Microsoft Removes WGA Phone Home Component

Microsoft ships an updated version of the Windows Genuine Advantage tool with a major modification and a new EULA.

Microsoft has removed the controversial "phone home" notifications component from its WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) anti-piracy tool.

The software maker June 27 announced the release of an updated WGA Notifications package that will be delivered to millions of Windows XP users via Automatic Updates with one major change.

In the pilot phase, a PC that had installed WGA Notifications checked a server-side configuration setting upon each login, to determine if WGA Notifications should run or not.

This daily configuration file check has been removed in the updated WGA Notifications package released June 27, according to a Microsoft statement sent to eWEEK.

The company said that the Validation component of the tool will still check periodically to determine whether the version of Windows is genuine.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about the WGA notifications controversy.

The WGA tool, which is a mandatory part of the Redmond, Wash., software giants battle to curb Windows piracy, includes two separate components: WGA validation and WGA notifications.

Validation determines whether the copy of Windows installed is pirated or not, and Notifications is set up to nag users whom Microsoft believes are not running "genuine Windows" and "suggest" where they can "learn more about the benefits of using genuine Windows software."

However, the Notifications component has been "phoning home" to Microsofts servers on a daily basis, and Windows users are up in arms over potential privacy and security risks.

Microsoft insists the callbacks are a "safety check" to ensure that WGA can be terminated quickly if things run amok, but this was never communicated to users until the week of June 4.

The latest update also includes a modification to the EULA (End User License Agreement) that covers the tool.

Microsoft said the new EULA "more clearly explains the purpose of the software" and the details about the Notifications.

A knowledge base article with instructions on how to remove previous WGA versions has been published.

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