Q&A: Windows XP Notifications changes – August 2008
Q: What is WGA Notifications?
A: Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications is a program that helps Microsoft fight software piracy
and helps you validate that the copy of Microsoft Windows XP installed on your computer is genuine
and properly licensed. By confirming that your copy of Windows XP is genuine, you can take advantage
of all the capabilities, support, and continuous improvements—as well as the peace of mind—that come
with using genuine Windows. If your copy is not genuine, WGA Notifications will provide periodic
reminders to help you take the appropriate action. It's part of Microsoft's commitment to fight software
counterfeiting and help you avoid problems before they happen.
Q: What changes are you making to WGA Notifications for Windows XP?
A: We are making changes to WGA Notifications in Windows XP to make the experience similar to the
Notifications experience in Windows Vista Service Pack 1. The release will only affect Windows XP
Professional users. We’ve removed the installation wizard to offer a streamlined installation experience.
Additionally, a new End User License Agreement (EULA) allows users to receive future updates to WGA
automatically. Users who are notified that their copy of Windows XP may not be genuine will receive
notifications prompting them to validate it. If a user fails to validate Windows XP after 30 days, the
desktop will revert to a plain black background after 60 minutes. Additional notifications prompting the
user to validate Windows XP will be given.
Q: Who will receive this new version of WGA Notifications?
A: This update will be delivered to Windows XP Professional users who download the update from
Windows Update (WU) or Automatic Updates (AU).
Q: Why is this new version of WGA Notifications being delivered only to Windows XP Professional
A: Windows XP Professional is much more frequently pirated and counterfeited than other editions of
Q: What’s the difference between anti-piracy technologies in Windows XP and Windows Vista?
A: They are both designed to protect users from pirated and counterfeit software, which is a real threat
to users because it often contains viruses, worms, or spyware. Windows Vista features new anti-piracy
technology in the form of the Software Protection Platform (SPP). SPP features code protection
technology, tamper resistance, and the ability to require reactivation for a system that may have a
compromised product key.
Q: Why are you releasing these updates since Windows XP is no longer available?
A: The release of these updates has nothing to do with Windows XP’s retail availability. Microsoft is
committed to providing customers with a positive experience, and we remain committed to fighting
software piracy even if Windows XP is no longer available in all channels.
Q: Does the black desktop reduce a computer’s functionality?
A: No. The black desktop does not reduce a computer’s functionality or shut it down. Users who see this
screen can revert to their original desktop by right-clicking on the desktop and choosing “properties” or
changing the display in the Control Panel; however, until the copy of Windows XP is properly validated,
the desktop will continue to display a plain black background after 60 minutes.
Q: Will users of non-genuine Windows XP have their computers shut down?
A: No. Users whose copy of Windows XP fails validation will receive frequent notifications that they may
be victims of software counterfeiting. Additionally, their desktop background will change to plain black
every 60 minutes.
Q: Will users be able to turn off or disable these notifications?
A: Yes; however, once Windows XP Notifications is installed, it becomes a permanent part of the
operating system and cannot be uninstalled. Also, future updates to WGA Notifications may restore the
notifications settings to their original state.
Q: What if my copy of Windows XP turns out to be non-genuine when I thought I acquired a legal
A: Often, users have no idea that their copy of Windows is counterfeit. WGA validation failure can occur
when Windows XP is installed using a stolen or compromised product key.
The most common cause is the "repair shop" scenario. In this scenario, a genuine Windows customer
takes their PC to be repaired. Unbeknownst to the customer, the repair shop installs an unlicensed copy
of Windows. The customer has a genuine product key, but a non-genuine key was used to activate
Windows on the computer. Another common scenario is when someone purchases a new PC from a
dishonest business that charges them for genuine software but installs a pirated copy of Windows. The
user believes they have paid for a copy of Windows, but they were given a pirated copy.
Through its outreach efforts, Microsoft has worked to educate the channel partners to help reduce the
incidence of these scenarios. Microsoft provides assistance for customers who experience these issues.
In some cases, customers can qualify for a free replacement copy by submitting proof of purchase of a
high quality counterfeit and reporting the source.
Q: How will this updates be released?
A: These updates will be released via Windows Update as an important update.
Q: Why did you make these changes?
A: The changes in this release reflect our commitment to continuously improving our ability to fight
software piracy as well as improving the experience for legitimate customers.
Q: Will a user who accepted WGA Notifications in the previous release now be re-offered this new
A: Customers who have already installed WGA Notifications will be offered the option to accept the
updated package. Participation remains completely optional, and all users can continue to receive
critical security updates regardless of whether they install this update. Installation of the latest version
is always recommended.
Q: Who will receive this new version of Notifications?
A: We will begin to distribute this update to select areas beginning in August. Broader distribution is
planned later in the fall.
Q: What happens if my copy of Windows XP fails validation and I want to get a genuine copy of
Windows XP? How can I do this?
A: From any screen notifying of a failed validation, a user will be able to obtain more information on why
the copy of Windows XP is not genuine, as well as resources for getting a genuine copy. Visit
www.microsoft.com/genuine for more information. Specifically a consumer can purchase a license for a
genuine copy through the resources Microsoft provides, or can purchase a Get Genuine Kit for Windows
XP from a reseller. Businesses that need to purchase a significant number of licenses should contact
their resellers and ask about the Get Genuine Windows Agreement, or work with their local Microsoft
Q: How often will updates to the Notifications program occur?
A: The threat of software piracy is constantly evolving, and as such we are committed to updating and
improving the technology we use to fight it. Customers can expect updates to the program a few times
Q: What is the difference between WGA Validation and WGA Notifications in Windows XP?
A: WGA Validation determines whether the copy of Windows XP installed on a PC is genuine and
licensed. WGA Validation was launched worldwide in July 2005 and is required for any download on
Windows Update, Microsoft Update and the Microsoft Download Center. WGA Validation does not
collect any information that Microsoft will use to identify or contact the user. The validation process
includes the following steps:
Upon their first visit to the Microsoft Download Center, Windows Update or Microsoft Update,
users will receive a message requiring them to validate their Windows.
Users will be prompted to download an ActiveX control which checks the authenticity of their
Windows software and, if successful in validating Windows, stores a special license on the PC for
The validation process electronically checks for several known counterfeiting methods. Users do
not have to manually enter information in most cases.
After successful validation, users may continue their download.
With WGA Notifications, Automatic Update users will automatically be offered the WGA
validation check and will be notified only if their copy of Windows XP is identified as non-
WGA Notifications reminds users who fail validation that they are not running genuine Windows and
directs them to resources to learn more about the benefits of using genuine Windows software. WGA
Notifications is currently not required to use Automatic Updates. WGA Notifications includes the WGA
Q: Is releasing this update via Automatic Updates a way to slip this past users?
A: We think it is important to provide full details about the program. The Automatic Update acceptance
dialog is the standard mechanism for providing details and opt-in functionality to users. We’re always
interested in customer feedback and will take it into account as we plan future releases.
Q: Is the persistent desktop notification or black screen permanent?
A: The desktop background will revert to a black background after 60 minutes, until the user has
successfully validated the copy of Windows XP or resolved the failure by purchasing a genuine product
key or another method. The persistent desktop notification will remain until the user has successfully
validated the copy of Windows or enters a genuine product key.
Q: I understand that changes have been made to the WGA licensing agreement? What’s new?
A: The new EULA states that updates to WGA will be made automatically, so that users with genuine
Windows XP software can obtain future updates without having to review them first.
Q: Once I’ve agreed to the EULA, can I turn off Automatic Updates?
A: Because Microsoft delivers a number of updates via Windows Update, we recommend that you keep
Automatic Updates running.
Q: Will you notify me if you make changes to the EULA again?
A: Yes. If the terms of the current EULA change, you will be notified and asked to accept it. However,
upon acceptance of this EULA, you will not be asked to accept modifications to the WGA Notifications
program for Windows XP; they will be delivered automatically.
Q: Why was it important to automate the updates to WGA Notifications for Windows XP?
A: Our customers have told us that while they appreciate knowing that their WGA software is the latest
they prefer to be asked less often to install updates.
Q: What is the user experience for someone running non-genuine Windows XP with WGA
A: Users running genuine Windows XP will see no effect after the initial installation. Users running non-
genuine Windows XP will see the notifications at login time, and periodically via a system tray bubble
notification, a persistent desktop notification as well as the desktop background changing every 60
minutes to a plain black background. Messages are also displayed until the system is running genuine
Windows XP. Users can choose to suppress the messages. WGA Notifications will run on computers that
are not running genuine Windows and direct users to the microsoft.com/genuine Web site, where they
can learn more about the benefits of genuine software and take advantage of the offer designed to help
victims of counterfeit software.
Q: Did you make these changes as a result of negative feedback you received over WGA?
A: The changes in this release reflect our commitment to continuously improving our ability to fight
software piracy as well as improving the experience for legitimate customers.
Q: Is this a beta test?
A: No, this is final release software.
Q: What will motivate people to opt-in?
A: People want to know that they have the protection of running genuine software. This tool helps
validate that. As always, if a user finds out they were the victim of a counterfeit copy, they will have the
option to apply to Microsoft for a free replacement copy.
Q: Is the Software Protection Platform a part of these WGA changes?
A: No, the Software Protection Platform is a fundamentally different technology from WGA. It is built
into Windows Vista. This update provides improvements to the existing WGA technology.
Q: Are you sacrificing the satisfaction of your customers in order to make more money for Microsoft?
A: Absolutely not. While tolerance for piracy is indeed decreasing, taking care of customers is our top
priority. Our commitment to fair and friendly application of these new policies is just as important, if not
more important, than our goal to reduce piracy.
Q: What are you doing to address the public outcry over the WGA program?
A: We take all feedback on the program very seriously. Customers suggested we do three things with
this technology: make it obvious what the rules are; be consistent and transparent in communications;
and remind them of the rules early and often so they don’t inadvertently make a mistake. We are
listening to our customers, and our ability to apply our anti-piracy technologies while ensuring customer
satisfaction is rapidly increasing.
Q: How does Microsoft know that a customer’s key became invalid?
A: Microsoft may block Windows product keys that have been abused, stolen or misappropriated. If a
user attempts to access a download that requires genuine validation, and their key is detected as being
blocked, their Windows XP system will fail to validate and receive error messages.
Q: How can I trust Microsoft to get the validation step right? There seem to be a lot of Windows XP
customers who have been mislabeled as non-genuine.
A: We have found that many customers who originally felt their copy of Windows XP had been
inaccurately labeled as non-genuine were surprised to learn that they were indeed running non-genuine
software, often at no fault of their own. For example, we’ve seen situations of consumers taking their
computers to repair shops. Without their knowledge these shops use blocked license keys to re-image a
computer, rather than using the computer owner’s unique key number. As a result, these consumers
can be labeled as non-genuine. Microsoft works closely with these unknowing victims to remedy the
situation. We are constantly evaluating the criteria for validation and continue to improve the process
Q: What is a false positive?
A: A false positive and occurs when a customer attempts to validate their genuinely licensed copy of
Windows, but is incorrectly given a “non-genuine” result. False positives are a relatively rare
occurrence. During these situations, Microsoft works closely with customers via our support lines and
customer forum to help the user resolve the issue.
Q: What about false positives?
A: Our responsibility and commitment is to manage false positive reports as low as we can, and provide
resolution for any customer who finds a problem with our system. Steps are available on our support
forum for customers to correct any problems they are experiencing with this issue. We recognize the
inconvenience for our customers and are always available to address their specific concerns.
Q: It seems like there are a lot of reports of false positives. How many have you seen?
A: Like any Internet-based service, WGA does have service interruptions from time to time, and this can
result in false positives in rare cases. During these situations, we work closely with customers via our
support lines and customer forum to help anyone who is affected. While it is difficult to quote an exact
number, we are confident that our support services are adequate to assist customers who may be
Q: Is a free Genuine offer still available at www.microsoft.com/piracy for users who purchased
counterfeit Windows unwittingly? What are the terms of the deal?
A: Yes, the free offer is still available. Users need to provide proof of purchase, submit a counterfeit
report with details of the transaction, and send in the counterfeit media, which must be high-quality
counterfeit in order to qualify (discs that are clearly home-made are not acceptable).
Q: Are there specific benefits for customers who choose to purchase a genuine license? What is the
genuine Windows offer?
A: The genuine Windows offer is designed to help customers who unknowingly acquired counterfeit
versions of Windows XP, by offering those who qualify a complimentary copy or electronic license key
for a genuine copy of Windows XP. The offers are available worldwide for Windows XP Pro and Home
customers who mistakenly acquired counterfeit software. Qualifying customers who fill out a
counterfeit report, provide proof of purchase, and send in their counterfeit CDs may receive a genuine
copy at no cost. Customers may also purchase a WGA Legalization Kit including a copy of Windows XP
Professional for $149.
Q: Why does Microsoft continue to sell legalization kits for Windows XP through its Genuine Web site,
when retailers and PC manufacturers (OEMs) can no longer sell Windows XP licenses? Isn’t that an
advantage to the pirates, when legitimate customers still want to acquire Windows XP?
A: While large OEMs are no longer offering preinstallation of Windows XP, except as a downgrade from
Windows Vista, smaller OEMs can offer Windows XP through January 2009. Some users will discover
after installing the WGA Notifications update that they may be unwitting victims of pirated or
counterfeit software. Additionally, customers can also encounter issues when taking their computers to
repair shops; for example, systems can be reimaged with a different key than the customer’s unique
key. By offering the legalization kit for Windows XP, as well as the “Get Genuine Kit,” we provide
recourse to these people.
Q: Do you collect PII (personally identifiable information) during the WGA validation process? Will
Microsoft keep a list of people whose software isn’t genuine?
A: To help you validate your software, WGA collects a certain amount of configuration information from
your computer. It does not collect your name, address, e-mail address, or any other information that
Microsoft will use to identify you or contact you. To help spot possible systematic abuse of licenses,
geographical location of the computer being validated is derived from its IP address. To help protect
your privacy, this is done at a precision that does not identify an individual user or computer.
Q: Do you have any WGA statistics to share?
A: In 2006, there were nearly 400 million validations. Since the inception of the WGA validation tool,
there have been more than 100,000 counterfeit reports submitted through WGA by those who feel they
were victims of counterfeit software.