Microsoft removes another one of WGA's fangs

This morning Microsoft announced another noteworthy change to its flagship Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program - an update to be rolled out later this month to all Vista users that will display a WGA warning dialog box when it detects either of two common Vista activation cracks. In the same announcement, they also for the first time showed screen shots of how WGA changes debuting in SP1 will take some of the bite out of a longstanding Windows product activation rule as well.

Now-departed Microsoft marketing chief Michael Sievert announced last December that Service Pack 1 would drop Vista's "reduced functionality mode" (the notorious "kill switch") in favor of a series of notifications and nag screens. WGA senior product manager Alex Kochis posted the details of today's changes, with screen shots, on Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage blog today.

The new WGA code in SP1 is designed to detect two of the most common activation cracks: one tries to fool Vista into thinking that it's an OEM; the other fools the activation timer into waiting until some far-off date in the future. Later this month, before SP1 begins rolling out, Microsoft plans to deliver a Vista update that checks for the presence of those two specific cracks. Unlike XP's WGA add-in, which was designed to confirm that the system's activation was valid and wound up failing too often, this one looks only for the details of those two hacks.

It's worth noting that this first release of the crack-detecting update won't try to remove the crack or shut down the computer; Kochis says the detection and removal functions will be combined in the next release, with no date announced for that. In the upcoming version of this update, links on the informational dialog box will lead to webpages with repair details, but you can dismiss the dialog box immediately - and permanently, if you choose. Anyone who sought out and used one of these two hacks to avoid paying for a legitimate copy of Windows will probably not be surprised.

(They can also use a different activation hack that Microsoft hasn't yet written detection code for.) In addition to those unrepentant pirates, however, Microsoft believes there are a significant number of technically unsophisticated customers who had their system upgraded by a friend or a shady repair shop and have no idea that it's been hacked. For them, the new update is designed to serve as an early warning that they'll have to deal with product activation sooner or later.

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16 Comments

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How about Microsoft lowering their price for once, instead of worrying about cracks. Or reducing all the stupid activation requirements instead of making them worse... such as OEM copies which can't be activated again once you change the parts on your computer. That is just stupid. Or perhaps I should say Microsoft is just stupid.

Why are they doing this now? Is it selling too bad? Or do they not trust their system in not reporting false positives so this is a safety net if something goes wrong?

(Jugalator said @ #2)
Why are they doing this now? Is it selling too bad? Or do they not trust their system in not reporting false positives so this is a safety net if something goes wrong?

They have a right to protect their own software. Their methods in the past might not have been perfect, so be grateful that they're ONLY targeting specific hacks with this one. If you don't like it, don't pirate Vista, simple as that.

(Kushan said @ #2.2)
They have a right to protect their own software. Their methods in the past might not have been perfect, so be grateful that they're ONLY targeting specific hacks with this one. If you don't like it, don't pirate Vista, simple as that.

Of course all of their efforts are meaningless in the long run. They should concentrate on making Windows better, not more annoying. All this is going to do is help OSes that don't have this nonsense on them at all. Microsoft can't win this war.

(Foub said @ #2.3)

Of course all of their efforts are meaningless in the long run. They should concentrate on making Windows better, not more annoying. All this is going to do is help OSes that don't have this nonsense on them at all. Microsoft can't win this war.

True. I know the saying goes "Anecdotal evidence isn't," but all the talk of Vista DRM, activation, WGA, Secure Audio Path, HDCP and the like that are (or were rumoured to be) supported in Vista prompted me to upgrade from XP to Ubuntu.

Microsoft may or may not be able to stop me from pirating their product. What they absolutely cannot do, however, is force me to give them money. The license for XP that came with my laptop is the last purchase they will see from me.

Don't care about games. Don't care about Aero (I have Compiz). Don't care about "hardware compatibility" - so far every device I've plugged into my laptop has been recognized straight away by Ubuntu. I'm not seeing the "Wow," either, that they were touting with Vista. Don't need BitLocker (been using GPG since probably 2004), don't need DreamScene (VLC can do the same thing with any video file).

Windows has nothing I want and WGA only makes it less attractive. "Removing fangs" isn't enough. Remove WGA itself and you'll have my attention. Remove DRM (all of it, across the board, no exceptions) and you'll have my respect back. If you don't care about my respect, that is okay, just understand that I will not use your product as it exists currently.

(Kushan said @ #2.2)
They have a right to protect their own software. Their methods in the past might not have been perfect, so be grateful that they're ONLY targeting specific hacks with this one. If you don't like it, don't pirate Vista, simple as that.


Actually if I do not like it I will buy XP or something else. Simple as that.

(CelticWhisper said @ #2.4)
True. I know the saying goes "Anecdotal evidence isn't," but all the talk of Vista DRM, activation, WGA, Secure Audio Path, HDCP and the like that are (or were rumoured to be) supported in Vista prompted me to upgrade from XP to Ubuntu.

Remove DRM (all of it, across the board, no exceptions) and you'll have my respect back. If you don't care about my respect, that is okay, just understand that I will not use your product as it exists currently.


No DRM = no choice of media. Systems without DRM can't play protected media.
I want freedom, not the limitation of my free choice.

(RealFduch said @ #2.6)

No DRM = no choice of media. Systems without DRM can't play protected media.
I want freedom, not the limitation of my free choice.

To me, DRM itself represents limitation of choice because I'm using what I want to use in a way someone else wants me to use it. There's plenty of free choice in the DRMless content world, and if enough people turn to it, the falling sales and lost money will show those who use DRM that DRM hurts business.

Furthermore, if Microsoft drops DRM, who are the content industries going to turn to for help in copy-crippling their products? Apple? Record companies already hate Apple because they won't play their pricing games with iTMS.

I have no objections to breaking DRM and extracting the content it's "protecting" (read: infecting, crippling, destroying, damaging, value-reducing, handcuffing, imprisoning, fair-use-stealing) to use as I see fit. DMCA violation? Oh well, I know enough about privacy protection that I don't really see anything coming of that. However, if I'm going to break DRM systems, I'd rather not use an operating system that tries to stop me. My computer is MINE, god dammit, and it will do as I say. Linux enables this. Vista does not, by way of DRM.

And when push comes to shove, I can live without HD movies. I can sleep much sounder at night knowing I might not be able to watch LotR on Blu-Ray than I could knowing that I sacrificed the freedom to do what I want with my computer to the copyright industry. Screw them.

(RealFduch said @ #2.6)

No DRM = no choice of media. Systems without DRM can't play protected media.
I want freedom, not the limitation of my free choice.

Really? So how is that everybody is scrambling to offer music without DRM? Could it be because consumers, ergo the people who control the opening of the wallet, said "no thanks" to different, crippled formats? History has already proven that your statement is wrong.

(RealFduch said @ #2.6)
No DRM = no choice of media. Systems without DRM can't play protected media.
I want freedom, not the limitation of my free choice.

Don't confuse DRM with hardware-level protection like HDCP. An OS doesn't need DRM, because DRM doesn't stop piracy.

(Foub said @ #2.3)

Of course all of their efforts are meaningless in the long run. They should concentrate on making Windows better, not more annoying. All this is going to do is help OSes that don't have this nonsense on them at all. Microsoft can't win this war.

exectly, its like trying to grab a fist full of sand the harder you squeeze the more sand slips thru ur fingers.

as was pointed out on another forum i frequient, ms for years didnt even try and stop piracy, they WANTED to be pirated, because it ment the whole world started speeking windows both in os and in the software thats made for it, now that they have a virtual monopoly they have been trying to tighten the strings, but it hasnt worked 95% of the time because, most people dont have a hard time finding the cracks/ways around the "protection" ms uses.

that said, at lest no more kill switch, i had to call ms a few times for clients to get their vista back working due to faulse positives(oem machiens with NO cracks on them) where as i have seen probbly 80 people using pirated copys who, never had a problem........seems insain to me, catch the innocent and punish them, but the real target just snickers and keeps on going.......

ms cant win this war, they need to give it up, it just isnt something they can deal with, its like trying to kill fleas with a shotgun, you will kill a few of them, but most will escape the blast and keep on doing their own thing.

blah ms needs to STFU and FIX THEIR ****!!!

heres to hoping windows7 is better then vista in every possable way!!! it couldnt be worse in my oppenion(i have installed xp/2k for over 300 vista computer owners since it came out......all because they cant stand vistas buggs and crappy driver/software support)

Uh..does this suggest that the feature isn't already intergrated into sp1? that it will be a update both for
sp1 and rtm?

Tried the sp1 x64 iso thats out there (half-legal,since i own two vista ultimate licenses, but only use one:p), it was "pre-cracked", and i've never seen this?