Microsoft Rebrands WGA Anti-Piracy Feature for Windows 7

Microsoft tweaks and renames its anti-piracy technology in Windows 7. Formerly known as Windows Genuine Advantage, the technology is now called Windows Activation Technologies.

Microsoft has introduced changes to its anti-piracy features for its operating system in Windows 7, starting with a new name.

Formerly known as Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), the anti-piracy technology has been rebranded Windows Activation Technologies in Windows 7. But in addition to the name change, the company has tweaked the technology to improve the user experience.

"While we have seen success with our implementation in Windows Vista, as evident from the lower levels of piracy, we also knew we could do better in Windows 7," stated Joe Williams, general manager for Worldwide Genuine Windows at Microsoft, in a Q&A interview posted on the company's Website.

He explained that in Windows Vista Service Pack 1, if a PC was not activated during the log-in process, customers would get a dialog box periodically reminding them to activate their copy of Windows. Within this prompt, they could choose to activate immediately or later. But the option to "activate later" was grayed out for 15 seconds.

"Customers told us that while the prompt grabbed their attention, they didn't understand why they needed to activate immediately and that the delay was annoying," he continued. "In Windows 7 we modified this process: When customers choose to activate later, they will see a dialog box highlighting how activation helps them identify if their copy of Windows is genuine and be allowed to proceed immediately without a 15-second delay. In Windows 7 we've made changes so that users will see more informative notifications messages and be able to more easily complete the tasks they need to."

WGA was no stranger to controversy. In fact, in January 2007, Microsoft admitted WGA had incorrectly labeled more than half a million Windows users as software pirates.

Williams noted that Microsoft has found up to a third of its customers worldwide may be running counterfeit copies of Windows, sometimes without their knowledge.

"The malicious code and malware that counterfeit software can expose our customers to is a serious threat-ask anyone who has ever been a victim of identity theft," he said. "So ensuring that customers know they have genuine software or when they might be victims of software piracy is just as much a priority now as ever. With Windows Vista, we made significant strides in reducing the threat pirated copies posed to customers, our partners and Microsoft software, and we anticipate we'll do even better with Windows 7."

Williams added that the technology used in Windows Vista and Windows 7 is fundamentally different from that used with Windows XP, explaining the code used to protect Windows 7 and Vista can only be achieved with the components built into those versions of the OS.

"For that reason the anti-piracy features in Windows 7-and future versions of updates of the technology for Windows Vista-will be referred to more accurately as Windows Activation Technologies," he said. "We will continue releasing Window Genuine Advantage updates for Windows XP-based systems."