Windows Genuine Disadvantage: 60 million users burned

By | 2006/07/18

According to a recent article on it appears that roughly 60 million users are using stolen or pirated volume license keys. reporter Ed Bott has been researching the new Windows Genuine Disadvantage as it progresses from quietly inserted update to known menace. According to his recent article a member of the Windows Genuine Disadvantage management team reports that “about 1 in 5 of the 300 million PCs that have run WGA validation fail.” That is a lot of users!

Below are some scenarios where a user could fail a validation check. Some of these are blatant, but how “guilty” are some of the others?

  1. High-quality counterfeit copies of Windows. Apparently this number isn’t very large at all. As Kochis notes, “So far we’ve provided hundreds of free copies of Windows to users who’ve been ripped byhigh-quality counterfeit”
  2. The user installs the same copy and key to more than one PC at a time.I don’t understand why this scenario occurs at all. Is the Validationutility really looking at individual keys and identifying people whoare reusing a retail or upgrade copy? In this case, shouldn’t activation fail when the user tries to install the second copy?
  3. A friend or acquaintance offers to “fix” your computer and installs apirated or cracked copy of Windows. I can definitely see this onehappening, especially when a system is compromised by a spyware orvirus infestation.
  4. You take your PC in to be repaired and the repair shop takes a shortcutby reinstalling a volume-licensed copy of Windows. Again, I can seeexactly why this happens. How many customers bring in their officialrestore media? Not many, I’d wager. How many repair shops want to takethe extra time (and charge the customer) to restore from the officialmedia? What happens when the media that came with the PC is out of dateand the shop has to install a service pack and several dozen patches?In that scenario, should the customer have to purchase a brand-newlicense when they already paid for one?

Since this whole WGA fiasco started I have been reluctant to install the update. It has since become a required update if you want access to anything further (outside of critical security updates). From everything that I’ve read on the topic I don’t like it at all and won’t be using it. This is another reason I no longer use XP on my home machines. I have 3 valid keys but due to having lost my original restore CD have used another copy which fails validation. This apparently makes me a pirate. Microsoft, turning honest people into pirates.