Microsoft offers users four basic modes to select from when accessing the Windows Update configurator from Windows' Control Panel. In automatic mode, the download and installation take place on their own, and the opportunity to consent to or refuse specific updates comes up only in connection with the End User License Agreement (EULA) from Microsoft. ZDNet's David Berlind takes a closer look at EULAs in his blog, including the question of whether the agreement accurately communicates the intent and behavior of the software, as well as the ramifications of not accepting it.
The WGA program is a precursor to the antipiracy features Microsoft is building into Windows Vista, expected in January 2007. In Vista, certain operating system features will only work as long as it is a properly licensed copy.
Going through the download-and-install process a second time, Berlind found that the update included the WGA component after all. In this screen, the Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool appeared to have been downloaded, initialized and installed without ever asking for user consent.
A few more steps lie ahead for those who want a full accounting, prompting Berlind to wonder: How many users will follow this circuitous route to figure out what this is about?
Microsoft notes that the WGA tool is "prerelease software" in the End User License Agreement (EULA), which is displayed when WGA Notifications is about to be installed. People can decline the download at that point. Berlind says that most people click on the license "accept" button without paying any attention to it.
This is all the user sees once the updates are done. Berlind suggests that this would be a good place for Microsoft to offer more details and functionality--for instance, listing the updates in some clickable fashion so users can get more information about what they've just done to their computers and perhaps a way to undo specific updates.