Microsoft makes refurbished PCs its latest WGA anti-piracy target

Microsoft makes refurbished PCs its latest WGA anti-piracy target

Summary: In its ongoing quest to make sure that no potential Windows revenue source is left untapped, Microsoft is expanding its tentacles deeper into the refurbished PC marketplace.


In its ongoing quest to make sure that no potential Windows revenue source is left untapped, Microsoft is expanding its tentacles deeper into the refurbished PC marketplace.

Microsoft makes refurbished PCs its latest WGA anti-piracy targetOn November 9, Microsoft launched a new program, the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) initiative, designed to make sure that OEMs, resellers, leasing companies and others who resell refurbished PCs are installing "Genuine Windows Software" on them.

The refurbished PC market is big and growing as fast, if not faster, than the new PC market, said Hani Shakeel, Senior Product Manager, Genuine Windows Product Marketing team. Microsoft estimates there resellers will move 28 million refurbished PCs this year, making refurbished PCs over 10% of the worldwide PC market.

Refurbishers reinstall the software that originally came preloaded on a PC -- which legally requires they possess the computer's original Certificate of Authenticity (COA), or a recovery media or recovery image for the PC. Because these proof-of-purchases can be hard to find, many refurbished PCs don't ship with an operating system preinstalled. For Microsoft, that means Windows revenues are being left on the table, with potential paid Windows copies being replaced by Linux or pirated Windows.

That's where the MAR program comes into play. MAR is an extension of Microsoft's existing and low-key refurbished-PC program, which targeted resellers seeking Windows licenses for PCs resold to charities, nonprofits and schools. The program initially is open to Microsoft's major OEM partners worldwide and to other (OEM or non-OEM) refurbishers in North America. Over time, Microsoft is planning to open the program to interested participants worldwide.

Microsoft isn't requiring companies interested in joining MAR pay annually for the privilege (like it does with its Solution Provider partners). Microsoft is offering participants the chance to buy two Windows XP SKUs: Windows XP Home for Refurbished PCs and Windows XP Professional for Refurbished PCs. (I asked Shakeel how much Microsoft is charging MARs for these SKUs, but he wouldn't say.) Participants also get a deployment tool for installing Windows in bulk on refurbished machines. I asked whether MARs must agree to stop shipping "naked" PCs as a requirement for participating in the program; surprisingly, the answer is no, according to Shakeel.

If Microsoft is successful with MAR, there will be a whole new group of PC users who will be subject to the ongoing Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) authenticity checks in order to obtain software downloads, fixes and updates. And Microsoft will find another way to help grow its Windows sales in a market where Windows already runs on more than 90 percent of all desktop PCs.

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • performance

    I've sold many refurbished PC's.

    Most are running Linux despite having a valid Windows license. Using PClinuxOS the learning curve is small and above all the performance difference is huge. These systems are dog slow running fully updated XP.

    Most people suffer from ignorance. They are unaware that there are other choices. Once they experience the performance and stability and functionality of Linux and understand the onerous MS EULA along with the hassle of WGA it's a no-brainer.
    Tim Patterson
    • OK, I agree with part of what you say...

      ...but let's leave out the "most people are ignorant" comments. Most people are not ignorant of other choices, they just want a computer that will work, and run their programs, with as little hassle as possible. I use Linux too, both at work and home, but I would not recommend it to everyone. What do you tell the home user who wants to buy a game or educational program for their kids, only to find that Linux won't run it? Linux is getting there, but for many Windows is still a more viable choice.
      • Like I told....

        most of my refurb clients, Windows programs, for the most part will not run in Linux
        without another piece of software. BUT there is a lot out there for Linux so do not be
        afraid to try. Never really had many problems once people are informed of this. As
        for their children, as one client said, either he will adapt or not. I usually install Suse
        for these clients, and leave them with the box. Never any real problems, and what is
        gained, security, no viruses, etc. seems to far out weigh the "game" loss.
    • Perfomance?

      When I buy a refurbished PC (and I've bought around 15 over 5 years) all I'm interested in is the dekstop or laptop has a valid XP licence and any extra software is a bonus.

      Putting *nix on might be good for geeks, but the rest of the world would like a cheap Windows machine without any problems.

      And I know you must be trying to flog PCs without Xp because even the slowest refurbished runs XP in 256k without a problem. Hell, I had XP running on P3s without complaints.

      The only reason Linux would run faster is that it's essentially doing nothing, as it lacks the apps and options available to Windows.

      When I can buy a 2 yr old laptop on eBay with XP for less than $400, why would I want to make my life intersting (in a bad way) by putting on a fringe OS? Besides compiling or installing distros, running benchmarks and waiting for Open Office to load there's not much else to do with it.
      • Bull!

        I do not doubt one could get Xp to run, hell even Vista on a P3, but how useful is it,
        and paint would dry faster.
      • Sounds like my child

        She won't eat certain foods because she doesn't like them. Never mind the fact that she's never tried them, or the one time she did was a bad experience because the food had gone cold.

        Seriously, you seem to be mis- or underinformed about Linux and what is available today. Yes, 15 years ago, installing and using Linux meant one had to have a certain level of computer and reading skills, but those days are gone. Today one can install Ubuntu or PCLinuxOS with about as much trouble as starting your car. I believe even the latest version of openSuse has a simple install.

        And once it's installed, it simply works. Most distributions come with everything one needs, including a office suite, aut-sensing media insertion, peripheral support and so on. If something breaks, and they sometimes do, they rarely take down the entire system. Even losing the GUI only means the GUI needs to be restarted, and that's automatic.

        "The only reason Linux would run faster is that it's essentially doing nothing, as it lacks the apps and options available to Windows."

        I'm sorry, I've tried to interpret this, but can't without slamming Windows. Perhaps you can clarify your statement and give examples of apps and options, and how their availability will alter the performance on an OS.

        "Besides compiling or installing distros, running benchmarks and waiting for Open Office to load there's not much else to do with it."

        If you spend your life doing nothing but installing operating systems and opening a huge program like OpenOffice, you really need to consider another hobby. OpenOffice is slow to open regardless of the OS and is a resource hog. I find it worse on Windows, but only marginally.

        My personal computer experience began in the mid 80s, long before there was a graphic interface for anything other than a Mac. I cut my teeth on DOS and CP/M and and am quite comfortable not using a mouse. I started into GUI-based Unix around 91 and then Linux in 93. I've had both Linux and Windows on most of my machines ever since, but spend most of my personal computing time in Linux because it does nearly everything I need it to do. Windows does have its good points, but for me Linux has more good points.

        Go ahead, try that bean.
        Larry the Security Guy
      • Tony MSMVP

        Microsoft Most valued Puppet.

        Working for his MSMVPW (Microsoft Most Value Puppet Reward).

        keep up the good work! You might make it yet.
        Ole Man
      • Linux lacks the apps and options available to Windows?

        Oh please...

        I remember commenting on another post on this site saying that Linux was bloated, too many DVDs, and so on. Of course, sane posters pointed out that the number of discs worth you actually use depends on how many packages you choose when installing. The choice of (completely free) software you have for the average Linux distro is staggering.

        You obviously have never given so much as a second glance at Linux, otherwise you simply couldn't say anything so patently absurd.

        Oh, and I mostly use WinXP at work (with Suse & Solaris test boxes), and I'm writing this comment from my laptop running WinXP (although my PC is dual boot WinXP/openSuse) - so don't go thinking I'm some *nix nut, I'm a Windows user 75% of the time.
  • I thought forcing companies to bundle windows...

    Was deemed illegal a long time ago? Does Microsoft just ignore the law/ruling on this?
    • Re-read the article

      Microsoft is not forcing MARs to bundle Windows if they sign an agreement, they can still ship naked PCs, or load some alternative OS like Linux.
    • You either did not read the artical or have a

      serious comprehision problem! MS is giving an oportunity to PC refurbishers/resellers to ship legit copys of windows with out the original restore media. they are not forcing anyone to do anything, the mar can ship bare or with Linux if they want!
  • It is hard to say what this really says...

    To me, this might be an indicator of weakness in the overall new PC market as well as an indicator of weakness in the market for Vista.

    That is, all of the low hanging fruit has been picked, and Microsoft is being forced to go after the more difficult to reach (refurbished) cherries. (That is an amusing thought on a number of levels.)

    On the other hand, it may only say that the labor Microsoft is increasingly using offshore is so very cheap that suddenly a previously ignored market can be pursued cost-effectively.
    • I think it means

      Microsoft wants to get paid twice for every computer shipped now.

      Actually, I see a lot fewer used PCs today than a few years ago, because a new computer can be so inexpensive now.
      • That's the way I read it...

        It sounds like they are trying to invalidate the original OEM license that came with the computer when new. Since they have always harped that the OEM license is locked to the computer, NOT the user, it sounds like they are trying to have it both ways now.
        • Article did seem rather ambiguous on that point

          MS' own rules do state, though, that the Certificate of Authenticity is supposed to be attached to the computer, but even if it's not, the previous owner of the computer should have handed it over when the computer was sold.

          If I were a reseller, I'd wipe the drives in any event, and would not re-Window the box unless I had proof of license for it (if the customer wants Windows, he can pay for it). Doing it any other way strikes me as being foolish at the very least.

          As much as I dislike MS, I find it hard to fault them on this particular issue.
          John L. Ries
        • The way *I* read it...


          "It sounds like they are trying to invalidate the original OEM license that came with the computer when new."

          You are aware, of course(tm), that many refurbished PCs are originally shipped with VLKs. That means the original OS on those machines was tied to a volume license paid for by the company or corporation which originally bought and deployed them.

          When those machines are taken out of service and sold, the VLK for them is no longer valid, and a new license is required.

          Why is it that so many people ascribe evil, ulterior motives to MS when none are actually in evidence?
          M.R. Kennedy
          • Because...

            Because it is so much fun :)
          • when none are actually in evidence?

            When the eyes are closed, nothing is "in evidence", except darkness.
            Ole Man
          • That's a *VERY* good point

            Brother Mike, you raise an excellent point which makes alot of sense when it comes to this issue. A local private school I occasionally work at recently had computers donated to them by the IRS. These machines had no OS on them because the IRS had a Volume License Agreement, which they kept. This left the school with the bill for new licenses of Windows. Granted, the school also had a VLK and just tacked on a few more XP licenses, but if these PC's ended up in the hands of regular consumers, it would have been much more likely that these PC's would end up with legit copies of Windows.

          • microsoft *could* be paid three times for the same PC

            The PC the corporations install VLK on often already have OEM on.
            So Microsoft gets three lots of money in this case.
            The margins are so thin on used PCs, this move can only put more old PCs in landfill.
            Good move. It's not like we're polluting the planet enough already with all our cr*p.