Whats Genuine About Windows Genuine Advantage?

Is Microsoft using its anti-piracy software to track your whereabouts and collect information on which non-Microsoft apps you're running? Here's our attempt to separate fact from urban legend in the Genuine Advantage realm. (Microsoft Watch)

Microsoft has been collecting on a daily basis information on users who have opted into the companys Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program, it seemed like time to separate FUD from fact.

Here is Microsoft Watchs attempt to provide answers to some of the most commonly asked Windows Genuine Advantage questions.

Q: What is Genuine Advantage?

A: WGA is Microsofts latest program designed to thwart software piracy. It is designed to check whether consumer and small-business customers are running legitimately licensed copies of Windows XP.

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There are two components to WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage): WGA validation and WGA notifications. Validation determines whether the copy of Windows installed is pirated or not.

Notifications nag users who Microsoft believes are not running "genuine Windows" and "suggest" where they can "learn more about the benefits of using genuine Windows software."

Microsoft launched WGA in September 2004. Since then, Microsoft has expanded its WGA pilots around the world. In April 2006, Microsoft announced that it plans to apply Genuine Advantage to Office, as well.

Q: Do I have to validate my Microsoft software? Or is it optional to do so?

A:The Validation component of WGA became mandatory in July 2005 for Windows XP users looking to download any kinds of Windows-related updates and fixes.

Microsoft is continuing its policy of allowing even those who cant prove they are running non-pirated copies of Windows to still obtain critical security fixes, however.

Q: When does Genuine Advantage collect data from my PC? What kind of data?

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