Microsoft Responds to WGA Concerns

Microsoft late Friday publicly responded to widespread reports that a recent change to its Windows Genuine Advantage program caused the software to contact Microsoft servers on a daily basis. The company says it will soon release an update to make WGA only call home every 14 days.

Rolled out last year, Windows Genuine Advantage is an anti-piracy program implemented to detect counterfeit copies of Windows XP. This component is called WGA Validation. Microsoft later expanded the program with WGA Notifications, which causes users running counterfeit versions of Windows to be notified directly on their desktop that their operating system is not legitimate.

"Shortly after logon, WGA Notifications checks whether a newer settings file is available and downloads the file if one is found. The settings file provides Microsoft with the ability to update how often reminders are displayed and to disable the program if necessary during the test period," Microsoft explained Friday.

The company says that unlike WGA Validation, which sends system information to Microsoft, WGA Notifications is limited to the download of the new settings file.

"There have been some questions on this issue, and Microsoft is working to more effectively communicate details of this feature to the public. As a result of customer concerns around performance, we are changing this feature to only check for a new settings file every 14 days."

Microsoft will eventually stop the settings check altogether when WGA Notifications is rolled out in its final form worldwide later this year. The program is currently considered a "pilot" by the Redmond company.

In a statement, Microsoft also reiterated that WGA is not spyware -- a claim voiced by some security researchers and privacy advocates.

"Broadly speaking, spyware is deceptive software that is installed on a user’s computer without the user’s consent and has some malicious purpose. WGA is installed with the consent of the user and seeks only to notify the user if a proper license is not in place," the company said. "WGA is not spyware."

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