have a grace period in which they will have full functionality and Microsoft support.  Even if they miss the grace period for some reason, Microsoft will provide support tools and other remedies.

Q: How many copies of Windows has WGA flagged as being non-genuine?

A: We don't provide exact numbers but approximately one in five systems fail validation - many because consumers were ripped off by unscrupulous dealers, counterfeiters, and "too good to be true" auction sites.

Q: What percentage of users flagged as not running a genuine copy of Windows go on to purchase the Windows Genuine Advantage Kit for $149? Is it fair to assume that "a fraction of one percent" of these users were running a genuine copy?

A: It is our sincere hope that there are no cases where genuine customers purchased a WGA kit.  If any come to our attention we are committed to making sure they receive a full refund. 

Q: Assuming that the false positive rate for WGA Validation failure is a fraction of one percent, what is Microsoft's message to those users wrongly accused of running pirated software?

A: We certainly apologize to any customer that has a system inaccurately labeled as non-genuine. We try to address every issue that comes to our attention and encourage any one who feels they might have been incorrectly identified as non-genuine to use resources like our customer support line, online forum or to contact Microsoft directly at WGATALK@microsoft.com.

 

A couple of points are worth picking up on. 

  • First is that Microsoft believes that the SPP mechanism that will ship with Windows Vista is going to be more robust that WGA is under XP.  Good news there.
  • Secondly, the rate of WGA failures is staggering, with one in five systems failing validation. 
  • If you've paid for a Windows Genuine Advantage Kit but think that you were already running a genuine copy of Windows, Microsoft want to hear from you.
  • Finally, if you've been collared by WGA and you think that you are innocent, Microsoft wants to hear from you.

When Vista RC2 is released, I'll look at how making changes to the core hardware affects your activation status.

Topic: Windows

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16 comments
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  • MS says "File your failures under NMP"

    Sounds like Microsoft is admitting that their WGA scheme has problems - which is clearly the case. It also sounds like they are saying, "Not My Problem" to those affected. Talk is cheap, but when they refuse to disclose very relevant data about the rate of false positives, for example, it becomes clear they are trying to "sweep WGA flaws under the rug."

    Apparently, Microsoft is so broke they would rather *knowingly* have false positives, which have the potential to cost *legitimate users* either (a) time to get MS errors resolved in order to continue working, or (b) $149 for Windows XP that is *actually legitimate*, both of which punish users for inability to elimiate flase positives.
    CTSTechs.com
    • Did we read the same article?

      Sounds like MS is saying that WGA is quite accurate, but as all software has problems, they are willing to work with anyone who feels that they have been wrongly marked as non-legit.
      Where do you get the 'not my problem' crap? They are saying 'give me a call if you have any problems'.
      I also would like more detailed data(1 in 5???) , but when does any company give detailed data about a piracy investigation?
      mdemuth
      • Read between the lines

        There is always a difference between what is said and what is experienced, it is called the credibility gap. With MS this is a very large gap.

        I had the MS call-in experience with Windows 98. It crashed and would not reload, because it was an "upgrade" copy and I could not find my earlier OS copy. I ended up having to buy another "full" copy of Windows 98. I still have both copies just to remind me about the MS call-in solution.
        bigpicture
    • Optimization

      [i]Apparently, Microsoft is so broke they would rather *knowingly* have false positives, which have the potential to cost *legitimate users* either (a) time to get MS errors resolved in order to continue working, or (b) $149 for Windows XP that is *actually legitimate*, both of which punish users for inability to elimiate flase positives.[/i]

      You make that sound like a bad thing.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Time will tell..

      We can speculate all we want, but basically it boils down to waiting to see what happens.

      I personally won't be buying Vista until the first service pack is released. Remember when XP launched? Let the impatient guinea pigs rush to the stores the day it's released and go through all the agony for you.
      WebThingy
  • Staggering

    You seem to think that one in 5 is staggering. Why is that? Since Windows is one of the most pirated bits of software on the planet - that seems about right.

    Or did you forget why MS is doing this?

    ;-)
    TonyMcS
  • Staggering? Only 1 in 5?

    "Secondly, the rate of WGA failures is staggering, with one in five systems failing validation."

    It would be staggering if 1 in 5 WGA flagged were wrongly accused, but that's not the case. We're talking about 1 in 5 where more than 99% of them are legitimately flagged. I don't see anything wrong with that and I don't know why you think that's staggering unless you mean the level of piracy is staggering. But 1 in 5 is actually a low number I would think and the reason for that is that people who know they have pirated software won't attempt to run WGA.

    As for the fraction of 1% false positives where people get wrongly accused of having illegitimate software, Microsoft can avoid a lot of heat if they simply made amends by offering a coupon for the next version of Windows or an extra software license of the existing version of Windows. I think giving a fraction of 1% an extra license of Windows would be a small price to pay to flag the other 99%.
    georgeou
    • Yes, It is to high

      Computer Industry Almanac (http://www.c-i-a.com/pr0302.htm) estimated that 601 million PCs were in use. As of March 2003 Windows XP had nearly 35% of the PC market share estimated by PC Magazine (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,4149,1210067,00.asp).

      That means over 210 million actively used Windows XP copies as of March 2003.

      Let's just say only .1% (your fraction of 1%) of all of those users get flagged falsely as pirated. That still means that [b]210,000[/b] people got fasley accused.

      I would love to see the actual figures for the actual number of Windows XP copies used as of October 2006. Could that .1% actually be 300,000 or 400,000 or even half a million?

      Having hundreds of thousands of people getting falsely flagged of pirating is far to many.

      Since Microsoft will not release any data on false positives we really don't know if it is .1%, 1%, or 2% of all WGA reporting false positives.
      dragosani
    • Small compared to what?

      Yes it is a small price to pay for Microsoft. But it is a high price to pay for that small percentage of people wrongly accused just to get the other 99%. A coupon for the next version of Windows is probably not going to cut it. Not when it took How long for this one to come out? This is one of those situations where you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.
      Shelendrea
      • Alternatives

        You could install Linux, SUSE 10 for instance, and not have to be bothered with this you don't actually own the OS MS crap.

        The day is fast approaching when the installed base non-proprietary software will be larger than that of proprietary software, and the quality will be better too. Then you will see MS change their monopoly business model.
        bigpicture
      • Too bad

        That's all I can say if a coupon won't even cut it.
        georgeou
        • Coupons irrelevant

          Coupons are irrelevant for at least 2 reasons. First and foremost a coupon for the next version doesn't solve the problem of getting the current version to work correctly. Secondly, for many people the next version is irrelevant because while the system will run XP it won't run Vista so they won't be upgrading anyway.
          tmsassoc
  • Sigh. Who wants to be on hold for hours to M$ ?

    Give us a call? You Gotta Be Kidding..

    The ARROGANCE of M$ is unbelieveable.

    " My way or the highway " is the response.

    Yep, WindBlows 2000 series software is the end of the line for me.

    DEBIAN Sarge Linux from now on. ETCH looks pretty good too.....
    Old Timer 8080
  • What about accuracy?

    I have three desktops, two of which I built, and one I purchased reconditioned from Tiger Direct which was reconditioned by Compaq.

    I have a brand new HP lap top.

    On different dates, WGA tests have shown the following:

    The two desktops I built were ok.
    The new laptop from HP was pirated.
    The reconditioned desktop from Compaq was pirated.

    The next day, the new laptop passed with flying colors, with NO modifications from me.

    The Compaq still shows as pirated.

    The two desktops are still passing.

    Everything I download from Microsoft requires a separate check for piracy, even if I download 8 items back to back.

    Upon contacting Tiger Direct, they said they only buy the desktops reconditioned from the manufacturer and never touch them. (I believe this)

    I contacted Compaq whom said they would never pirate software, for obvious reasons. There was a key number on a tag on the case of the desk top which differed from the one shown to be in the O/S.

    I wrote MS 4 times to ask how to remove the key from the software and try the one on the label. All they could say was they would sell me a new key. It was if I never said anything at all to them. Then I gave them the key and asked them if they would check it. I got the same automated response.

    Then, since I had MS updates on automatic install, MS installed a program which superimposed the fact that I was running pirated software on my desktop. I don't remember the exact wording.

    I performed a restore to a point several days earlier and shut off automatic upgrades. I also removed the desktop from my network, as it is primarily used as a word processor.

    Does this sound like a company trying to assist its' clients? One day, there will be an alternative to MS, and I will be among the first to strip my hard drives of anything remotely Microsoft.

    Over the years I have been unfairly treated on several occasions by them. Seems I am the one with the short end of the stick every single time.

    Don't talk to me about accuracy. I believe the one in five number is one they pulled out of somewhere dark. Having written all this, tomorrow ALL of my systems will probably fail WGA.
    sirwriter
  • Arrogant Mafia Naxism

    The exact same words over a month ago. Only thing new is their line "We certainly apologize to any customer that has a system inaccurately labeled as non-genuine" and then they try to shuffle the responsibility off with their "any one who FEELS they MIGHT have been incorrectly identified as non-genuine" (NOT "any one who HAS been incorrectly identified as non-genuine". NOTHING NEW HERE.
    Twist the words around, Distort and fabricate the law. Sound like crooked lawyers? That's what they are.
    IF EVEN ONE USER HAS BEEN FORCED TO PAY $149 TO KEEP HIS COMPUTER WORKING, MICROSOFT IS A BIGGER CROOK THAN ANYONE INNOCENTLY USING A PIRATED DISK.
    Just a few years ago, their claim was that "Windows could be installed on only one computer", NOT "Windows can only be installed on the SAME computer WITH all the SAME hardware". They are changing all the rules (and trying to make it look like IT IS the law).
    IT'S NOT THE LAW! It hasn't been many years since they would have been toting some hot lead if they would've pulled that on some people. Of course it's all done digitally by remote control with no physical interface now. That's how they get away with such skull-duggery (or at least think they are getting away with it). Will probably be a day of reckoning one of these days.
    It's astounding to see the number of people who believe, support, uphold, promote (many even brag) on them, while they are literally changing the law, forcing their customers (they don't even refer to them as customers anymore, now they're "USERS") to "police" for them while they rob anyone who will submit or can't defend themselves. Really amazing to see the sarcastic "if you don't like it, don't use it. Get Linux" from their fans.
    "You're just a liar and a pirate anyway". In effect, they're saying "I got mine, to hell with you".
    They're in for a rude awakening when someone comes along and takes what they have, or makes them pay for it again.
    If you think it can't happen, don't be so smug. If it can happen to one, it can happen to anyone.
    Lest you think that I know not what I speak, I have assembled at least three dozen computers from scratch and upgraded mb's, video, audio, ram and modems about 40-50 times (oh, routers, kvm's cd & dvd roms & burners, floppies, and power supplies also, installed and reinstalled Windows at least a hundred times, everything from dos to XPpro, and installed a dozen distros of Linux probably 40-50 times. I'm not immodest and don't consider myself to be a geek, but I do know how things work.
    Can you imagine riding down the road and "shooting" one per-cent of the people you meet because they look like pirates? 1,2,3,4.....98,99 BLAM! Yeh, he sure looked like a pirate. 45,46.....97,98,99 BLAM! Got another one. Claimed he was innocent, but he was just a liar. You could look at him and tell.
    Sorry, can't give out information on how we count or the actual numbers, but we strive to make sure we're accurate.
    We do apoligize to anyone who THINKS they were ACCIDENTALLY shot and we are sure that we shoot only the guilty ones.
    Moral of this story: All you brave fans that love to feed and swim with the sharks, have fun. They're getting bigger and meaner and hungrier all the time, and there's probably one out there just waiting for you. Probly wants to tell you how much he loves you. Probly for all that dough you've been feeding him.
    Ole Man
  • Arrogant Mafia Naxism

    The exact same words over a month ago. Only thing new is their line "We certainly apologize to any customer that has a system inaccurately labeled as non-genuine" and then they try to shuffle the responsibility off with their "any one who FEELS they MIGHT have been incorrectly identified as non-genuine" (NOT "any one who HAS been incorrectly identified as non-genuine". NOTHING NEW HERE.
    Twist the words around, Distort and fabricate the law. Sound like crooked lawyers? That's what they are.
    IF EVEN ONE USER HAS BEEN FORCED TO PAY $149 TO KEEP HIS COMPUTER WORKING, MICROSOFT IS A BIGGER CROOK THAN ANYONE INNOCENTLY USING A PIRATED DISK.
    Just a few years ago, their claim was that "Windows could be installed on only one computer", NOT "Windows can only be installed on the SAME computer WITH all the SAME hardware". They are changing all the rules (and trying to make it look like IT IS the law).
    IT'S NOT THE LAW! It hasn't been many years since they would have been toting some hot lead if they would've pulled that on some people. Of course it's all done digitally by remote control with no physical interface now. That's how they get away with such skull-duggery (or at least think they are getting away with it). Will probably be a day of reckoning one of these days.
    It's astounding to see the number of people who believe, support, uphold, promote (many even brag) on them, while they are literally changing the law, forcing their customers (they don't even refer to them as customers anymore, now they're "USERS") to "police" for them while they rob anyone who will submit or can't defend themselves. Really amazing to see the sarcastic "if you don't like it, don't use it. Get Linux" from their fans.
    "You're just a liar and a pirate anyway". In effect, they're saying "I got mine, to hell with you".
    They're in for a rude awakening when someone comes along and takes what they have, or makes them pay for it again.
    If you think it can't happen, don't be so smug. If it can happen to one, it can happen to anyone.
    Lest you think that I know not what I speak, I have assembled at least three dozen computers from scratch and upgraded mb's, video, audio, ram and modems about 40-50 times (oh, routers, kvm's cd & dvd roms & burners, floppies, and power supplies also, installed and reinstalled Windows at least a hundred times, everything from dos to XPpro, and installed a dozen distros of Linux probably 40-50 times. I'm not immodest and don't consider myself to be a geek, but I do know how things work.
    Can you imagine riding down the road and "shooting" one per-cent of the people you meet because they look like pirates? 1,2,3,4.....98,99 BLAM! Yeh, he sure looked like a pirate. 45,46.....97,98,99 BLAM! Got another one. Claimed he was innocent, but he was just a liar. You could look at him and tell.
    Sorry, can't give out information on how we count or the actual numbers, but we strive to make sure we're accurate.
    We do apoligize to anyone who THINKS they were ACCIDENTALLY shot and we are sure that we shoot only the guilty ones.
    Moral of this story: All you brave fans that love to feed and swim with the sharks, have fun. They're getting bigger and meaner and hungrier all the time, and there's probably one out there just waiting for you. Probly wants to tell you how much he loves you. Probly for all that dough you've been feeding him.
    Ole Man