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WGA — Too Many False Positives 268

Posted by kdawson
from the customers'-genuine-disadvantage dept.
An anonymous reader writes, "Microsoft insists that its Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program is nearly flawless. But that's not the impression you get when you visit the company's WGA Validation Problems forum. Ed Bott at ZDNet went through 137 problem reports submitted there during a two-week period, each one accompanied by the output from the official Microsoft diagnostic utility, and found that 42% of the people reporting problems were actually running Genuine software. From the article: 'One large group consists of people who, for some unexplained reason, were displaying cryptographic errors related to digital signatures. The problem is so common, in fact, that Microsoft representatives have a canned response they paste into replies to forum visitors who appear to be showing false positives caused by these errors.' In a related story, the first WGA errors from Windows Vista and Office 2007 have appeared in the wild."
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WGA — Too Many False Positives

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  • 42% (Score:5, Funny)

    by LinuxGeek (6139) * <djand.ncNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:31PM (#16221059)
    42%? I guess that is why WGA should be described as "Mostly harmless" rather than "nearly flawless".
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:33PM (#16221097) Journal
    I'm glad Ed Bott was able to discern which people were using genuine software and which had copies. People can get copies from machine vendors without knowing it, you know. Did he have access to Microsoft's database?

    It's more than likely that one of the very few problems you could experience with this software is that it gives you a false positive--therefore a high percentage of forum posts are based on this problem.

    Honestly, do you think that every person who used this with success went straight to the forum boards and posted "Success! Thanks Microsoft!"?

    In a related story, the first WGA errors from Windows Vista and Office 2007 have appeared in the wild.
    Wait, you're trying to tell me that a software program run on thousands of machines has failed in some cases!? No fscking way. That never happens--WGA should be error free--this is unacceptable.

    In the software world, 137 problems on say 5,000 cases of average people using your brand new product is "nearly flawless." I would guess 50% are user error, 42% false positives and 8% other.

    How is this news? Come on guys, I hate Microsoft as much as the next Linux user but I'm not blindly stupid about it ... leave bending percentages and pointing out unavoidable errors to the politicians & corporate America, please! WGA sucks. But let's tear down its principle and theory--not the implementation.
    • by eln (21727) * on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:40PM (#16221193) Homepage
      The percentage may be exaggerated, but the problem is still significant. The WGA software basically shuts you off from the upgrades you should be entitled to as a valid Windows user. In theory, this would be fine if Microsoft had reliable data as to who is a legitimate user and who isn't. However, it seems that Microsoft's data is not as reliable as it should be. Shutting your customers off from updates the already paid for (by virtue of paying for the software) because you don't have accurate data on who actually bought your product is irresponsible at best.
    • by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2 AT anthonymclin DOT com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:45PM (#16221239) Homepage
      I'm glad Ed Bott was able to discern which people were using genuine software and which had copies. People can get copies from machine vendors without knowing it, you know. Did he have access to Microsoft's database?


      If you RTFA, you'd see that they limited their survey to people on the WGA forum who were having problems and upon request ran MS's "WGA Diagnostic" utility and posted the results. That utility throws back one of 4 results: Genuine, Blocked VLK, Invalid Product Key, and Not Activated. So as far as MS is concerned, they are legit, and not copies, but the WGA program still flagged them as not legit because of things other software (like a McAffe "quick clean" product) did to their system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MooUK (905450)
        An obvious (to me) question comes to mind:
        If they have functionality to work out whether it's a false positive, why isn't that functionality in WGA in the first place?
    • by XanC (644172) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:45PM (#16221245)
      WGA should not exist. It causes hassle for paying customers, that's all. Pirates find their way around. If it worked perfectly, it would be bad enough, but if even one legitimate person is locked out of his computer, MS has some serious explaining to do.
      • Explanations (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nurb432 (527695)
        Even when you call them on the phone and are 100% legit they dont do much for you. " Your only option is to reformat and install a freshly purchased copy" " have a nice day and thanks for choosing microsoft"

        And no im not kidding, im heading out to 'repair' the very user that called microsoft crying for help. Its far to easy to just change your # then reformat..

        Screw them and WGA.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by robogun (466062)
        I agree, but not for the reason you might think.

        MS was built on piracy. Their 90% install base was derived from people passing copies of windows around back in the DOS and 3.1 days. Having achieved that it's now time to start charging, because the company is not making enough money (from the Wall Street standpoint, which requires logarithmic sales projections to achieve linear stock price changes). WGA was implemented because MS has no need to increase the install base % further, and they figure WGA can at
    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:59PM (#16221383) Homepage

      Wait, you're trying to tell me that a software program run on thousands of machines has failed in some cases!? No fscking way. That never happens--WGA should be error free--this is unacceptable.

      I think the point is that there are a significant number of apparently legitimate Windows users who are having problems with their computers because of WGA. Since WGA offers no benefit to users, this is an instance of Microsoft taking actions which harm their own legitimate customers because of a policy which doesn't help any customers.

      What I'm saying is, we accept software to malfunction now and then, so when the whole complicated piece of software has a couple bugs, that's expected. When a developer tries to integrate a new feature that benefits large numbers of customers but harms a small number due to a bug, that's forgivable. However, when a developer takes action to punish illegitimate users, developers should tread very lightly. It almost feels like vigilante justice, and you should make sure that it's not an issue for legitimate customers. They might have every legal right to do it, but as a customer, I do find it unacceptable. Microsoft purposefully shutting down an otherwise working system, causing a loss of man-hours, because they've falsely identified it as "suspect"-- I find that to be sufficient reason to complain.

      As if we needed another reason.

    • The point is, though, that it SHOULD work perfectly (or nearly perfectly). This is not something that came with the software we purchased origionally-- we HAVE to get it to get our software patched, though. That's simply unfair, ESPECIALLY if it doesn't work correctly and screws some innoccent people up.

      I agree with you that it sucks, though...but not that we shouldn't attack the implementation of it. 1) It shouldn't exist 2) It doesn't work right. 1 + 2 = We should bitch.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by popeye44 (929152)
      Well I handle 400 pc's on a single floor of a building and we use corp licensing. We haven't installed it on a single pc as of yet. However I personally on the side take care of 5-6 pc's running windows Xp pro. the 1 machine I allowed this software to be installed on now tells me I have to go get a license. I uninstalled their "criticial piece of bullshit software? NAGWARE!" and haven't looked back. This is a dell purchased machine that hasn't even been rebuilt once and it's telling me I'm not legit. If onl
    • by k98sven (324383) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:25PM (#16221671) Journal
      I do agree that the principle of the thing is a lot more relevant argument than the implementation. But I don't think that means you shouldn't be able to complain about the latter as well, if it has faults. What's being pointed out here are indeed faults. But you're dead wrong in saying that they're unavoidable.

      Every test will ultimately have faults. They will always produce some amount false negatives and false positives, and to that extent you're right in saying that they're unavoidable.

      But! That doesn't mean they are equally unavoidable. Depending on the consequences of false negatives and positives, you can and should design your test to avoid one, possibly at the cost of another.

      For instance, when testing for a disease, the consequence of a false positive indicates a healthy person is sick. A false negative indicates a sick person is healthy. Obviously the former scenario is a lot more preferable. Proper disease tests are designed in exactly that way, so that the probability of the former is usually several orders of magnitude larger than the latter. (This is also why they almost always do further tests on a positive result.)

      Okay. So in the WGA scenario, a false positive means an honest customer is getting screwed out of support they paid for. (I'd actually call it a false negative though, since they're not running 'genuine' software.) A false negative means someone running pirated software gets support they weren't entitled to.

      At least from the consumer perspective, the latter scenario is definitely better. In an ideal market, that would be what would be best for MS too. However, it's not an ideal market situation, because they're a monopoly. That makes it possible for them to push their own interest at the expense of the customer to a lot larger extent.

      So I think there's every reason to criticise MS here. If they didn't intend for this, it's badly designed software. Given their massive install-base, they should be expected to be careful in designing this stuff. Given their equally massive profit, they certainly have the resources to do so. If they did intend this, then they're screwing their own customers just to save a buck on support.

      Incompetence or malice: Take your pick. But in neither case would I hold MS blameless.
    • by dr00g911 (531736)
      Three out of four legitimate copies of Windows on boxes I've got (1 vendor supplied , 2 OEM copies of XP, serial number stickers on the cases & all) tell me that they might be counterfeit and have locked me out of security updates. $160 each, please. Twice the price of a bloody OEM copy, for the record.

      If anything, based on my personal experience, the problem is probably significantly larger than has been reported. This is NOT a non-issue.

      In addition, it seems like I can't even unplug my Wacom tablet an
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by binarybum (468664)
      Honestly, do you think that every person who used this with success went straight to the forum boards and posted "Success! Thanks Microsoft!"?

        actually, I've heard that M$ is encouraging this kind of behavior as they believe it will put less load on their servers if people just post when something they make actually works and they can just assume the rest is total dogshit.
  • Think of it this way. 137 users in 2 weeks. How many users run Windows again? I am not defending WGA however it is not extreeme as it may seem.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:56PM (#16221365) Homepage
      How many Windows users would submit a report to the WGA Problems Forum if they had a problem?

      I can't say, but I'm imagining it's a very small fraction of total users.

      The point though is to make sure you're comparing like to like. Problem Reports is not the same as Total Problems, just as Potential Problem Reports is not the same as Total Windows Users.
      • by Firehed (942385) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:16PM (#16221561) Homepage
        How many Windows users could submit a report to the WGA Problems Forum if they had a problem?

        Unlike Slashdotters, not everyone has a spare computer or six kicking around, to deal with just such an occasion. Of course since I switched to Macs, I'm not quite sure what failing the WGA does at this point, but since I've seen the term 'locked out' more than once in this topic, I'll assume it's a bit more hostile than it used to be.
        • by westlake (615356)
          Unlike Slashdotters, not everyone has a spare computer or six kicking around, to deal with just such an occasion

          But they do have a telephone.

        • by gutnor (872759)
          You can still use windows. It just starts to annoy you like a shareware.

          That said, how many user would raise a problem on the WGA Problem Forum if they are not dead certain their Windows is genuine. I know that WGA should also warn users when he purchased unknowingly a pirated version, but I guess that the kind of people unknowingly purchasing pirated software falls into the category that would not think of going to the forum anyway.

          I'm surprise the number of false positive on the forum is not even higher.
    • by westlake (615356)
      Think of it this way. 137 users in 2 weeks. How many users run Windows again? I am not defending WGA however it is not extreeme as it may seem.

      137 posts to the MS forum in two weeks.

      How many MS-bashing Slashdot posts will this thread generate in two hours?

  • by Kelson (129150) * on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:34PM (#16221103) Homepage Journal

    Back in July(?) when Microsoft issued an update to the WGA tool, I figured I may as well install it (I'd be forced to eventually) on my one Windows box. So I installed it, and rebooted, and the login screen proclaimed loudly that Windows was not genuine. (Well, not literally loudly, it didn't shout over the speakers or anything -- which would be an interesting deterrent, now that I think about it.)

    This came as something of a surprise, given that:

    1. This was a Dell, not some no-name computer.
    2. It still had the original OS install, and no hardware had been changed.
    3. The previous version of WGA had reported no problems.

    I logged in, did some searching on Microsoft's knowledge base, and found a link that said something like "Validate here." I clicked on it.

    To my surprise, it told me my copy was perfectly valid.

    I eventually concluded that Norton Internet Security had blocked the initial validation attempt. Because there was no desktop shell, there was no opportunity for it to pop up a notice and ask me if I wanted it to let the data through.

    After that experience, I can't say I'm surprised that Microsoft found many of their false positives to be the result of security software. Admittedly, they were looking at registry changes, crypto problems and McAfee, rather than a transient error with Norton.

    • by LinuxGeek (6139) * <djand.ncNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:40PM (#16221195)
      Hmmm, I wonder how long it will be before someone is able to get Wine to run the WGA utils well enough to get accepted as genuine.
    • alternative action
      boot safemode open cmd window and type regedit
      and delete every occurance of wga. change wgatray to read only if you cant delete it and reboot.
      then generate a new corperate key and install service packs.
        download firefox install download ubuntu and install.

      seriously its all it takes to get round wga the only people suffering with wga are the people who paid for xp
      • by Ravatar (891374)
        WGA doesn't cripple your computer from fully loading in my experience.. it just notifies you that you're not running legit windows and disallows some Windows Updates... get a grip man.
  • by chriss (26574) * <chriss@memomo.net> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:34PM (#16221105) Homepage

    those who can read statistics and those who can't.

    There is no way you can derive a headline like "WGA giving 42% false positives" from a statement like "42% of the users that reported problems with WGA ran genuine software". 42% of the problems sampled should not have triggered problems, but that's all, there's no insight how many attempts of validating your Windows license there are.

    There are at least 10 people who don't understand this: One slashdot poster and one slashdot editor.

    • There is no way you can derive a headline like "WGA giving 42% false positives"
      But that's not the headline, the headline is:
      WGA -- Too Many False Positives
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by eln (21727) *
        The original headline was "WGA giving 42% false positives." It was changed to its current version either before or shortly after it went live. Hence the GP.
      • by chriss (26574) *

        But that's not the headline, the headline is:

        The headline was "WGA Giving 42% false positives". I'm a subscriber, so I read the article based on the not yet published version from the news feed (I still see the old headline in NetNewsWire). Obviously I have to correct myself, we can no longer assume that the slashdot editor can not read statistics, otherwise he would not have changed the headline before publishing the story. And I should check whether the story/headline has already been changed before I c

    • by chriss (26574) *

      That should have read: "there's no insight how many failed attempts of validating your Windows license there are"

      If there were 574,000 validations out of which 137 (the number they examined) failed, and of these 137 failed validations 42% were with valid licenses and activated product keys, these 42% ( = 57,54 attemps, very unlikely) would represent a 0,01% failure rate.

  • by Tama00 (967104) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:36PM (#16221129)
    Did you know that 95.4% of statistics are made up on the spot.
  • I know people have attempted such a scheme with music. Has this been attempted (recently) with software? I'm not talking about weak protection -- Quake 4 can run without a CD/DVD by running on Linux, and without a (unique) valid key by adding one entry to the host file. I'm talking about none at all, like open source software, but for profit.
    • Galactic Civilizations 2 was shipped sans copy protection, and did rather well. Pretty good game, too. Shame it's not Mac compatible.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does this mean that all MS-Windows computers MUST be connected to the Internet to run now?
    Really, 90% of them are currently connected, but sometimes...for safety's sake, I like to keep one completely disconnected from the Internet and feed it updates manually via CD-media.
    • No. You can continue to apply patches manually to your heart's content. You just can't use the Windows Update or Microsoft Update site fully.

      For your habit, by the way, I'd suggest you look at Autopatcher. www.autopatcher.com Nice monthly torrent download contains all the latest patches, plus updates of other useful Windows gems. Java, Flash, Shockwave, TweakUI, Cleartype Tuner. That sort of thing.
  • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:39PM (#16221169) Journal
    Ed Bott at ZDNet went through 137 problem reports submitted there during a two-week period, each one accompanied by the output from the official Microsoft diagnostic utility, and found that 42% of the people reporting problems were actually running Genuine software.

    Wild guess here -- people with legitimate software are a lot more likely to submit problem reports than people with bad copies are to post "My 1337 w4r3z w0n7 w0rk! G00d j0b!"

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:39PM (#16221175) Journal
    Just the other day, some /.er was trying to say that Linux isn't ready for primetime. While this might be taken out of context slightly, it doesn't look like Windows is ready for primetime either. More to the point, the differences between OS's is more a case of how many problems and what type of problems you are willing to put up with. I can't see this story as anything but a boon for the various Linux distributions, and of course, for Apple.

    One facet of this comparison is that Linux (generally) does not claim to be perfect, or the best operating system to have. This, to me, looks like the playground bully trying to recover from having his pants fall down around his ankles.

    While WGA is a plausibly good idea for someone that sells their software, the implementation of it has left a lot to be desired.
  • The Question Is... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGreatHegemon (956058) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:39PM (#16221177)
    How many false copies of windows pass as authentic?
    • by fotbr (855184)
      Not all, but not a small number either.

      Those in the warez scene won't have any problems with WGA.

      The only illegitimate copies this will really catch are those where some kid upgrades his parents computer and uses the same copy he had, or a warez copy, or whatever. Which is also the same group that will fall for the false-positives and shell out for another copy of windows because they don't know any better.
    • by rts008 (812749) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:26PM (#16221703) Journal
      Here at home, out of my 3 PC's connected to the network and internet, 2 of the 3 PC's are currently running pirated copies of XP and have safely passed WGA and currently get their updates flawlessly via AutoUpdate at MS. The reason that is not 3 out of three, is last month I had to replace my HDD, reinstalled my legit, retail WinXP Pro cd, went to MS updates only to be barred from updates and activation because they determined my retail cd was pirated- have had it running on old HDD for 3 years prior with no problems.

      The reason the other two are running pirated XP was an experiment after the legit pirated fiasco on this PC.

      I decided I had had enough, booted into FC5, repartioned the drive to all Linux and haven't looked back.
      Don't care what Vista is like, as I will not even reinstall XP anymore. This weekend, both of the other PC's will get their XP partitions deleted and go back to dual boot Win98se and Ubuntu only. The XP partitions are too small to be more than barely functional, so no sense in trying to leave them running.

      So here is 3 sales/upgrades that MS won't get.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tshak (173364)
        2 of the 3 PC's are currently running pirated copies of XP and have safely passed...So here is 3 sales/upgrades that MS won't get.

        It doesn't look like they were getting them anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rts008 (812749)
          Yes, they would have. My wife uses XP at work, and it would be nice for her to have compatibility "out of the box" for doing work at home. Same with my daughter in high school- their school website (where they do and save a significant amount of work) only works with Windows, grudgingly with Firefox.

          Until last month's fiasco, they both just used this one- I was usually gone at work anyhow. So, I have spent a bit of time and effort to get most of the stuff working for them in Linux. It has not been easy, as
    • How many false copies of windows pass as authentic?

      My guess is that those people are far less likely to complain and therefore would not easily be counted using the same method.

  • Vista WGA (Score:2, Informative)

    by tomz16 (992375)
    Haha... Vista RC1 just decided to stop working one day, even though I had a legit validated key from Microsoft (I called to have it activated).

    I just booted it up one day, and it said "Your copy of windows is not activated". The best part is that it refused to accept the unlock key generated by the automated phone system!

    Good thing I didn't have any important information locked up on it!

    -Tom
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by soft_guy (534437)
      I just booted it up one day, and it said "Your copy of windows is not activated".

      In my work, I don't use Windows to store any critical data and part of the reason is bullshit like this. The only thing I use Windows for is creating software that has to run on Windows.
  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:42PM (#16221205) Journal
    That's when WGA says the copy is non-genuine, and Microsoft's Genuine Advantage diagnostics tool disagrees and says it's genuine.

    What I don't get is why they don't just take the flawless detection code from the diagnostics tool and put it into WGA.
    • by gutnor (872759)
      Probably the code that validate if a copy is genuine is the same or very close ( like with more tracing )

      The problem seem to come from the execution mode. Executing WGA in the interactive context or having WGA running in the background somewhere,sometimes is different and can lead to various problem to access the data it needs to do its job.

      Also, Windows machine typically have load of various applications that interfer badly with Windows. Sounds silly but Wireless Network Card driver, Firewall, Antivirus or
  • I've never had a case of a WGA false positive, and I've only heard of one through the grapevine. I don't doubt the modus operandi of this article and I believe that the 42% is valid, but one must rememeber that it's not 42% of PC's being dubbed non-genuine, it's 42% of all PCs that WGA thinks aren't genuine, which is (relatively) small, probably something less than 0.01% of all Windows PCs.
  • Apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vicegrip (82853) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:48PM (#16221283) Journal
    WGA -> Would've Got an Apple if I knew then.

    In my neck of the woods two people in my family are thinking of a full out change and so are a few of my friends. It's obviously not just because of WGA. It's a lot about a growing feeling of insecurity and anger at a company that just doesn't seem to care a damn.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gsfprez (27403)
      its nice knowing that my Mac is my computer, and that once i sent my money to Apple, they assumed that this computer was no longer their property.

      The day Apple ever does this kind of shit is the day i skulk over to Linux and figure out how i'm going to do my video work.
    • Re:Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:24PM (#16221665) Homepage
      I had been an anti-Windows person on Slashdot for a long time. Back in November of 2002 I received a computer as a present that included XP (with a key!) I switched over to being a Windows desktop user with a Linux server running everything else.

      Now, with WGA (and my valid key invalidated for whatever reason), I'm now using my Mac and my Linux machines only. I have absolutely no desire to deal w/verifying with MSFT that my install is a valid one. I shouldn't have to as it's THEIR problem.

      While I never trusted MSFT, there was a 3.5 year stretch there where I didn't much care either way. This one incident has turned me around right quick.

      And now, for the machine that I need to have XP on for my wife to do her job, we have used several hacks to get around the WGA and get it what it needs to run. I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about it either. I paid for it and now I'm going to run it.
  • by ddent (166525) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:53PM (#16221321) Homepage
    I see no advantage. Even if you have a perfectly valid copy of windows, there are really two possible outcomes:
    1. System works fine, and your copy of windows keeps working just as before. No added benefits.
    2. System stops working due to problem with WGA.

    Given that there is no benefit and the possibility of a downside, I fail to see why you would choose to install or use such a technology if you know about it. It is a move with only a negative expected value.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @05:54PM (#16221329) Homepage
    Is Windows drug like in nature? It keeps doing things to people, that said people don't seem to like. Yet they keep coming back. I used Windows since 3.1, I never really liked it..but always thought that it was the best thing out there. As soon as I found that things could be better, I slowly moved away from Windows. I am now free enough of Windows that I don't suffer any of these problems that people seem to complain about regularly. It's like windows is the abusive husband, and you all , Windows addicts, are the abused wife....get help people.
  • Conspiracy theory (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kosmosik (654958)
    Maybe this is a conspiracy theory but hey - this is possible so why not mention it.

    Could it be that MS is hoping that some of users that aquired MS Windows legaly (as MS likes to speak - genuine) will see this warning and go buy MS Windows *again*. This could boost like 1% of sales - but it is still something in their scale.

    On the other hand I administer few dozens of Windows boxes, they get all the patches (including WGA "patch") and none of these reported as non-genuine. And these are not all the same - s
  • hey (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Vexorian (959249)
    we shouldn't be complaining, cause everybody knows that the consumer is far from being as important as fighting computer piracy.
  • by jonasj (538692) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:42PM (#16221873)
    I worked in a small local computer shop for a couple of months this summer. The following happened to me two times during that period.

    Some customer would bring in a computer that wouldn't start. We determined that the motherboard was faulty, and replaced it with a similar one.

    Windows starts up, everything works, except it wants to be re-activated again. Online activation fails, so I phone Microsoft, enter the forty-something digit number, reads the product key to someone, who then tells me that they are very sorry, but no, for some reason they cannot give me a re-activation code, so I will have to reinstall Windows in order to get it working with that product key. However, changing the product key works fine.

    So I call the customer and explain the situation to them, and let them choose between:
    1) me taking their harddisk out, attaching it to our backup machine, backing up all their stuff, reinstalling Windows, and all their programs, and all updates, then restoring the backups, and
    2) buying a new xp home license,

    they both chose option 2. That way they would get their machine back with their entire configuration intact, and if they chose option 1, all that work I would have to do would take so long time that they wouldn't be saving much anyway, compared to buying a new license.

    This only happened these two times; most times when we replaced a motherboard, either the reactivation over the internet would work, or the phone representative would give a working reactivation code.

    But these two customers payed for a new XP Home license even though they owned a fully legal one already.
    • by jonasj (538692)
      ...of course, that story has nothing to do with WGA, it's just the regular activation system I'm talking about here. Must sleep before posting more.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by topham (32406)

      My mothers computer had issues booting a week ago, trying to use the disc that came with the machine to resolve the problem resulted in the harddrive being formatted (no questions asked, nice, eh?), and then failed to actually install the OS as there seem to be disc errors.

      Solution? Purchase a copy of XP Home (Upgrade). I wasn't happy about it, and I probably would have started yelling at the clerk in the store, but in the end they now have a copy of XP Home which can be used to install, or fix/repair an in
      • by jonasj (538692) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:59PM (#16222019)
        "nothing is as aggravating as realizing how many of the problems are intentional design decisions". You said it.
      • Why blame Microsoft? Blame your OEM. My 'restore CD' for an old laptop warned and made you confirm several times before it formatted your hard drive.

        You also didn't contact the OEM for a replacement restore CD.

        But no, almost yell at the clerk in the store because you were "forced" to buy a copy of Windows again.

        Tell me how any of the above is Microsoft's fault or issue, again?

        • by topham (32406)
          Actually, the OEM was the store involved, but it's 3 years later.

          As for blaming Microsoft, yes actually I do.

          I don't believe any of the OEMs should do, or be ALLOWED to do what they do. Many companies, Dell for instance, do exactly the same thing. Microsoft sets the policies which the OEM companies are allowed to image the disc.

  • Sad, but biased (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:43PM (#16221887) Journal
    Did the fixes work? No one knows, because the original posters either never returned to the forum or never posted a reply. Only 20% of the forum threads we looked at included a follow-up message from the original poster indicating that they had solved the problem.

    My question would then be: if it's working, how many of you even bother to visit Microsoft's forum to post "Thanks, it worked"?
    Usually, when a fix works, people move on, and don't go back to forums to confirm things are working.
  • My experience (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdot@NOSpam.spad.co.uk> on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:48PM (#16221929) Homepage
    I've had exactly this problem - my copy of Windows is as genuine as you can get (MSDNAA Download) and yet WGA still reports it as being an illegal copy. What's stupid is that Windows Update, the WGADiag tool *and* the Firefox WGA Tool MS provide all identify it as Genuine.

    I've used one of the many hacks (Removing execute permission for the Local System account to the WGA files and then deleting them) to remove WGA from my machine and now I only use MBSA [microsoft.com] for my patching. It's a little long winded, but it's infinitely better than the hassle of being repeatedly told that my copy of windows is illegal when it clearly isn't.
  • by celardore (844933) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @06:53PM (#16221957)
    It offers no benefit to me. Why would I want that installed when I have a perfectly good copy of XP Corporate Edition? I don't give a shit about the latest media player, or IE7. Sure, I take the critical updates when I'm offered them but that is all. I ran the WGA tool and of course I am not a valid user of Windows XP. Saying that though, I am a legitimate owner of an XP Home license. Which I haven't used in years, I keep the keycode safe though. I used XP Home for a while, but I found it restrictive for my needs; so I installed a bootlegged copy of the corporate edition which has always been fantastic.

    If MS sold their software at a lower price they would generate more sales that would compensate for the low price.
    I know so many people that say "I would buy windows, if it didn't cost hundreds!" If they sold the pro edition for a cheaper price then they would sell so many more that it would compensate for the few that did pay the higher price. I'm not in marketing, I'm in accountancy, so I know about economic curves and I think MS is just milking the corporate market for as much as they can. If they opened up their 'pro' systems for lower prices I am sure their sales would increase as well as their revenue.

    MS alienate potential buyers with their WGA and high prices. Set your prices low, and sell a bundle. Look at your profits, M$, you're not "hard done by".
  • incentive? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by treak007 (985345)
    what is M$'s incentive to fix this when the bugs mean they sell more products?
  • I guess I'm late to the party... when did they implement WGA on Office? That doesn't make any sense, does it? Windows I can understand... nearly all computers come with it, so gone are the days when people would bring home their copy from work to install. They are basically trying to collect from the no-name vendors that were selling PC's with pirated copies. Now, Office, on the other hand is too expensive for most home users... it doubles the price of your PC! I always assumed that this pricing was deliber
  • If the false positives were indeed "too much", you'd watch it on CNN, since Windows is used aggressively throughout the world in homes, hospitals, businesses, schools and so on.

    Instead, you read about it here on the Slash-haha-Microsoft-sucks-dot blog. Therefore, nothing major to worry about as of yet.

    Now of course WGA is a major annoyance. It can also be argued that Microsoft inflicted this on themselves by allowing piracy flourish under the table while whining about piracy in their official channels. Now
  • Don't worry everyone - once Tusted Computing becomes standard, Microsoft should have no trouble locking its software away from precisely those it wishes. See, technology really can solve everything.
  • by WCMI92 (592436) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @08:42AM (#16227353) Homepage
    We use only HP desktop systems, all of which come preloaded with XP. One day after MS pushed this malware out (and WGA is malware by any definition, so sue me Gates) via a "critical" update that came via automatic update, several of our recently installed HP DC5100 PC's came up with the WGA trojan virus (sue me again Gates) and refused to allow a login. Microsoft told us to call HP who told us to call Microsoft. No remedy was offered.

    So, we wasted two days reloading a bunch of PC's that most definitley had legal software, in two of our divisions.

    The result? Windows Update service is DISABLED on our domains, and I am looking into some sort of update deployment program that will allow me to choose which updates go out to PCs.

    Microsoft, I guess thinks it can operate like the RIAA, assume that their customers are thieves and treat them like criminals.

    I can tell you this much, I don't see myself deploying Vista anywhere until it's absolutely unavoidable.

"The vast majority of successful major crimes against property are perpetrated by individuals abusing positions of trust." -- Lawrence Dalzell

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