Microsoft DRM tool locked out genuine users

Windows Genuine Advantage servers suffered disruption over the weekend, with XP and Vista users treated as if they had counterfeit software

Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage servers experienced severe disruption over the weekend, stopping users validating their Microsoft software.

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is the mechanism that Microsoft uses to validate genuine copies of the Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems. Without WGA approval, users are unable to use many of the features of the operating systems.

The problem arose at the weekend when users of genuine Microsoft software found that their software could not be registered or that some parts of it became unusable, because WGA believed it to be counterfeit. A small storm brewed up in internet forums as users found themselves locked out. InformationWeek reported that around 12,000 users were affected.

The problem was short-lived. It hit late on Friday evening/> but by the early hours of Saturday morning the problem was fixed, according to a blog posting by Alex Kochis, Microsoft's senior product manager for WGA. Kochis said the problem was with Windows Vista validations which had been "failing on genuine systems".

"It looks now as though the issue has been resolved and validations are being processed successfully," Kochis wrote. 

WGA has been at the centre of controversy before. Last year, users became critical of the way in which WGA runs validation tools to check whether a copy of Microsoft software is genuine. Most of the criticism concerned the way in which the software pushes out as a "high priority" update alongside security fixes. There were also complaints about the way the WGA software collects information from PCs.