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Microsoft readies new Windows XP Pro antipiracy nag

Makes on-screen indicators more prominent, ditches update warnings for some

August 26, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. today said it will update the antipiracy software in Windows XP Professional to make nagging more prominent for those running bogus copies and -- assuming the user approves the update -- to skip any future notification of an impending update to the tool.

In a long post to the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) blog, Alex Kochis, a Microsoft senior product manager, spelled out the changes to WGA Notifications, the antipiracy component that provides the messages and other on-screen prompts when the other half of the package, WGA Validations, detects a pirated operating system.

The update brings XP Professional's WGA experience in line with that of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1), said Kochis. Specifically, pirated copies of the operating system will display a black desktop that reverts to black after an hour if the user changes the background. Counterfeit copies will also show a permanent nag notice in the bottom-right corner of the screen, and additional notices will appear regularly in the system tray.

Previously, WGA's nagging in Windows XP was limited to a message at log-on and periodic secondary notices that popped up in a small balloon; the desktop, however, was not altered and the software didn't put a persistent message on the screen. The log-on nag will remain part of the package.

Kochis defended the changes. "One of the reasons we've implemented the plain black background is to emphasize this new persistent desktop notification," he said.

Also changed is how WGA handles future updates.

"For new Notifications installations in Windows XP Pro, customers will also have a simple EULA to accept rather than an installation wizard," said a company spokeswoman in a follow-up e-mail. "This EULA has been modified to allow the antipiracy validation control to auto-update itself for future releases."

The EULA, in fact, contains new language. "The updates or downloads are required for the proper functioning of this supplement and may be downloaded and installed without further notice to you," it reads.

The new no-notification also applies to any new install of future versions of WGA Notifications.

Users who already have WGA Notifications on their PCs, however, will be warned about future updates if they've set Windows' Automatic Updates (AU) to tell them of pending patches and fixes. "Users will have the same ability to view and prevent future updates to WGA over AU as they do for any update distributed over AU today," said Microsoft. "That is, they could use the 'Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them,' or 'Notify me but don't automatically download or install them' settings to have that control."

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