To prevent occurrences of software piracy being committed against its product, Microsoft issues some of its Windows operating systems, including the more recent editions, with the Windows Genuine Advantage program. The purpose of this program is to make it more difficult for people to use features gained through software piracy by embedding a function which checks that operating systems which log into online services offered through Microsoft have been properly licensed.
It consists of two separately enabled and targeted functions, one which operates whenever a user logs onto a Microsoft-created operating system, and the other which checks that a license is present before the user can download online updates to the system.
Operating systems which fail the test of Windows Genuine Advantage will receive warning messages informing the user of the need to verify the system’s license, and if they fail to pass such requirements, will be barred from receiving updates or from being able to download Microsoft’s internet browser or media file player.
The first component of the Windows Genuine Advantage system is the WGA Notification function, which is installed to check the operating system’s license. This function is enabled through Winlogon, the program which deals with the various tasks involved in logging on and off a Windows operating system.
The second is enabled through ActiveX. The operating systems for which Windows Genuine Advantage can be used effectively include Windows Vista, XP, and updated editions of Windows 7, while excluding the Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition operating systems.
Microsoft does not hold installation of Windows Genuine Advantage to be a legal necessity for using a Windows operating system. Rather, the orientation of the design of Window Genuine Advantage’s various functions is to make software piracy less convenient for its perpetrators and force people not informed about their computer’s provenance to become more aware of the occurrences of software piracy.
Changes later put into place in the capabilities of Windows Genuine Advantage toward the “Professional” edition of an XP operating system function not to appreciably change the performance of a computer, but rather to make cosmetic changes to the screen display designed to make the user continually aware of the disadvantages of an unlicensed system.
Criticism of the use of Windows Genuine Advantage against software piracy include both the complaint that it does not serve the interests of the user of the system but only those of Microsoft itself and that its ability to perform such functions are flawed by several crucial oversights in the system. Another issue which has been widely reported and used to criticize the program is the finding that many operating systems not gained through software piracy nonetheless do not pass the validation procedures of the program successfully.
One claim against the effectiveness of Windows Genuine Advantage claimed that around twenty-two percent of all operating systems are rejected by the program, against which Microsoft has claimed that less than one percent of computers are invalidated completely without cause