back to article Microsoft dodges multi-million dollar WGA payout

Microsoft has dodged a potentially-expensive legal fight after a case against Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) was denied class-action status. This means lawyers cannot represent individuals as a group of defendants in the case, and that's likely a cost saver for Microsoft. Class-action status can push case costs and any final …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    We have heard of it...

    Pirate Flag, because lets face it the Penguins will be out in force for this ;)

  2. kevin biswas

    Ahhh, bless the USA

    Still offering the finest justice system that money can buy after all these years....

  3. Wommit
    Thumb Down

    "and from an "alternate universe."

    Yes, it's called the real world. Why don't you try it some time?

  4. N2 Silver badge

    Genuine Disadvantage

    About time such mindless information gathering was stopped.

    Thank fully its easy to rip it out of the registry.

  5. Greg J Preece

    Well they're partly right

    "The suit alleged that WGA was falsely advertised as a security update."

    As far as I'm concerned, that's true. Every time I go to Windows Update on an XP machine that little fecker appears in the "Critical Updates" list, otherwise reserved for security updates, service packs and anti-virus/anti-malware kit. And of course, there's no link in any version of WU I've seen to "not show this update again."

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It still annoys the hell out of me that they tout it as a security update - thus supply it via Automatic Updates even if you avoid Windows Update in order to avoid it. Not that it seems to be an issue beyond the first version that you have to install to use WU first time round, or any others that you have to install periodically to continue to use it.

    The one that is a so-called 'security' update can be deselected, hidden and never installed and it doesn't appear to affect anything beyond easier access to extras that are so crappy they should pay us to download them. I wonder if the Court would allow _that_ as a Class Action?

    I refuse to have the WGA 'Security update' on my own machine on principle. It is the most frequent and visible example of M$ still bullshitting their customers and treating every last one of us like idiots. The continued justification that there is some sort of advantage in being able to access certain software every example of which I've ever tried was a steaming pile of manure - no, on second thoughts the manure would have a use - may have been the historically-last nail in the coffin containing the vestige of any respect I might ever have had for M$. But the blatant attempt to make white black and black white that is their claim that WGA is for _our_ benefit, enabling us to know if our copy of Windows is non-pirated and finally get some sleep of a night; and that doesn't get removed after the first time they 'verify' it; and that after 8 years click 'Help' in Explorer and you _still_ see "Is this copy of Windows legal?"...yes, M$, it fucking well is! - I think that's the one that changed me from thinking 'I just don't care any more, as long as they stay away from me' to 'I hope Microsoft crumbles into dust to become a mere footnote in the history of what was culturally possibly the worst period of the 20th century'.

    Microsoft personnel are as bad as Government ministers. And as uncool. So uncool they think they're not, like the way _really_ thick people think they're smart.

    1. C Yates
      Thumb Up

      Well said!

      I work in a school, and I have to say that the main reason all the machines I build haven't gone to SP3 yet is because of WGA. (It's the one box I uncheck on the custom updates menu - the others could be ANYTHING, just as long as it's not that god awful WGA!!)

      The amount of extra call-outs I got through there being that annoying little logo on the logon screen telling people to 'get genuine' (when we have a site licence) was unbelievable! As you say, I originally installed all the updates because I 'genuinely' (=P) believed that they were for our benefit - not for M$!

      I can only hope that their tech departments undergo the same pain every time some nob gets one of his bright ideas, maybe they'll learn... but then again =)

  7. Baudwalk
    Gates Halo

    Then stop using Windows

    if Microsoft's business practices are so heinous.

    There are alternatives. Free as well as non-free.

    You most likely don't need Windows. It may be convenient, but few of you actually _need_ to use it.

    Pay their asking price, and take what they give you, or go elsewhere.

    Don't pirate their stuff, and then complain if they make it hard on you.

    1. Cameron Colley

      RE: Then stop using Windows

      I couldn't agree more. If you don't like WGA then it's simple -- don't run Windows.

      I'm sick of people buying software from a company who they know treat users like shit, then complaining about it. Anyone who has bought an MS product since WGA was rolled out is now paying for the MS lawyers and for MS to continue to make their own computers more tied down.

      In short: If MS causes you problems then tough shit -- you're obviously too stupid or too lazy to use an alternative.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        And why exactly wouldn't you complain?

        If you pay for a product, you have every right to complain. Its the whingers moaning about free software who are missing the point.

    2. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Down

      You don't need Windows....

      unless you need Windows.

      To run applications you need for your work (that aren't available / no alternatives on other platforms)

      To play most games.

      As to the "piracy" issue. WGA is notorious for its false positives, requiring the user to beg the old chair-chucker and his buddies for their blessing to allow them to use *their*, bought and paid for, computer again.

    3. C Yates

      You're right, and also wrong =)

      Yes we could and should all use an alternative, but the point is that the average Joe will have a Windows box. The average business with little tech knowledge will also have a Windows box because *everyone* has them, it's marketing!

      You and the people reading this site can make these informed decisions because you all have the knowhow (or at least know enough) - everyone else will just use what everyone else uses.

      It's easy to assume the moral highground when you know what you're talking about =)

      1. M Gale

        Re: You're right, and also wrong =)

        Average Joe probably has a copy of Windows that their friend "who knows computers" placed on there. There are a crapton of unauthorised copies of Windows out there, and Microsoft knows this. I don't think they really care so long as people are using Windows and not some other OS. Keeps people addicted, yaknow?

        Personally I would love to see Microsoft come up with a completely fool-proof way of preventing people from making unauthorised copies of their "operating" system (quotes inserted for sarcasm). It'd be the worst business move they'd ever make.

        Tux, because Average Joe actually quite likes Ubuntu every time I've showed it to him.

        1. C Yates

          @M Gale

          Good point! It's something I'd not considered =)

          Though you must admit somewhere that not everyone knows a techie. All I know it whenever I try to get people to use Ubuntu they ask if it will play all of their games... *hops back to square one*.

          Though yes, a M$ security clampdown would be brilliant in the same way the security flaw in IE has upped Firefox's share in the browser market ^_^

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Average Joe (and Joanne) have machines that had Windows on from new. Even someone who hasn't used Windows this century and knows bugger all about WGA (as demonstrated above) surely knows the majority of computers have Windows pre-installed??!1?

    4. Mister_C

      get real

      The software I use commercially has been written for Windoze. It has recently (over the last 5 years) been rewritten using .net. It used to be protected using usb dongles and license files, now there's a (windoze based) license server controlling it.

      Any suggestions about how much time it might take to risk wine and what problems we'd get if there wasn't 100% compatability with _every_ aspect of the system?

      You, sir, are a troll and I claim my £5

      1. kevin biswas

        If I had £5 for every troll I spotted...

        My personal GDP would be larger than China's !

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I could do on 5 US cents per troll.

          You're obviously not reading enough.

      2. Baudwalk
        Gates Halo

        @ Mister_C - Re: get real

        Cheers. You _do_ need Windows.

        I still maintain that few do. I have known some who did. Just not many.

        And I even count professional graphics artist, who need Photoshop, among those needing Windows (or Apple, but what's the difference?). I wholeheartedly agree that Wine is not a serious alternative for business use.

        Funny thing is, those few I've known to absolutely need Windows have never been among the moaners. They pay the Microsoft tax as part of doing business, and quietly use their tools as intended.

        In my experience, those who constantly bitch about Microsoft, but still use it, tend to be gamers and people who run pirated versions of Microsoft Office. And I don't consider either of those groups as _needing_ Windows.

        Troll? Not a bit.

      3. Cameron Colley


        So, you pay the price for Windows because you apparently need it.

        You have to admit though, that if you're suing dongle-controlled software and Windows licensing servers then you've probably been using MS software long enough to know what they're like -- so by choosing to stay in teh industry you're in you're tacitly accepting things like WGA. Nothing wrong with that at all!

        It's the people who use Windows when they don't need to because "Macs cost too much" and Linux is too hard" and then go on to bith about WGA and the like without taking up an alternative who piss me off.

        Then there are the CIOs etc. who buy into vendor lock-in systems because you can't get fired for using Windows. It's fun to hear them struggle with budgets now the recession's here.

  8. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    Except it doesn't work...

    The use of WGA is debatable, if it worked. There are many incidents of false positives that it punishes the innocent. It checks for a pirated copy over and over again. Why not check once, bless the OS, and be gone? Even people who use embedded Windows on the cell phones have received the "Your copy of Windows may not be genuine" - expecting end users to re-flash their phones?

  9. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    WGA does seem harmless and non-prying my experience, mostly on XP, when a Genuine Advantage operation is made mandatory (as it seems to be from time to time) to verify that the Windows supplied with my computer is paid for, it just happens. I don't recall even being asked for my Windows serial number / key.

    Perhaps it's more intrusive if you're using an upgraded installation or a not-pre-installed-on-your-PC version?

    1. C Yates
      Gates Horns

      It's fine if you have admin rights =)

      You'll only really notice how annoying it is when people with 'user' permissions keep phoning you up just so you have to go over and key in your admin password until it occurs again.

      It's never asked me for a key either :)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Had Automatic updates on.

    Got WGA loaded.

    Disabled it.

    Never automatic from MS.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not to notify only?

      What he said!

  11. Anonymous Coward

    @C Yates

    As you have a site licence, I assume you are either on the schools agreement or the campus agreement? As such you should have been sent the volume licensing editions of the install disks. If you had created your image using these, WGA does not apply and doesn't present itself for download when using windows update. However you shouldn't be using windows update, you should be using WSUS to push out only updates that you approve.

    I used to work for a secondary school and now work for a large 6th form college so I know what I am talking about. I have no problems at all with WGA on over 700 desktops, all SP3 and all up to date with the relevant patches. We also have many Apple Macs and Linux desktops too, as well as a number of Linux servers running RedHat. Everything is integrated well and does the job it is supposed to.

    I think someone needs to learn a bit more on how to do their job properly. Moving away from Microsoft software is a not a magical solution to the failings of an incompetent admin. If you can't manage a Microsoft network succesfully, you will fail miserably trying to maintain a Linux one - that requires a certain degree of expertise.

    1. C Yates

      You got me :)

      Just checked with network manager, turns out we only have OEM licences! So yes, I'm wrong and I will hereby go away and learn what I'm talking about before spouting off ^_^

      Either that or start anonymous posting =)

    2. Tom 13

      Re: WGA does not apply and doesn't present itself for download when using windows update.

      Bull*hit! I worked for a business with a volume license copy, all of our images were built from them, and for every stinking one of them, if you went to either of the Mircosoft update sites WGA gets listed. The reason you don't see a problem is because you are using WSUS. We used Altiris to deploy the bulk of our patches, but still had occasionally a system would hang. With 500 systems supported, we usually had to patch about 20/month manually.

  12. Inachu

    WGA is bad.

    Not so much as for its insistince to install but ocne it is installed it always wants to use my network bandwidth and while playing an MMO I can visually see the lag it creates when going AFK in Dalaran and then WGA kicks in then my FPS drops down for a few moments to 17 FPS.

    So yeah I rip it out. WGA is a network resource hog.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Probably not WGA, actually...

      No, it's lag-a-ran and the 318642786418678354542 people that are either hanging out there waiting for raids/instances/etc or whatnot that is causing it.

      You try tracking several dozen people and remember exactly what everyone is wearing, complete down to the enhancements on their gear- you'll lag for a bit too. :D

      *anon because I should be working on friday but can't be arsed*

  13. The Unexpected Bill

    WGA vs. WGA Notifications

    There is a lot of confusion here, and it's due to the reference of two different components by the same name. (Not that I'm defending Microsoft or WGA in general--to think that I am is to miss the point!)

    Windows Genuine Advantage (more correctly known as WGA Validation) is a non-invasive one-time process that pops up from time to time when you run Windows Update or go to download certain things from the M$ web site. (I don't know what it would do if it fails. Since it's not hooked into the system on a deep level, I suppose the worst it can do is make a polite suggestion that you become "genuine".) Some M$ installers (like the one for M$ Security Essentials) run WGA validation.

    The component that is the subject of this failed class action is Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications. WGA Notifications is an optional component that can be added to Windows XP. It ships standard with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It *is* deeply invasive, difficult to remove, prone to mistriggering, phones home and makes its presence known should your copy of Windows fail whatever checks are run by WGA Notifications. It also masquerades as a "critical" update and doesn't always have the decency to show up when you go to Windows Update. Automatic updates will prompt you about installing it (smarter users will notice this and banish it).

    You also have to agree to a new EULA when WGA notifications will be installed. Rejecting it causes the installation to fail (and so far, it doesn't try again at a later date).

    WGA Notifications also has a real "thing" about unsupported versions of XP. If you were running a copy of Windows XP that is no longer supported (the gold or SP1 releases qualify), WGA will helpfully harass you about this until you give in and A) buy a Mac, B) install Linux, C) reinstall Windows and try to make sure the damned WGA notifications app doesn't get installed, or D) update Windows to a supported release.

    It is because of WGA Notifications that I will /not/ use any version of Windows newer than XP for production systems. I've never stolen or pirated Microsoft software, don't intend to start and dislike the assumption that I am a criminal. I'm thinking Macintosh more and more lately. And Linux grows more promising every day.

  14. Steven Ballmer


    Dang I'm slick!

  15. Eddie Johnson
    Gates Horns

    @The Unexpected Bill

    Good point. Of course the confusion is not surprising considering Microsoft's intentionally vague and misleading naming. They wanted to confuse people and make them think they had to install the WGAN nagware.

    As to people wondering why the validation can't be a "one time and done" process its because a system they previously approved as genuine can be flagged as unauthorized in the future as MS continues to add more leaked authorization keys to the blacklist. If an employee at your company leaks your key your entire company can be flagged as unauthorized at some point in the future, even though YOU are the legitimate owner of that key. This is still no excuse for installing resident processes and such, validation could easily be handled at boot time but I guess they didn't want to make their already pathetic boot times worse.

    1. Steve Evans 1

      This and many more......

      reasons why I finally got an iMac. A breath of fresh air after Windows.

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