Microsoft Fixes Validation Issue that Withheld Vista Features
Some 12,000 Windows Vista customers across the globe were denied access to a range of features in the new operating system as a result of a shut-down in Microsofts ability to validate their systems under its Windows Genuine Advantage program.
The Redmond, Wash. software maker confirmed August 27 that the problems with processing validations had started at about 3:30 p.m. PST Friday August 24, but that it only discovered the issue that evening as a result of calls to its customer service lines and posts to its forum.
“By about 11:15 a.m. Pacific on Saturday morning the issue affecting the validation service had been analyzed and resolved such that validations were again being processed properly,” Alex Kochis, the senior product manager for Microsofts Windows Genuine Advantage team, said in a blog post on August 27.
“Our data shows that fewer than 12,000 systems were affected worldwide and that many of those have already revalidated and are fixed,” he said.
Click here to read more about the Vista update Microsoft released to stop its product activation technology from being bypassed.
While this was “encouraging news,” Kochis noted that “one bad customer experience is one too many and that were committed to learning from this experience and working to prevent this type of event from occurring again.”
But the company does not seem to know exactly what the problem was as yet. When asked what the exact cause of the outage was, a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK that it was “still investigating the root cause.”
However, the consequence of the lack of validation to customers was that they could not access a number of Vistas features that are only available to validated systems.
These include the new Aero user interface; ReadyBoost, which expands virtual memory; Windows Defender, which still scanned and identified all threats but cleaned only the severe ones; and the optional updates via Windows Update, which still made security and other critical updates available.
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Unfortunately for Microsoft, the bad customer experiences were not limited to the lack of access to some of Vistas core features, but included unhelpful customer support agents who also gave out incorrect information.
“Were looking into the reports of comments made about the expected length of the issue and how support inquiries were handled overall during this time. I heard a report that one of our support folks indicated that the issues would not be fixed until Tuesday, that was incorrect. Well be looking closely at how and why that statement was made,” Kochis said.
Comments posted to the Windows Genuine Advantage blog ranged from humorous to downright angry.
One poster noted caustically that “pirate copies of Windows with hacked WGA continued to work normally this weekend. Right now, users of pirate copies of Windows had an extra couple days of use.”
Read more here about the lawsuit that labels Windows Genuine Advantage as spyware.
Others were angry about what happened and the customers support they got, with one threatening to now switch to a Mac.
“I was one of the few that experienced this. I had to replace the hard drive on my laptop during this time. I was on the phone for well over an hour and while the Microsoft people are friendly and helpful, it is apparent to me that Microsoft as a company just doesnt get it as they were not able to resolve the problem,” the post said.
“I paid well in excess of $200 for my copy of Vista Ultimate and getting told that your copy of Vista appears to be counterfit and having functionality removed and not being able to install updates from the Microsoft site doesnt make for a very good experience. I was and still am quite mad at Microsoft. Im pretty sure Im going to switch to a Mac because of it. I certainly dont feel like Ive been rewarded for being a good citizen and actually buying my copy of Windows. All those pirates out there probably had no problems at all,” the post said.
Others were supportive, with one congratulating the WGA team for getting things working again. “I know how painful all-nighters are. Its not your fault that the company policy is bad.”
One of the consequences of having a non-genuine Vista system is that users get a 30-day grace period, followed by reduced functionality. Kochis stressed that the validation failure did not result in the start of the 30-day grace period starting and that no one went into reduced functionality mode as a result.
To read more about the tools Microsoft hopes will combat Vista piracy, click here.
“These features return to normal and the desktop validation failure message disappears when an affected system is revalidated at our site,” Kochis said.
Those customers who were unable to validate their systems over the weekend should go back to the Genuine Advantage site and click the Validate Windows button in the upper right area of the page.
Microsoft continues to offer free support for WGA issues, ranging from diagnostics, tools and information, as well as via phone for North American customers at 1-866-530-6599.
As the support offered internationally varies, customers can find more information on that here.
Asked if Microsoft planned to compensate those customers inconvenienced by the outage, the spokesperson said that the companys customer privacy guidelines prohibited it from retaining information on customers while they validated their Microsoft software.
“As a result, there is no way for Microsoft to contact customers who were impacted individually, though weve tried to communicate our deep apologies for any inconvenience through public forums like the WGA blog and WGA forums,” the spokesperson said.
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