Do Pirates Deserve a Windows Update?

Should you get updates to Windows if you don't have a legal copy? Some time ago, Microsoft stopped allowing this, at least for some versions of Windows. Seems perfectly fair to me, but is it wise?

Microsofts policy for the upcoming Service Pack 2 for Windows XP with respect to pirated copies of the operating system stirred a minor controversy in the media recently. A report elsewhere had claimed that Microsoft would be allowing even users of pirated copies to install the update.

A tad incredulous, we called to check and werent surprised to find out that Microsofts practices for Service Pack 2 (SP2) will be essentially the same as those for Windows XP Service Pack 1.

At this point, a quote from the Windows Update Privacy Statement is instructive: "Windows Update also collects the Product ID and Product Key to confirm that you are running a validly licensed copy of Windows," the statement says.

"A validly licensed copy of Windows ensures that you will receive ongoing updates from Windows Update. The Product ID and Product Key are not retained beyond the end of the Windows Update session, unless the Product ID is not valid."


Microsoft knows which product keys have been used for product activation, and it knows a specific list of product keys that have been pirated. In either case, if youre not on the right list, no Windows Update for you.

Now, I think the first, most important thing is that Microsoft is not only within its rights not to encourage piracy by providing fixes and upgrades for pirates, but right to do so. Whatever you think Windows is worth, the consumer cost is pretty cheap, especially as almost everyone gets it preinstalled on a new computer.

And if you dont think its worth that, the right thing to do is to use something else. If you think a car is overpriced, you dont steal the car, do you?

But thats not the only issue here. You can make a case that its in everyones interest that as many people as possible, even pirated Windows users, have good security.

Next Page: I think of it as a bit like needle exchange.