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Windows Operating Systems Software Microsoft

One In Five Windows Installs Is Non-Genuine 481

Posted by kdawson
from the false-positives dept.
snib writes "Microsoft disclosed Monday that, according to reports collected by the notorious Windows Genuine Advantage tool on millions of users' PCs, 22% of all Windows installs do not pass its validation tests and have therefore been deemed non-genuine. Quoting: 'Since WGA launched in July 2005, over 512 million users have attempted to validate their copy of Windows, Microsoft said. Of those, the non-genuine rate was 22.3 percent... [T]he Business Software Alliance... reports that 35 percent of the world's software is pirated (22 percent in North America)...'"
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One In Five Windows Installs Is Non-Genuine

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:14PM (#17729450)
    from SCO.
  • Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    Pff, that's obviously because geeks/pirates have so many more installations than the average person.

    I'd probably count for four, but if it counts as a new installation each time you format, than more than double that. (No more now though, I've got a Mac. 3) I'd assume it's the same for many users here.
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:30PM (#17729674) Homepage
      I wouldn't be surprised if every user whose "validation" fails tries at least a couple more times after that, inflating the failure rate.
      • RE: Repeat Failures (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I had three that failed, all of them HPs that I bought at Wal-Mart. Two of them failed multiple times, so they are now Linux-powered. The third one only fails if I download updates and try to run them instead of using Microsoft Update and automatic installation.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by catwh0re (540371) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:40PM (#17730552)
        I think it's important that Microsoft doesn't correlate WGA failures with actual pirate installations. Firstly for the reason you've listed above, but also because we all know that WGA doesn't even work very well. I for one know of many systems that have passed WGA despite having an illegitimate serial number. I also know of a few where they haven't passed, despite being bonafide installations from dell. I believe MS hasn't well-tracked the serials which are being pirated out there 'in the wild' and WGA is their future on clamping down on serial number duplicity.

        I also believe Microsoft should 'suck it up' because if they have an 80% non-piracy rate for a monopolised operating system that is still very good returns, and the "20%" of pirated software merely helps to maintain that monopoly.

        I'm certain Microsoft would prefer to keep those 20% on windows rather than have them on linux for example.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by morleron (574428) * <morleron.yahoo@com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:40PM (#17729816) Journal
      One has to wonder how they count non-authorized systems. For instance, I added a gig of RAM and a different video card to my parent's computer a little over a year ago. The system told me that the Windows XP installation was no longer valid when I re-booted the system and put me through the re-certification rigamarole. That failed: it kept refusing the key that the system itself had generated. I eventually found a registry hack out on the 'Net that let me get around all of this and kept my folks PC usable. However, I'm sure that MS would consider this to be a pirated installation, even though the original Certificate of Authority is still glued on the machine. This all happened over a year ago so some of the technical details may be wrong, but the jist of the tale is correct. It all makes me glad that I don't use any MS slaveare at home.

      Just my $.02,
      Ron
      • Define Genuine (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nobodyman (90587)
        This is similar to my situation. I upgrade often but only had one working desktop at a time. Now I use the Windows "Flea Market" distro, but my pirate status isn't so clear cut. I have one computer and I've purchased one XP license.

        I have to wonder how many people fall into my category. If anything, this 1-in-5 statistic is an indictment WGA and it's reliability in determining whether or not you are "Genuine".
    • by misleb (129952)
      Pff, that's obviously because geeks/pirates have so many more installations than the average person.


      Yeah, but those same geeky pirates probably know enough to sidestep validation.

      -matthew
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by QRDeNameland (873957) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:27PM (#17730400)
        Yeah, but those same geeky pirates probably know enough to sidestep validation.

        Excellent point. That was the first thing I thought of...of all the people who pirate Windows, how many ever subject themselves to WGA? I suspect it is a relative small fraction of them. And then there is the reciprocal question, of the 22% that report as non-genuine, how many are really valid installs that raise a false positive? If it's even 10%, that puts the false positive rate at around 2%, which would be unacceptably high in my opinion.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mrchaotica (681592) *
          That was the first thing I thought of...of all the people who pirate Windows, how many ever subject themselves to WGA?

          Not to mention, how many don't bother with XP at all and just use 2000 instead?

  • WGA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brain1 (699194) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:15PM (#17729474)
    Or does WGA fail 22% of the time? Hmmm?
    • by sjf (3790)
      Quite possibly. My CORPORATE (very legitimate large silicon valley tech company) install of XP was determined to be 'counterfeit', and I wasn't alone. So, from my experience, it fails 100% of the time.
    • Re:WGA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by oheso (898435) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:36PM (#17729758)
      I'm a sysadmin responsible for about 200 Windows machines of varying pedigree. We have a site license for Windows XP and most of the machines have that installed and give us no trouble. When new machines come in the door they get a fresh install from the site licensed disks.

      I've had trouble in the case of older machines (installed by my predecessor), and particularly with OEM installs. In the latter case, I've seen the failure rate of WGA approach 100%.

      So, overall, of the 22%, I'd attribute most of it to failure. Particularly given that Windows and IE appear to use multiple different bits of code to accomplish the same thing (one of the first steps of an IE7 installation is validation). This means multiple avenues of failure, but only one chance to get it right.

      No mention in the article of any attempt to account for failures.
      • Re:WGA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Bri3D (584578) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:31PM (#17730462) Journal
        The article also doesn't realize that the majority of serious (aka real) pirated Windows installations use MuBlinder or another memory-patching or DLL replacement application to bypass WGA.
        I think that nearly 100% of the failures reported were false positives, and that the number is probably highly inflated by legit users frantically trying to get their critical security updates after WGA has randomly failed them.
        The real pirates are dodging WGA and aren't trackable with these stats.
    • Re:WGA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MEGAMAID (791988) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:53PM (#17729976)
      Why was that modded funny?

      I recently had to fix a HP laptop with a reinstall of XP they'd done only 1 month ago (from the supplied CDs and the XP key stuck to it) and yes WGA failed because it couldn't update itself with the latest version. It wouldn't login without a 5 second timer on the WGA warning and many, many popups.
      It looked like spyware and other nasties were preventing some .dlls registering and this was stopping WGA from running. But the stupid thing is that because of this, XP couldn't download windows updates. Had to start again with a re-format and re-install. I can't imagine that this would be an isolated case.
  • Bad numbers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anon-Admin (443764) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:15PM (#17729478) Homepage Journal
    I can count 5 that fail it's validation and every one of them is a legal copy on a legal system.

    I would look at there program first, then accuse everyone of steeling second.

    It really does not surprise me that there are a lot of pirated copies out there.
  • by no-body (127863)
    How you shout in the woods, so it answers back....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:17PM (#17729500)
    There's no way it's that low
    • You were modded funny, but that really was my first reaction. I was convinced it would be more than that. Sure, the corporate installs may well help keeping the number low, but virtually noone (at least noone I can think of right now) I know who runs Windows on their home PC runs a legal copy of Windows. Then there are all the stories about south east Asia and South America -- I haven't been there and looked for myself, but if one believes many of the stories on the web (certainly some of them spread by the
  • A thought.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:17PM (#17729504) Homepage
    One in five... of people who actually attempted to run the WGA. I'd imagine there's a sizable group of people who already know they won't pass it, so they never even try.

    I anticipate that some folks will say 'lolz if WGA doesn't false positive!!11!!eleventy!' (translated: Assuming that WGA doesn't falsely label a machine as pirated). The number of these seems to be reeeeeally low, I'm guessing it's not a big part of the final numbers.
  • The number is high (Score:4, Informative)

    by adamstew (909658) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:17PM (#17729516)
    I know for a fact that my install is 100% genuine...Although WGA has flagged it as non-genuine.

    I obtained my copy of XP from a university site license that was given to all the students at the university of Pittsburgh. They just recently invalidated that site license...so you are looking at tens of thousands (if not a couple hundred thousand) students, faculty and staff that were all using that key that is now non-genuine.
    • by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:29PM (#17729670) Journal
      Heh. I bet you didn't read your license agreement very carefully. If you received Microsoft software at your institution through the Academic Alliance, then you did not receive a full Windows XP license. Rather, you were given a license which allowed you to borrow their copy to install on your machine at home and a license key that allowed installation. However, you don't have any rights whatsoever to the software beyond what your classroom needs are. So, they can revoke your license without warning, or otherwise change the terms of what "genuine" means. At any rate, the expected lifespan of the software you received in school is exactly the length of the course you are taking that uses the software (and it wasn't even that long for me, not that I cared since I devoted myself to Linux anyway).

      Disclaimer: this applies to Microsoft software obtained through the Academic Alliance program only. The actual words of the license agreement and my actual experience may disagree; however I'm going with my experience on this one, since it's similar to all other Microsoft licenses I've had to deal with.
      • by Trelane (16124)
        Also, according to Microsoft, all volume license agreements for Windows are upgrade only .
      • False.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by a16 (783096) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:10PM (#17730188)
        What you're saying is simply not true.

        It's true that MSDN AA licenses are "restricted" in that you can't use them for commercial use, and you can't use new licenses/new installs after you leave an institution that is part of an MSDN AA program.

        However they specifically state that you may continue using already installed software for as long as you wish after you leave your program, as long as you keep to the original non commercial rules - ie. follow the original license requirements. Therefore if they're marking an install as non-genuine, they aren't keeping to their own agreement. What I suspect happened here is that an institution has been giving out the shared media with a shared key, which isn't how it works (or at least not how it works wherever I've seen this) - students can share installation media but should still be granted individual keys by the MSDN AA administrator.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mandelbr0t (1015855)

          Therefore if they're marking an install as non-genuine, they aren't keeping to their own agreement

          Yes, that was exactly the point I was making. Please read my disclaimer more carefully; I am referring to the fact that Microsoft has some very cleverly worded license agreements that appear from experience to suggest that Microsoft doesn't keep to their own agreement. I agree that the spirit of the AA license agreement claims to allow you to keep the software after you finish school. However, you do not receive installation media in case your OS installation fails which mine did after 4 months. Therefore,

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by a16 (783096)

            However, you do not receive installation media in case your OS installation fails which mine did after 4 months.

            You might not have, but I certainly did - and I'm fairly certain most MSDN AA members should be able to. I've got a standard issue MS printed XP CD in a wallet with my own unique license in front of me, which cost me £7 in postage. I've also got an MS supplied Vista business DVD .iso and a copy burned to DVD in front of me, along with a unique Vista Business license key. Infact, I've got two - for some reason they let me order both the CD and DVD download, and have given me two license keys.

            Most

      • by eli pabst (948845) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:24PM (#17730366)
        I had the same issue happen at the University of Pittsburgh and it wasn't just limited to student software. The volume license key I was given as a student was identical to the one that my department IT administrators had, so this wasn't just an issue of "loaning" it to students. The "real" reason they decided to invalidate the license key was that Microsoft wanted them to start giving out XP disks that had *individual* license keys rather than a volume license so that they could track who was distributing software.

        From the U of Pittsburgh's own software distribution site:
        "Students are permitted to keep, for their personal use, copies of Microsoft software received under this license upon leaving the University."

        Plus I just read the official Products Use Rights statement and their isn't anything about loaning or revoking the license at any time.
    • by ivan256 (17499)
      Not only that, but you probably paid *more* for your copy than the average purchaser, since you had a Microsoft tax included in all four years of your tuition, and you probably never installed 80% of the software that was covered by that license.
  • by Dobeln (853794) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:18PM (#17729524)
    Actual piracy numbers are likely to be even larger.

    Why? Two main reasons.

    One: Pirates are probably far less likely to attempt to run a WGA certification compared to a legitimate licence holder. For obvious reasons.

    Two: "Borrowed" corporate editions, etc. will validate despite being, well, "borrowed".

    • >>Two: "Borrowed" corporate editions, etc. will validate despite being, well, "borrowed".
      I don't want to turn this into flamewar... But, one problem of the current world is your boss "borrowed" your time even when you are at home. Boss: You want to leave "early" (which can be N hours already after your supposed end of your work hour) fine. But, still I want to see this {program/report/proposal/and what not} by tomorrow morning....

      What's wrong with borrowing the corporate edition when the "home" PC
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      Wrong.

      Pirates have the WGA crack installed and it passes with flying colors downloading all apps and patches without problem.

      Pirates have it way easier and better than the legit users. Hell there are even slipstreamed iso's out there with this crack installed already.

      Btw: Yes some release groups can be trusted to not have it full of spyware and trojans. The bigger release groups pride themselves of releasing pristine packages...

      not that I know anything about that stuff or am a member of any groups..... re
  • by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:19PM (#17729540) Homepage
    Microsoft disclosed Monday that, according to reports collected by the notorious Windows Genuine Advantage tool on millions of users' PCs, 22% of all Windows installs do not pass its validation tests and have therefore been deemed non-genuine.

    genuine /dnyun/ -adjective

    1. possessing the claimed or attributed character 2. descended from the original stock; pure in breed:

    Even pirated software is genuine.
  • by vistic (556838) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:19PM (#17729542)
    My free copy of WindowsXP that I've installed on my Mac Mini is valid (msdn academic alliance), but I've intentionally avoided installing anything with WGA because I have problems with that kind of tactic.

    I managed to find a crack so I could download IE7 without WGA (I never use IE, I use Mozilla products, but it's the kind of thing you install just because you figure something Microsoft is probably going to require it sooner or later). And some other WGA-only updates are available in places as WGA-less downloads. You can also use Microsoft's Orca to disable the WGA check in some .msi packages.

    Maybe someone will reply and complain about how I'm not using an official super-approved install of IE7, but WGA was created to stop people from illegally using stolen software (the stuff they charge actual money for, and you didn't pay for), and IE7 is a free download. I just preferred to get around their #$*!@% WGA stuff.
  • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro@NosPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:19PM (#17729552) Homepage Journal
    I bet that 22% is probably very wrong.

    They say that that's 22% of those who attempted to be authenticated- anyone who knows they are using a pirated copy sure as hell isn't going to try to authenticate it. Those who failed either didn't know they had a pirated copy (installed by teenage son or shady computer store) or are really dumb pirates.

    Or the third option, that WGA fails a fifth of the time. I can think of at least one instance where I have tried to authenticate a legitamite copy (which I had just unpacked from HP, and was doing updates on) and WGA said it didn't pass.
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:21PM (#17729572) Homepage
    My experience in reinstalling several completely fried windows boxes (virus or trojans) is that the biggest issue is that the OEM CD has been lost and then the key that they have, for a perfectly valid version of Windows, doesn't work for the "full" Windows CD that I (legally) have. So what is the solution? Phone MS Support? Hell they say its an OEM problem. Phone the OEM and they want to charge to ship a new replacement CD, or just don't care.

    So I'd say that a decent proportion of those "invalid" windows installs are actually perfectly valid but just suffering because a reinstall had to be done due to the MS security issues and couldn't be done from a CD that matched the key. You can actually get MS support (nice high cost phone number) to sort this out but it really isn't worth the pain, no doubt these days they'll be pushing a "Vista upgrade" as the solution.

    So WGA failure doesn't mean it isn't legal, just that the key you have doesn't match the CD that had to do the re-install.
  • I thought that any OS (NT, XP, 2K, 95, 98) that ran the Windows codebase was "genuine" windows. Who cares if it is pirated.

    Now, a counterfit windows, that would be interesting. I can see some company making a Windows-clone...

    • by x2A (858210)
      You're just being picky for the sake of it. So they've picked a word that isn't entirely accurate on its own due to its marketing skew, but the meaning is still there and conveyed just fine. It doesn't take big leaps to get from not licenced to not authorised, from not authorised to not authentic, from not authentic to not geniune.

      "Who cares if it is pirated"

      Can you really not think of anyone who might care? I mean, I personally don't, but that doesn't mean I can't think of anyone who would do. If even 1% o
  • I wonder what the number of the valid Windows copies are that are due to it coming pre-installed from wherever the PC was purchased.
  • My policy is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:29PM (#17729662) Homepage Journal

    Those who insist on using proprietary operating systems get to pay for them. Yes, even when that means they pay with their time.

    If your copy of Windows won't validate, that's between you and Microsoft, my friend:

    • If you were using OSS, you wouldn't have this problem in the first place, and,
    • As much as I pity you, I can't help you. No, I'm not going to Google for an MS Keygen for you.
    • No, you can't "borrow" a Windows key from me. I don't have one.
    • No, I *really* can't help you. If your OS doesn't validate, there's nothing I can do. It's not just a matter of won't, but I can't.
    • If you think commercial software is so great, follow the commercial model of paying someone for support.

    Oh, and there's a Linux installfest this Thursday. If things between you and Bill don't work out, why don't you stop by and install a real 64 bit OS on your machine?

    But I do hate it for the gamers, man. What are they going to do?

    • But I do hate it for the gamers, man. What are they going to do?

      This has become less of an issue lately. Cedega is reasonably effective for running many of the more popular titles (no, it's not free, but the subscription is cheap. In practice, you can subscribe for as long as it takes to install all your stuff and then cancel. Seriously, it's really cheap if you need it to be). Pretty much every PC MMO is available now: WoW (including the BC expansion), EVE, SWG, D&D:Stormreach, Guild Wars). A few other really good titles (mostly FPS, though some RTS in there too)

    • Re:My policy is... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by toadlife (301863) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:58PM (#17730034) Journal

      Those who insist on using open source operating systems get to pay for them. Yes, that means they pay with their time.

      If your copy of Ubuntu won't play DVDs, that's between you and Google, my friend:

              * If you were using Windows Vista, you wouldn't have this problem in the first place, and,
              * As much as I pity you, I can't help you. No, I'm not going to Google for 'Ogle crashing' for you.
              * No, you can't "borrow" a Windows key from me. Go and buy your own.
              * No, I *really* can't help you. If your OS doesn't work, there's nothing I can do. It's not just a matter of won't, but I can't.
              * If you think open source software is so great, follow the open source model of RTFM and Googling.

      Oh, and there's a Windows UG meeting this Thursday. If things between you and Tux don't work out, why don't you stop by and install an OS with ISV and OEM support on your machine?

      But I do hate it for the gamers, man. What are they going to do?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by molarmass192 (608071)
        If your copy of Ubuntu won't play DVDs, that's between you and Google, my friend

        I know you're being funny, but last time I checked, Windows didn't play DVDs "out of the box" either. Try laying down a fresh XP or Vista install and playing a DVD. On that note, there is 1 "legal" way I know of to play DVDs on Linux, and (sadly) it's via the CNR [linspire.com] ... as for no-so-legal ways ... umm ... Google!
  • by dwalsh (87765) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:29PM (#17729668)
    I kid. Really, I kid.
  • by dfay (75405) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:33PM (#17729718)
    I wonder if they plan to apologize to the 80% of their customers who got this system foisted on them without recourse (you have to enable WGA to get security fixes).

    Not to mention, the 20% must be either really stupid (I wonder if my Haxxored Windows copy will validate? Gee, let's try!) or, more likely, have misconfigured Windows systems or bugs in WGA that report them as invalid when they probably own a legitimate license.

    Great marketing strategy though: punish your legit user-base as the pirates work around your system. Can't wait to see how Vista improves things. I'm excited to see what "advantage" I'm "genuinely" going to get.

    Disclosure: I only allow WGA on my work machine, where I have little choice and didn't pay the license fee personally.
  • They going to war and treating their customers like criminals, just in an attempt to get an extra 20-30%.

    Of that 20-30% how many of them would switch to an alternative, if they couldn't get a pirated copy.

    That 20-30% is how windows gets to 90%+ market share.
  • by WaZiX (766733) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:34PM (#17729744)
    That's a lot...
  • Imagine if they managed to find an effective way to eliminate all pirated installs. Their market share would drop by about 20% overnight! I'm guessing that most of those pirates wouldn't bother to purchase a copy should their pirated copy stop working.
  • This is a statistic? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gulik (179693) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:35PM (#17729752)
    Already (and, at the time I'm posting this, there are only around 25 comments), there are people talking about how copies of XP that they know they obtained legally fail to authenticate (so the reported piracy rate might be inflated), people pointing out, correctly, that even a modestly bright pirate will be smart enough not to try to authenticate when he knows it will fail (and so the estimated piracy rate might be too low), and people coming up with a smattering of other ways in which WGA could give false positives or negatives.

    It seems safe to say that Microsoft has no frelling clue how many pirated copies of XP are out there, and that WGA is approximately useless as a tool for trying to count them. Not that it will matter at all in the media -- "One In Five Windows Installs Is Non-Genuine" is too good a headline to pass up.
  • Piracy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iminplaya (723125)
    put 50 billion dollars into the man's pockets. What exactly is his complaint again? Piracy has also insured that Apple only gets 5 percent of the market. Why? Because it's rather difficult to bootleg the giant "Macintosh" dongle that apple attached to its software. Draw your own conclusions about the subject of piracy. For me, the numbers speak for themselves, quite loudly. Just adding to the chorus of voices in my head.
  • i installed a genuine unique copy of win xp on a laptop, then the same copy on my desktop, about a year ago. for a few months, the laptop refused to be updated due the existence of the other copy in use. then, windows update relented, and now both machines have no WGA problems

    i use both machines off the same IP, so maybe that's the reason: maybe microsoft relented and allowed some X number of machines behind the same IP, or something like that. by relenting, it suggests a lot of people were in my position a
  • Not hardly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davmoo (63521) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:40PM (#17729806)
    [AOL] Me too! [/AOL]

    If that's the only basis for Microsoft's estimate, they are *way* off, and I bet actually piracy isn't even half that.

    I have 5 different machines running XP. 3 of them insist they are pirated...even though I have receipts and valid license certificates bought from OfficeMax for two copies, and the third copy came installed with the machine when I bought it new out of the box. When I contacted Microsoft about this, their tech's response was words to the effect of "You'll have to buy valid copies again." My response was, and I quote, "Fuck you, I'll just crack WGA on my validly purchased copies that I already own, and I dare you assholes to try and prosecute."

  • Yes, but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:40PM (#17729810) Homepage Journal
    1. How many installs are erroneously flagged as genuine?

    2. How many installs are erroneously flagged as not genuine?

    3. How many installs are not seen by WGA?

    4. How many of those are genuine/not genuine?
    • Re:Yes, but (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Alex_WGA MSFT (992117) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @09:53PM (#17731878) Homepage
      I work on the WGA team and I wanted to take a moment to answer a couple of these questions. Btw, I think these are great questions.

      1. How many installs are erroneously flagged as genuine?

      > We don't have specific numbers on that but the system has been designed to give the benefit of the doubt in many cases. We are also in the process of designing a 'yellow light' scenario where instead of simply giving the benefit of the doubt we will be able to offer specific information to the user about whatever didn't seem right with the system. We can then offer tools to help them to figure out whether their copy is properly licensed and genuine and fix the cases where the system appears non-genuine when it really is genuine.

      2. How many installs are erroneously flagged as not genuine?

      > Not very many, there's an article now on Information Week that indicates the number is in the millions. This number was calculated by taking a previously disclosed 'half of one percent' estimate of false positives against into the total number of validations (512 million). Calculating the false positive isn't quite that easy, the rate of false positives climbs and falls when issues are discovered then fixed. Given that the false positive scenarios are time bound in this way it's not right to just use that number as a lifetime average.

      3. How many installs are not seen by WGA?

      > As has been pointed out in numerous places probably many of those that are aware that their copy isn't licensed or genuine won't visit one of our sites that require validation or attempt to install an application (IE7, WMP11 etc.) that have validation built into their setup. How many systems don't we see? Hard to say but it's a point worth making.

      4. How many of those are genuine/not genuine?

      > Again, I don't know but it's still a good question.

      For more on this issue and others related to WGA visit my blog. http://blogs.msdn.com/wga/ [msdn.com]

  • by zakezuke (229119) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:45PM (#17729882)
    I currently have 4 machines running windows presently. Two desktops, two laptops. The laptops are quite legit, both came shipped with windows, Media center edition, and Pen edition. The desktops were not shipped with windows but have legit copies of XP pro on them.

    The laptops, i've only had issue with one, the Toshiba pen edition. I "wanted" to do a fresh install on a fresh drive, but didn't have the tablet edition, nor was downloading possible as no copy would take my legit key.

    Desktops, I've had NOTHING but issues. Motherboard upgrades, pre WGA systems would fail to authentiate. Post WGA systems in all fairness the warning was a tad more tolerant. I could browse the net, and get a resolution, well, except for the fact that on my via based board you needed to download the USB drivers, so alot of hassle to backup a system who's motherboard failed, who due to Nortons wouldn't mount under XP, just to get the same glitch when trying to transfer the old install to a new system.

    I understand what microsoft is doing. They are trying to prevent casual piracy, those casual pirates who would otherwise buy one copy and use on many machines are likely to just buy another copy. But what they are actually doing is encouraging people like my self to download a cracked version of xp pro corp.

    It would be "nice" if you could tell freaking windows "I bought new hardware, transfer this license". They can be control freaks till their hearts explode, so long as they continue to permit me to
    1) Backup my existing install of windows
    2) in the event of hardware failure, restore a backup, and have it work, or transfer the hard disk to another machine without assuming i've gone rogue.

  • Not to be a troll, I'm honestly curious. Do they mean 512 million "unique" users? And is every user in the bad 22% a unique user?
    It could just be the same 100 people making the same, stupid mistake 512,000 times.. I mean, it's unlikely, but my point remains: are they inflating the actual numbers?
  • ... because I've re-defined "genuine" to mean that I got paid for it. All your money are belong to me.

    Seriously - this is as meaningless as it gets. It's like the *IAA numbers on piracy. Why all the pretense? Let's just *ask* them "how much money do you want?" At least then we can just tell them "No."

    All this polite fiction does is allow politicians to bloviate, legislators to introduce yet more legislation decreeing what our corporate overlords are entitled to, regulators to ignore ever more egregious
  • Be it MS or other company, software piracy is a pain in the b_tt. No wonder MS goes such a great length in making sure it is a licensed copy. Here at /. people discount because it is MS loosing money. But in reality those computers could have installed open source OS such as Linux or BSD and that would have atleast contributed to good desktop OS competition
  • Any and all numbers on software "piracy" are completely made up. All of them.

    This is exacerbated by the following points:

    • Microsoft has no incentive to truthfully report rates of unsanctioned copying, and every incentive to report inflated or just plain made-up numbers,
    • There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that WGA has a high false-negative rate (reports sanctioned copies as unsanctioned),
    • The reported figures are taken from people allegedly running WGA voluntarily. This is a self-selected s
  • 22% of all Windows installs do not pass its validation tests and have therefore been deemed non-genuine

    What they actually mean is that 22% of all machines that phone home fail their validation test.

    This doesn't take into account false positives, or people who aren't on the net, or people who uninstall the MS spyware that calls home, or virtual machines, and so on.

  • I do on-site computer repair. In the last 6 years, I have only seen the WGA notifier notify of two truly invalid copies of Windows. (In both cases, the user knew/acknowledged that their copy was likely not properly licensed.) In the same time, I've seen hardware from HP and Dell both come with a key that the MS program cites as invalid, and declares non-genuine. Both with their original OEM installs.

    So of WGA-flagged installs I have seen in the past few years, HALF were, in fact, valid installs that were flagged improperly. What was REALLY goofy is that one succeeded in re-activation, and even after re-activation, WGA still insisted it wasn't valid! (The other didn't need reactivation.)
  • by justfred (63412) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:01PM (#17730074) Homepage
    Our company has Dell machines with the reg code right on the side. Since Windows gets garbaged up on a regular basis, it's necessary to reinstall. Who knows where our original discs went, but I've got Windows 2000 discs (don't dare to use XP, especially since it's of no benefit) - but they don't recognize the Dell serial number. So I log on to the net, find a pirate serial number, and the rest of the install goes fine. We freaking own these machines, and licences for them. And by the way, the cd rom drives had been updated to cdrw but the machine didn't know how to boot off those. And some brilliant engineer had the idea to reformat the machines by sticking working hard drives from other (same exact model) machines, of course that didn't work either.

    Meanwhile, on my Macs, I'm continuing to be productive. No serial numbers necessary. Hard drive swap works. Any cd I plug in just works, no drivers. And no looking up install/driver/whatever procedures on arcane Linux/BSD sites either.
  • idiots (Score:4, Informative)

    by lewis2 (212695) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:03PM (#17730102) Homepage
    I've bought/built about 20 PCs for personal use over the years. I bought retail or retail upgrades for each machine (I have 3 concurrent licenses in total). Recently I got a SMART warning and swapped a data drive. I had to talk to a Microsoft support person to get a new license key as the one that came with my install CD didn't work. I since then had to swap the system drive and submitted a support request b/c it won't run windows update and they assigned me a case # a month ago and haven't called back. Fortunately for the community I know Microsoft's machines - even when patched - are a risk so I don't allow them on the public network without a firewall (openbsd in my case). However they should know better than to prevent a paying customer from applying their patches.
  • is actually a pretty bad deal. Quite often people tell me "hey, I've got this issue with my computer, I think the hardware is dying". To that I reply - "well, re-install windoze XP, but use a legitimate version this time around". 80% of the responses are - "wow, how did you know?".

    Anyway, if you don't want to give money to Microsoft, simply don't use their products.

  • by OgGreeb (35588) <og@digimark.net> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:58PM (#17732526) Homepage
    I'm using Parallels Desktop on my Mac Pro with a bought XP full license, and
    every once in a while the OS in the VM will require reactivation when booted.
    The first time I did this I went through the online activation, the second
    time it wouldn't reactivate and I had to go through the Microsoft phone operator.

    Now when it happens I just restore from a copy of the VM file and keep going. The
    virtual machine environment should present the same hardward configuration and system ID
    to the OS, shouldn't it?
  • by philipgar (595691) <pcg2@lehig h . edu> on Wednesday January 24, 2007 @12:41AM (#17733590) Homepage
    At least in this country, I find these numbers extremely hard to believe. Mostly because the vast majority of machines sold come with windows preinstalled on them. How do people then pirate it? I guess some people illegally upgrade their version to a newer one, but most people who have computers don't seem to know enough to be capable of doing this. There are the friends who might do this for them, but that doesn't seem too likely, as most people are content with their computer. . . As long as everything still works.

    There's the key I guess. Most people don't care for their computer, and it shows, over time the install goes to hell, getting viruses spyware, etc. Then they may get a friend to come over and help them, and the friend may install a pirated version of windows, maybe a fancier one, maybe the same type (but not the same copy), or maybe even the same copy.

    This is illegal . . . technically, but hard to really say it is, as the people do have the right to use windows on their computer, and that's often the only way they can.

    With windows XP at least, I wouldn't doubt if more copies of it have been sold than their are copies currently in use! It seems like a crazy statement, but considering how many companies buy machines with windows preinstalled, and then install their site licensed copy on the machine. Plus how many people have had machines get outdated, or crippled, or break on them, and bought a new computer to replace it. How many copies of windows were thrown out because of that?

    I can't speak for other countries, as I'm sure there are places where piracy runs rampant, and you can easily buy computers without windows preinstalled, or with an illegitimate copy installed, but in the US this generally isn't the case. Maybe MS should take these figures into account and say something like "-30% of windows copies in the US are pirated", after taking into account the anti-pirated cases of double licenses etc. Of course, things don't really work that way.

    Now other software I imagine the number is much higher. What percentage of copies of office are less than legitimate? I imagine those are much higher, and a 20-30% install base being illegal wouldn't be too far off. of course, even here with so many copies sold to businesses, it dillutes the home market that's far more likely to pirate software than corporate ones (people can get in far less trouble generally).

    Phil

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