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Update: Windows Genuine Advantage - What it is, how to ditch it

Want to remove Microsoft's WGA Notifications? Here's how to do it safely and smartly.

July 30, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) software is installed on computers running Windows XP via Microsoft's online update services. For most XP users, that means Automatic Updates, which Microsoft has worked very hard since Windows XP SP2 to make us run in full-automatic mode. WGA has appeared in several beta versions, with slightly different behaviors, and Microsoft appears to be continuing to develop this software. For many people, the fact that the software giant delivers WGA as a security update is another strong note of insincerity. Microsoft may kid itself into believing that WGA has some sort of security aspect, but many knowledgeable computer users aren't buying that.

There are two separate parts of Windows Genuine Advantage for Windows XP: WGA Validation and WGA Notifications.

WGA Validation is the component that checks Windows to make sure it's a properly licensed copy of the software. It first appeared prior to the download of Microsoft AntiSpyware beta 1 (later renamed Windows Defender). Your system must be validated in order to receive some software (such as Internet Explorer 7, Windows Defender, and Windows Media Player 10) from Windows Update and Microsoft Update. WGA Validation has been required for access of these types of downloadble software from Microsoft since July 2005. WGA Validation is the heart of WGA. WGA Validation is not required to receive security patches from Automatic Updates. (See Microsoft's KnowlegeBase article, Description of Windows Genuine Advantage, for more information about WGA Validation.)

WGA Notifications was designed to remind users who fail validation that their Windows software has been deemed by WGA Validation to be illegitimate. It directs people who experience this to resources to learn more about getting what Microsoft calls "genuine" software. WGA Notifications was rolled out this spring. WGA Notifications is delivered via Automatic Updates and it is technically optional. You can choose not to install it, but figuring out how to keep it from slipping in with high-priority security patches is not that easy (see later in this story for precise instructions on how to do that). According to Microsoft, there is no penalty for opting out of WGA Notifications. Opting out does not stop a user from receiving security updates via Automatic Updates. (See Microsoft's KnowledgeBase article, Description of Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications, for more information.)

You already have WGA Validation on your Windows XP installation, unless you haven't received security patches since before July 2005. If you use the Automatic Updates feature of XP, WGA Notifications is also most likely already on your system. WGA Notifications has appeared in several beta versions, with slightly different behaviors. And Microsoft appears to be actively developing this tool. For many people, the fact that the software giant is delivering WGA Notifications, and also continues to deliver WGA Validation as needed — as high-priority security updates — is a strong note of insincerity on the part of the software giant. Microsoft may be kidding itself that WGA has some sort of security aspect, but most knowledgeable computer users aren't buying it.



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