back to article Microsoft rebrands WGA nagware for Windows 7

A nagware anti-piracy feature in Windows isn't going away, it's just getting a marketing makeover by Microsoft. Windows Genuine Advantage is being re-branded Windows Activation Technologies in Windows 7 and for updated versions of Windows Vista, the company has said. Microsoft claimed the change reflected the use of " …


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  1. Brian Jones

    interesting choice

    How long before someone adds The in front of the rest of the name of this new technology..

  2. Scott Broukell
    Paris Hilton

    does that mean .....

    ....... that each of "The Windows Activation Technology" patches will be TWAT upgrades.

    Paris, cos she probably needs one by now.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Typical Microsoft

    Change the marketing, not the product.

  4. bruceld
    Thumb Down

    Is Windows 7 RC ready? ummm

    I spoke nothing but kind words about Windows 7 Beta even praising it all over the internet and to my friends and family.

    I now have to think twice about Windows 7 RC. I could be doing something as innocuous as absolutely nothing, or browsing a web page. Suddenly, POOF, my screen goes black but the system lights are still on. The mouse or keyboard can not wake up my system forcing a hard reboot.

    My system also occasionally freezes for several seconds for no apparent reason.

    Hardware problem? Let me see; Windows XP worked fine, Windows Vista SP1 worked fine, Windows 7 Beta worked fine, and suddenly and only after Windows 7 RC is installed I suddenly get black screens, system freezes and pauses.

    I will have to think twice about buying or recommending Windows 7.

  5. ChessGeek


    "We haven't figured out how to actually make the stupid thing work right, so we're just dressing it up differently."

  6. Steve Spiller

    Could have chosen a better name

    Surely I'm not the only one to add an extra T to Windows Activation Technologies (WAT)?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Yet another reason to switch to GNU/Linux

    Microsoft. Just more of the same. Really, why do people put up with them.

  8. J


    "activation helps them identify if their copy of Windows is genuine"

    I'd say that users nearly always know already whether their copy is "genuine" or not. So WGA can go away and nothing will be lost to the users, then, according to MS.

  9. Robert Moore


    I am so glad I got away from Microsoft.

    OS/X kicks MS ass

  10. Martin

    Could someone explain to me .....

    ........ how annoying the buggery* out of people who have bought your product is going to prevent 'piracy' ?

    *technical microsoft term (or it should be)

  11. Andy
    Thumb Up

    Fair enough

    WGA is one of the reasons I've removed almost every single trace of Microsoft from my company. An estimated £15k a year saving and we are happier and more productive as a result.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    WAT, WAT, WAT?

    If Microsoft gives us WAT, can we answer with TYLER?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    "More can always be done"

    Yeah, like maybe making windows more secure out of the box, using Microsoft Update to deliver that security to the installed userbase, not preventing users downloading security patches, not producing a plethora of confusing "versions" of the same product in an effort to rip people off, not failing to activate genuine copies of windows, not deactivating genuine copies following a hardware upgrade, not trying yet again to monopolise the browser market etc etc etc.

    And Windows Activation Technology - that'd be WAT, as in "Wat are microsoft on, that they think its a good idea to severely p*ss off their customerbase?". Have they not noticed what happened to SCO, etc?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Just what we need

    a killer reason to upgrade - to linux!

  15. the spectacularly refined chap

    You can't buy a copy of Windows anymore

    I installed a copy of Windows 386 a few months back. Don't bother asking why because it is a long and ultimately irrelevant story. The thing is that 20 years ago I bought a copy of Windows 386 and it is mine. I can reinstall it 20 years later if I so wish.

    Will MS still be providing the activation infrastructure for Vista and Windows 7 in 20 years time? Somehow I doubt it. At some point they will claim that it is no longer economic to continue proving it, come up with some unbelievable and entirely unverifiable figures (Last year only five users activated at a cost of $20.2 million...). They will claim that the users have got their money's worth out of the software and ignore the fact that they bought it and have a contractual right to activation.

    In essence then, you can no longer buy a copy of Windows. What you are buying is a lease to use the software until some unspecified date in the future when MS decide that you should no longer be using it. They could easily force upgrades on people by doing this too aggressively, but even without doing so the software has a limited operating life and is sold in a fundamentally fraudulent manner from day one.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Daniel Bennett


    Just can't help but call it TWAT instead.

  18. Anonymous Coward


    How about Tunable Windows Activation Technology?

  19. Colin Wilson

    "new code" ?

    "Microsoft claimed the change reflected the use of "fundamentally" different technologies - new code and "latest methods""

    Weren't they recently fined $Millions for stealing someone elses' intellectual property for software activation systems ? Perhaps this is the workaround...

    Open source needs to license, other than the one that tells you to use it however you want :-)

  20. wibbilus maximus


    They should rename it Tedious Windows Activation Technology System

    Now there's a suitable acronym if ever i saw one :D

  21. Adrian Challinor
    Paris Hilton

    Wow - what a sales pitch

    This makes me want to upgrade the wife's version of Vista, which she is constantly complaining about, with a version of Windows 7, in what way? I have to pay for it; I have to make sure that every time I upgrade I must register that fact with the police in Redmond; and it soaks up half the godamn CPU just keeping its visual fluff alive (yes, ladies, I do disable this!).

    Or I could choose Ubuntu. No nags, free software, install what you want and when you want.

    Paris - because even her sales pitch doesn't have as many caveats as MS.

  22. raving angry loony


    So is it "The Windows Activation Technologies" or "Today's Windows Activation Technologies"?. Either way, I'm sure T.W.A.T. is well and accurately named, and that T.W.A.T. will be just as useful in Windows7 as it was before it was renamed.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "WGA is one of the reasons I've removed almost every single trace of Microsoft from my company. An estimated £15k a year saving and we are happier and more productive as a result."

    So either you were using dodgy software causing the activation to kick in, constantaly changing hardware causing the activation to kick in, or your a utter idiot , which of the three was it?

    Why is everyone so against this tech, it is BETTER (yes thats right better) that most activation tech out there, for various programs on windows, steams activation system dies if theres no net as there no backup (and the offline mode is crap to say the least), securom breaks all the time. Yet ms have a proper system for offline installs that actually works quite well, and the internet retard bridgade seems to go on its back.... because its MS.

  24. Geoff Mackenzie

    "WGA is not going away"

    Beg to differ. Installed Ubuntu, and it seems to be gone now.

  25. Lee Dowling
    Thumb Down

    And this helps us how?

    As a business customer of Windows how, exactly, does this help me? I'm already required to keep copious records of whether my software is genuine or not. It is. I'm already required to keep close track of what gets installed where. I do. I'm already required to pay for every license I need (something which MS is *determined* to make impossible unless I buy into one of their annual payment volume licensing plans). I do.

    If WGA/TWAT fails, I have to deal with the consequences, which soaks up my time and money. And I *know* that sitting on the Internet will be several million Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian businesses and millions of worldwide personal users who are using blanket keys to install Windows whenever/wherever they like.

    Tell me, as a *paying* *customer* who is always fully licensed (as required and checked by not just the law and Microsoft but every single level of employee above me), how exactly do I benefit? Reduced costs from lowered prices? Nope. The opposite. Reduced piracy? Nope (in fact, the opposite because even home users don't care any more because genuine versions have bugged them too, so they just always use pirated keys and actually get Pro/Business instead of Home versions "for free" because of it). Extra added functionality? Nope. In fact, all I get is *nagged* for X% of installs when I have upgraded or changed a computer that had WGA installed.

    It's a crock. The fact is that the LESS you trust your paying customers (and they are the ONLY ones that matter, because they are PAYING you to continue surviving), the less they trust you. And that's a downward spiral that has recently resulted in MS's first ever annual loss on its accounts (not to mention poor OS's and bad marketing all round for the past few years).

    I had one program just lately that still demanded a key *floppy* disc in order to install or remove itself. So obviously, I complained first to see if there was an alternative. Not even for a *network* full of PC's... manual installation/uninstallation on every single one, using a USB floppy drive and a dodgy old 3.5". Fine. So the *first* thing on my mind, as a fully-paid-up customer, was how to defeat this "protection". I took images of the floppy at key intervals, determined the copy protection changes each time, then made a "generic" disk /setup program that would always install and bypass the crap copy protection. So what that company did, by being over-zealous with their copy protection on a crappy program for kids that I could write in less time than it takes to install, was to turn me into someone who cracks their program for a living. I might not be *distributing* that information to the general public, but I imagine that somewhere, someone would be.

    And if another tech, in another school, asks me about the program, I have two things to say "Don't buy it" and/or "Here, this is how you get round their copy protection" (even if it's in the form of "Make an image before and after, and see if you spot anything in sector 86"). And that's from *paying* customers. When your own customers are telling each other how to defeat your own software, you have a problem bigger than just upgrading WGA or similar.

    Copy protection. Losing customers for your business since the 1970's.

    The most effective form of copy protection I ever saw was on the game Saboteur on the ZX Spectrum. On loading, the screen displayed a tiny little flashing warning on the main menu that said "If the word Durell is not printed on the tape of this cassette, it is an illegal copy.". You know the *FIRST* thing I did when I saw that? I ejected the tape and checked for the word, despite there being a shiny new game sitting in front of me ready to play. It didn't get in my way, it didn't hinder my use of the program, it didn't label me as a criminal, it effectively identified a way for a genuine customer to determine if they have unwittingly purchased a forgery and, most importantly, it prompted me to check in a very reasonable manner. It also had *exactly* the same impact on actual pirates as every single modern copy protection I've ever seen since. Every time I load that game up in an emulator, I smile at the message. Because I *do* still have the original tape, with the words Durell, and back in the 80's somebody made a more effective copy protection mechanism than has ever been managed since.

  26. Barry Tabrah
    Gates Halo

    You may complain but it's working

    When I say working I mean that the use of non-legit copies of the OS amongst the people I meet has tended to decrease. It is often easier to purchase a copy of the OS than to try and fudge away the Activation with every Service Pack, and the cost of an OEM version is not unreasonable.

    Yes I know that Linux is free. And OSX doesn't need this tech because you have to buy an Apple computer to run it in the first place (officially). But with the Windows OS being the only purchasable OS for PC it's only fair that Microsoft try and protect their intellectual property isn't it?

  27. Antony Evans
    Paris Hilton

    Can I just say.....

    Lets put a T word in front of W.A.T so that the acronym is T.W.A.T (snigger, snurk ....)


    Paris, cos, well, you know. (snurk)

  28. Alan Newbury
    Jobs Horns


    Since it is an anti-piracy product(?) maybe it should be True Windows Activation Technologies

  29. Joe H.

    Change it to...

    Thoroughly Wasted Attempts Throughout, and then the shoreline will begin to hove into view.

    Misty, and indistinct in the distance, yet never clear, or solid in state. After you finally run aground on that rocky shore and are jumping up and down on it wearing football cleats while screaming at the top of your lungs great frustrated expletives should about come the time that the orderlies will arrive to quickly sedate and bundle you off for a nice holiday out in the country.

  30. Alastair McFarlane


    Didn't Windows XP prevent you form logging in at all after 14 days "unactivated", and revert to that status after 3 minor or one major (eg. motherboard) hardware upgrade?

  31. Stef

    Begging for an acronym

    The Windows Activation Technology - hmmm....

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think I've found where MS gets its backronyms

    From Urban Dictionary (site very likely NSFW, just so's you know):

    Wat: The only proper response to something that makes absolutely no sense

  33. Eric Van Haesendonck
    Thumb Down

    MS should do the opposite

    Instead of discouraging home users from installing your product you should actually try to compete with Linux give your product for free:

    Well, not the full version, but something like Starter Edition. MS could then make money by selling added functionality (Aero glass, codecs etc...) and selling pro versions. Just mention in the license agreement that the free starter 7 is for personal use only and all the professional users will have to pay anyway, and these will pay to avoid fines, not because of WGA, which could then be eliminated.

  34. MJI Silver badge

    WGA - never had it

    Two PCs one at work one at home, occasionally bother me for WGA update, do I install it?

    No I don't, my wife is instructed to not install any windows updates just in case.

    Pirated XP, no, just don't trust WGA.

    And my quad core home PC is fine in XP Pro SP3 and will be staying on it for as long as possible.

    Go - because my WGA less PC does!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Extra added functionality?"

    Actually for a time there was, only authed pc's could get any windows updates etc,pirated versions got no windows updates at all, but they were basically pushed into letting them get at least the basic updates cause companies moaned about the ammount of pirated pcs that would now have security holes

    oh and to the person moaning about a wga "update" if you don't trust it why do you have it isntalled, if it wants to UPDATE then it is already there!

    "and back in the 80's somebody made a more effective copy protection mechanism than has ever been managed since."

    yeah its amazing really that times have changed since the 80's isn't it, the rise of web causing a massive increase in teh ammount of pirated stuff goign back and forth, big surpirse that anti piracy measures changed as well, jsut telling someone "this is a pirate" isn't enough surprisingly, as most people will go "i know" or "don't care".

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    No advantage what so ever...

    ...detected at this end.

    will have to rebrand [T]he [W]indows [A]ctivation [T]echnology Detector..

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ MJI

    I just used my kr@zy l33t haxx0r ski11z to disable automatic updates. This skips the whole "telling the wife to ignore things on the screen" step

  38. Chris Silver badge

    It's been said before...

    ...the more intrusive/annoying/irritating you make anti-piracy technology, the more likely you are to turn a potentially honest customer into a pirate.

    As spectacularly refined chap points out, any activation scheme which involves generating keys tied into specific PCs is also potentially a means to coerce people into upgrading when the licence server mysteriously stops giving out keys for that version of the product... After I built my current PC I went to install the completely legit copy of HollywoodFX I'd bought about a year or so previously. The installation went just fine, right up to the point where it needed to get a new activation key... Despite trying several times over the space of several weeks, the licencing server flatly refused to provide a key. So, did I head straight for the suppliers website to order a newer version, or did I head straight for the nearest purveyor of all things dodgy to look for a keygen/crack?

    Lee Downling: Durell-branded leader tape... aaah yes, that brings back a whole childhoods-worth of happy memories!

    Barry Tabrah: I don't think WGA is the reason fewer people are pirating Vista than earlier versions of Windows. Rather, I strongly suspect that the overwhelming majority of Vista users are only Vista users because their shiny new PC came with it preinstalled, and not because they made a conscious decision to get Vista. XP was pirated so much because it was seen as a genuine upgrade to all those people with PCs supplied with 9x/2000, or to people who were building PCs from scratch. But to someone with a well-bedded down XP installation, Vista really - despite what MS and Vista fans claim - isn't all that attractive as an upgrade option, so there simply isn't the same level of desire to get a copy by fair means or foul as there was for XP.

  39. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Is Windows 7 RC ready? ummm

    "I spoke nothing but kind words about Windows 7 Beta even praising it all over the internet and to my friends and family.

    I now have to think twice about Windows 7 RC. I could be doing something as innocuous as absolutely nothing, or browsing a web page. Suddenly, POOF, my screen goes black but the system lights are still on. The mouse or keyboard can not wake up my system forcing a hard reboot.

    My system also occasionally freezes for several seconds for no apparent reason."

    This is why it is called a Beta or Release Candidate. There may be (indeed probably are) still bugs. If you are testing software, you need to remember that not everything will work.

  40. Martin Glenn

    Acronyms FTW

    Using one of MS older acroynms this is stating to sound more and more risque.

    Once you have played with the T.W.A.T does that not give you full access to the Critical Update Notification Tool. Now if i could just get some kind of KNOB gag in as well we would be on to a winner.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Stuart Castle

    A release candidate is meant to be better and less buggy than the beta that preceded it, not worse or completely broken. One is meant to be of release quality, the other is still a test version - the clue is in the names. If the rc is worse than the beta, then there is something seriously wrong with the development process and the release schedule.

  42. FaberfoX
    Thumb Down

    It would be great...

    if this brand spanking new technology worked as expected. In fact, it needs to go back to the initial vista mode and block pirate users from the OS.

    In my country (Argentina) and as far as I know in most of the 'developing countries' the piracy rate is close to 90% on desktops, as most of this are white boxes. Obviously, as it adds value to the salesmen, running the latest vista ultimate, office professional and if you ask nicely, all the adobe programs you want.

    Only the biggest companies threatened by the local BSA have licensed copies, and guess what? Many of them are moving to linux.

    But Microsoft already knows this, that's why it's so easy to bypass WGA and you can find patched isos everywhere that don't even ask for a key on install.

    If their anti piracy measures worked they would see an unstoppable decline in market share.

  43. Chika

    Nice to see someone in MS with a sense of humour

    Well, as so many have pointed out, this rebranding gives your computer a TWAT. Consider that, some years ago, we had the advent of Microsoft OneCare (say it with a sufficiently done French accent but NOT in front of your mother!)

    Could it be that, if the system fails, you will need a Computer Release Access Program?

  44. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    So the MS test plan is

    Keep on releasing "Release Candidates" until the complaints drop to a tolerable level.

    change name to Windows 7 Release version.

    Mine will be the one with a copy of Linger, Mills, Witt in it.

  45. mrmond

    WGA is rubbish

    Been running XP for a few months on an acer netbook. service pack 3 and all updates installed fine till last week did my usual check for updates and then got error about not having a licensed genuine XP. What the hell !

    Rebooted and go the nag screen on log on.

    Rolled back and updated again and then no problems. Potty. The most ridiculous thing was cause I sold my main desktop pc and then used my retail XP disc on the netbook I had to ring microsoft the first time and THEY verified my serial.

    This is why I mostly use ubuntu these days.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Why oh why?

    I installed an illegal copy of Vista which passed all the activation tests without any problem based on 20 mins research on the interweb and I was able to update it as required.

    I didn't actually use it for more than a couple of hours as I utterly detest Vista but it warmed the cockles of my heart to see how easy it was to do.

    Since it was so easy to use Vista illegally and it appears frequently difficult to use a legal copy, I really have to wonder why they bother? It doesn't deter pirates and it annoys legit customers. What a stupid arrangement - Microsoft through and through.

  47. Inachu
    Thumb Up

    This is not fair.

    The average home will at least 1 computer but more often then not as of late I have seen homes with at least 3 computers.

    Why not lic Windows 7 for up to 3 computers?

    This will keep MANY MANY people honest.

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