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Microsoft Revises Controversial WGA

Microsoft has revised its controversial Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program in an attempt to improve accuracy, reduce false positives and fight tampering.

Microsoft  took a considerable amount of heat over the WGA program earlier this year. Customers were angry to discover the program was installed on their system as a mandatory update, as though it were a bug fix or security update, and were even angrier when it was learned the program checked in with Microsoft every day.

The end result was consumer outrage and a few lawsuits. The company claimed the daily check-in was due to WGA being beta software and that it would reduce the contact between Windows PCs and the Redmond mothership to once every two weeks.

But Microsoft is sticking with the WGA program. So to that end, the updated WGA has a new installation wizard that is more up front about what it does and comes with an improved messaging system to help users whose systems fail.

False positives, a major complaint among users, should be reduced with this release, said David Lazar, director of the Genuine Windows program at Microsoft.

"Our responsibility and commitment is to manage false positive reports as low as we can, and provide resolution for any customer who finds a problem with our system. The actual false positive rate for WGA is less than half of one percent, and has been decreasing over time as we have worked with customers and improved our systems," Lazar told internetnews.com.

There will still be failures, for one reason or another, but Microsoft has built a little more leniency into the system. For systems that are obviously pirated, such as an activation key that's been passed around, the user will still be able to receive critical updates. However, those users will be informed their software is not "genuine" and will be denied optional updates such as the latest version to Media Player.

But for those whose systems are not clearly pirated, a new result category lets users know if the validation result was indeterminate and provides them with resources to troubleshoot the problem and learn more about why they are getting that result, according to Lazar.

There will also be updates to the WGA program every 90 to 120 days to improve the functionality and to deal with any workarounds to the technology.