Remember all of the trouble users have had with Windows Genuine Advantage program? It appears some similar problems are cropping up, if you take a look at Windows Vista Validation Issues (Windows Vista) there are over 200 posts detailing problems already, a lot of them appear to be caused by three programs, PC Tools Spyware Doctor (updating to the most recent version fixes the issue), Trend Micro Internet Security and PC-Cillin Anti-Virus (the issue goes away if you install version 14.56 or later), and nProtect GameGuard. The last one is a big problem, as gaming vendors have to get the patch and integrate it to fix the problem. Not good if you are a victim.
The underlying issues were identified by Microsoft a few days after Vista’s release to manufacturing last November and publicly disclosed in this post on the Windows Vista Validation Issues forum:
There are several threads in this forum that refer to Error 0xc004d401 causing non-genuine status or preventing activation. In those threads, we have discussed 3 applications that have been identified as conflicting with Vista software licensing technology (which causes the issue). Source: Problems arise with Vista?s validation
Ed has been detailing WGA problems for awhile now, so it is only fitting that he lead us into the problems with Vista now. He also points us to a post from the Vista Knowledge Base website, detailing troubles installing 9dragons.
I am playing the game when all of a sudden I get popped out of my game back to desktop with a message that my copy of Vista isn’t Genuine. Now I have the receipt, the box it came in, and the hole in my bank account to prove that I do indeed have a legal copy. It turns out that if you install a program your copies of Windows Vista will unactivate itself. I am livid, where does Microsoft get off telling me what I can put on my personal PC? I have been a Wintel network administrator going on 11 years now, and this just seems so over the top. Source: Windows Vista Activation Goes Too Far
I am assuming that 9dragons uses the nProtect GameGuard, but I don’t know this for sure, that website doesn’t list any reasons he thinks it happened, just that uninstalling it fixed the problem. Update: The game does use nProtect, as he notes in another blog post here, Windows Vista Activation Goes Too Far – Part 2. nProtect has been accused of acting like a rootkit, so that is probably why Vista sees it as a bad thing.
Microsoft has published a kb article detailing some reasons you may have to activate on a computer that you didn’t have to activate on before.
You may be prompted to activate Windows Vista on a computer on which Windows Vista activation was not previously required. Although this problem rarely occurs, it may occur during typical use of a Windows Vista-based computer. For example, this problem may occur under one or more of the following conditions:
You install a device driver.
You install a program.
You run a new program.
You remove a program.
This problem may occur because a specific system setting is removed when a program runs with administrative credentials. The removal of this system setting may cause a BIOS validation check to fail. The BIOS validation check is part of the system activation process. Therefore, you may be prompted to activate Windows Vista, even though the system did not previously require activation. For example, this problem is known to occur when you use Intuit QuickBooks 2007. However, this problem may also infrequently occur when you install other programs or device drivers. Source: You may be prompted to activate Windows Vista on a computer on which Windows Vista activation was not previously required
Download and install this patch to fix this problem or to prevent this from happening to you.
A post by from Information Week details troubles he had with Vista, a copy he received from Microsoft, a copy he had already validated.
My troubles began when I booted up my Vista box for the first time in a couple of weeks. (I still use XP on my main machine. I was thinking of moving over to the new system; now, I’m not so sure.) After booting up, I got a message that my activation period had “expired,” and I would have to reactivate. Even though I had previously — and successfully — activated my copy of Windows Vista, this gave me only the slightest pause, since it was a minor glitch not out of the ordinary from what one might expect with a new operating system.
Did I want to re-activate over the Internet? Of course! Alas, that was not to be; apparently my copy of Vista wasn’t genuine, at least according to my PC. (Did I mention that, as a tech reviewer, I got my copy of Vista directly from Microsoft?) My PC did tell me that I could enter a new product key if I wanted to. (That, and $450, will get you a new copy Vista.) Er, no. Source: Vista Still Seems Buffeted By Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) ‘False Positives’
More info and help in the following Microsoft articles:
The WGA Blog has a post answering questions on how many copies are flagged as being not genuine, etc, but they don’t really give any numbers, More on: WGA False Positives. It does note that some New WGA Notifications rolling out… soon.
Before you run out, buy a plane ticket and fly to Bangkok and purchase a hundred copies, these are pirated copies of the recent RTM of Windows Vista, and this article did not confirm whether the software will pass the Windows Genuine Advantage checks, as they did not install the software. I wish they would send it to me, I would like to find out whether it really works or not. If it didn’t, I doubt the stores would exchange it for software that does work, hehe.
We bought our Vista RTM copy in a regular store in an upscale mall in Bangkok. Vista, along with other expensive software, was prominently on display at several stores with prices ranging from $2.50 to $5.00 (US).
Photocopies of the front and back box covers are usually displayed along with a three digit number. Customers simply write down the numbers of the software they want to purchase and take them to the store’s cashier. After paying in the store, it takes about ten minutes for a runner to bring a freshly burned copy of the software.
According to media reports, every few months the Thai police sends people to raid some of the stores, but the officers often end up empty handed. Since the DVDs are burned off-site, there is often no contraband at the store. In addition, stores appear to be well connected and are often told in advance when the police will raid the mall. Source: TGDaily
They figured out later that the DVD they purchased contained a fully functional RTM version and virus-free of Windows Vista that would allow us to install Vista Basic, Vista Premium, Vista Business or Vista Ultimate, although they did not install it. I would’ve tried it out on a piece of crap machine that you don’t need anyway, to at least confirm some of their story. They said on the back of the box it says to set the bios time to the year 2099, and once its installed set the desktop time to the correct date. Surely this simple hack won’t allow it to bypass the WGA checks for software updates, will t? Can anyone confirm or deny this?
It is estimated that 79% of installed software in Thailand is pirated and is a huge problem in Asia.
And it’s bringing new checking abilities with it. Microsoft is preparing to push out the latest version of it’s controversial WGA, Windows Genuine Advantage, tool to Windows XP users in the coming weeks. Some of the things that have changed, are the installation is more clear on what it actually does, and a change to the wording if your PC is found “not genuine”. The new version will state: “Your system did not pass genuine validation.” Oh, yah, that should explain it all to Grandma and Grandpa, hehe.
“We received a lot of feedback that people wanted more information when the package came down through Automatic Updates and was offered to them,” Lazar said. The first screen of the new version gives an introduction to WGA Notifications in plain English, explains the benefit and the possible consequences if the XP copy is pirated, he said.
“It is necessary because we continue to discover new, compromised product keys,” Lazar said. “We want to update our notifications and validation tool from time to time to also check for those compromised keys.” Source: Security at ZDnet
So, we should be expecting a fresh new round of complaints from users, both who pirate and who buy it, since both had troubles on this last version. They plan on updating the tool every 3 or 4 months.
When originally asked if they were going to use Office Genuine Advantage to cripple users pc’s, like they are doing with Vista, Microsoft declined to comment. Well, the cat is out, and they are indeed going to force the reduced functionality on users who are suspected of running pirated software. I say suspected because they have had many, many problems and issues with Windows Genuine Advantage, as I originally noted here.
A knowledge base article, released on the 14th of November, Frequently asked questions about the Office Activation Wizard and about reduced-functionality mode in 2007 Office programs addresses this and reveals that they are indeed using reduced functionality mode. For perpetual license products, you can skip product activation 25 times. If you do not activate the product in the allocated number of program starts, the 2007 Office programs start to run in reduced-functionality mode, for Product Trial Program license products they start off running in reduced functionality mode.
When asked last month whether Microsoft was planning to punish alleged Office 2007 pirates by crippling the functionality of their software in the same way that Microsoft is doing with Vista via reduced-functionality mode, Microsoft officials were noncommittal.
But now Microsoft’s intentions are clear: Just as it is doing with Vista, Microsoft plans to incorporate what basically amounts to a “kill switch” into Office 2007. Office 2007 users who can?t or won?t pass activation muster within a set time period will be moved into “reduced-functionality mode,” according to Microsoft’s Knowledge Base article.
“When a program runs in reduced-functionality mode, many commands are unavailable (dimmed). Therefore, you cannot access those functionalities,” the article explains. Some of the limitations of reduced-functionality mode include the following:
- You cannot create new documents.
- You can view existing documents. However, you cannot edit them.
- You can print documents. However you cannot save them.”
There is already a crapload of comments on that blog post, so I assume the Microsoft haters have jumped in and the fun has commenced, but I don’t know that for sure, there could actually be some good comments there. I wonder if the reason they waited until to announce was because of all of the trouble Windows Genuine Advantage has caused?
If you hate or have had trouble with WGA, or Windows Genuine Advantage, their tool that checks to see if your Windows is pirated or not, then you are going to love this. Today, Microsoft has launched Office Genuine Advantage, or OGA, which will require mandatory validation of Office software starting October 27, 2006. Any Office Online templates downloaded from the Office 2007 Microsoft Office System will require validation. Starting in January, Office Update will require validation as well before you can download updates. What will this mean for Office 2007 users? Many people have had trouble with WGA, can similar troubles be expected from OGA?
Users absolutely hated the first iteration of the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program, and their protests pressured the company into revising it about a year after it launched in July 2005.
Microsoft said in a press statement that the validation process will be “quick and simple” for users. The OGA program, currently in the testing phase, is now available in 26 languages worldwide.
Microsoft has integrated this check directly into the next version of its OS, Windows Vista, as part of what it is calling a “Software Protection Platform.” Through that automatic validation system, a Vista user must activate his or her copy of the software with a valid activation key within 30 days after purchase of the software, or see the OS enter a reduced functionality mode. In that mode, users can browse the Web for an hour but then the system will log them out, and they will have to log in again if they want to browse more. Source: PC World
One would expect similar troubles with OGA, I expect more users to stick with 2003 instead of upgrading, and I know some business owners will probably look long and hard at what they plan on doing concerning Office from now on.
Earlier this week a server on the backend of the WGA service experienced a bug that resulted in a temporary outage. As a result, some systems were incorrectly flagged as being non-genuine, and we want to confirm for those who contacted us about this that it was indeed an error. The WGA team apologizes for any disruption this may have caused for our customers. The bug that caused this issue was identified and fixed within twenty four hours of being discovered.
Here are the steps to fix this:
- Delete the data.dat file from C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Windows Genuine Advantage\data (The drive letter will depend on where the OS was installed)
- Revisit http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/downloads/validate.aspx to confirm whether the machine is genuine.
- Run wgatray.exe /b from the command line to ensure that the latest validation is updated for WGA Notifications. This command may be absent from the user?s machine and should not be considered an error. Please ensure that this is run as an Administrator. A reboot may be required to remove all non-genuine notifications.
They also created a kb document to help explain and fix this problem, Windows XP-based computers that were installed by using a Volume License product key might be marked as non-genuine, which has instructions to fix it manually, automated or with a script.
Other articles about WGA on this site:
Windows Vista and Windows Server Longhorn to reduce Piracy
Windows Genuine Advantage False Positives
How to Remove Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications
Windows Genuine Advantage has been a big problem from Windows users, and I’m sure, it’s been a big pain in Microsoft’s behind. Looking in Microsoft’s WGA Validation Problems forum you’ll see well over 2,200 posts on the subject, and lots of unhappy people. Ed Bott of Microsoft Report has posted many items concerning WGA, and one of the most recent ones can give you an idea of how many people are getting fasle positives.
Even a casual reading of the posts at the WGA Validation Problems forum makes it clear that WGA has serious problems. But Microsoft refuses to share any hard data about WGA installations, making it impossible for independent observers to quantify the extent of the problems. Until now, that is.
With the help of a researcher, I went through a sample of 137 recent problem reports from actual Windows users, posted publicly on the WGA Validation Problems forum. Our research was the online equivalent of listening in to two weeks worth of calls to Microsoft’s support lines. The results we found directly contradict Microsoft’s insistence that “only a handful of actual false positives have been seen.”
According to our analysis, 42% of the people who experienced problems with WGA and reported those problems to Microsoft’s public forums during that period were actually running Genuine Microsoft Windows. That’s not just our opinion, either. Those statistics were reported by the Redmond-approved Microsoft Genuine Advantage Diagnostic utility.
42% is a lot of false positives. I’ve never had any trouble with WGA myself, and we haven’t at any of our client computers either, but that doesn’t mean it won’t or it hasn’t. He points out problems with Mcafee’s QuickClean registry cleaner, and people who were getting cryptographic errors, which has been solved, even if it is a little tedious for most users to do.
The only word from Microsoft to him was an email sent after he had already left the office that day, he posted it in a follow up message, here,
The Windows XP Validation tools are very accurate at determining if a copy of Windows is genuine or not. 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. Microsoft works closely with these unknowing victims to remedy the situation. The false positive rate for WGA Validation failure is a fraction of one percent, and in these cases a bug was at fault and repaired shortly after. We are constantly evaluating the criteria for validation and are confident that validation results are accurate.
Another one of those “nothing to see here”, nothing wrong messages we usually get from big corporations. Microsoft has definitely failed it’s users when it comes to WGA.