The Windows Genuine Advantage program (WGA) helps you determine whether your copy of Windows is genuine. This article discusses the WGA program, why it is in place, and how it benefits you as a user. The article also explains what happens if you are not running a genuine copy of Windows and you try to download an update from the Microsoft Download Center.
What is the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program?
The Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program is part of the commitment by Microsoft to protect its customers and partners from counterfeiters through education, engineering, and enforcement of policies and laws. WGA differentiates the value of genuine Windows software from counterfeit software. This enables you to enjoy the capabilities that you expect, the confidence that your software is authentic, and the ongoing system improvements that help you do more with your personal computer.
The WGA program creates an improved Windows experience for users who have a genuine copy of Windows. By using genuine Microsoft software, you can be confident that you will have access to the latest features, security, and support. This helps improve your productivity and expand the capabilities of your computer. You will also have access to innovations and offerings available only to genuine Microsoft software customers.
The program also provides recommendations and help for users who believe they have received pirated software.
How does the Windows Genuine Advantage tool work?
On both the Microsoft Download Center and the Windows Update Web site, the Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool, which is an ActiveX control, performs a validation check to verify that your copy of Windows is genuine. If your copy of Windows is genuine, you can continue to access the download.
An ActiveX control is a small Internet building block that lets a program work through a Web browser, such as Internet Explorer. We use ActiveX controls to make it easier for you to obtain certain necessary software downloads from the Microsoft Web site. The ActiveX control that you are asked to download and install when you visit the Web site lets the WGA Validation Tool run on your computer so that it can verify your copy of Windows.Note
The Windows Update Web site is available only to customers who are running a genuine copy of Windows.
How does Windows Genuine Advantage validation work?
The WGA process is quick and easy. It collects no information that can be used by Microsoft to identify or contact the user. The validation process includes the following steps:
- Upon your first visit to the Microsoft Download Center, Windows Update, or Microsoft Update sites, you receive a message requiring you to validate your copy of Windows.
- You are prompted to download an ActiveX control which checks the authenticity of your Windows software. If the Windows validation is successful, the control stores a special license file on your computer for future verification.
- The validation process electronically checks for several known counterfeiting methods. Generally, you do not have to enter any information during this step.
- After successful validation, you may continue your download.
- WGA Notifications is an anti-piracy tool that performs the WGA validation check and notifies you if you are not running genuine Windows.
The Automatic Updates feature is not affected by the WGA validation check. Therefore, you can use the Automatic Updates feature to make sure that you receive critical Windows updates.
What if my copy of Windows did not pass the validation check?
If your copy of Windows did not pass the validation check and you believe that you have purchased a genuine copy of Windows, we have resources to help you. When the validation check fails, you receive a message that explains why Windows did not pass the check. You are directed to a customized Web page that has details about what caused the failure and recommendations for how to resolve the problem. This page contains a section with troubleshooting steps. One of these steps will let you check whether you can use the online Product Key Update Tool.
If a genuine product key was included with your computer, but Windows was incorrectly installed with an invalid product key, the Product Key Update Tool helps convert your computer to a genuine status without having to purchase a new copy of Windows. If you are using the Windows Update Web site, you are returned to that Web site, where you can obtain downloads that do not require validation.
If the system fails the validation check and you believe that you have received pirated software, we have recommendations to help you. You can visit the Microsoft How to Tell Web site
to learn how to determine whether your copy of Windows is genuine Microsoft software. If you believe that you received pirated software, you will be able to file a report with Microsoft so we can investigate further. You will also be able to do the following:
- Check whether you qualify for a complimentary replacement CD from Microsoft.
- Purchase a genuine copy of Windows from Microsoft online or from your local reseller.
- Visit the Microsoft Genuine Advantage Support page for more information.
What if I decide not to use Windows Genuine Advantage to validate my copy of Windows?
If you have a genuine copy of Windows but decide not to complete the validation process, you can still obtain critical software updates by using the Automatic Updates feature.
What if I am prompted to install an ActiveX control?
If you access downloads on the Microsoft Download Center or on the Microsoft Windows Update Web site, you may be prompted to complete the WGA validation check process by installing an ActiveX control.
On the Download Center Web site, you may be prompted to install an ActiveX control when you select a download that is marked with the WGA icon. On the Windows Update Web site, the ActiveX control is a mandatory update. You must install this update to access downloads that are specific to Windows.
Is my product covered under Windows Genuine Advantage?
Products that are covered under WGA include all versions of Windows XP and Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional. WGA does not cover Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition, or Microsoft Windows 98.