Ever since Microsoft launched its Windows Genuine Advantage program to counter the ever worsening software piracy issue, I have heard a lot of reports about the false positives cases (genuine copies, but reported as pirated).

I have never experienced a failure in WGA validation even though in the past I had upgraded/changed my hardware quite a bit until quite recently.

My understanding of WGA validation is that it keeps track of what hardware is installed on the system and keeps a log of what’s changed over time. If too many changes occur within too short a period of time, the WGA validation will consider that you have installed the OS on some system other then the one it was originally licensed to run and thus prompt the validation message as a warning (of course, without proper reactivation, you won’t be able to run any programs at all).

But my recent encounter with the WGA validation failure was quite perplexing. A few days ago, I decided to uninstall a round a dozen of applications from my computer running Windows XP at home. I haven’t maintained (no hardware changes, no software installations) the computer for at least over a year so there were quite a few unwanted programs running on the machine. A couple of programs I uninstalled require a reboot, but I decided to “batch” all the reboots till I finished uninstalling everything. So about an hour later, I had uninstalled all the applications I no longer needed and rebooted the computer. And to my surprise, I was greeted with a WGA validation failure message before I could log onto the system (I should have taken a screen shot to share here but I was too busy trying to figure out why this had happened and forgot about it), it warned me that I have three days to re-authenticate my copy of Windows before it would stop working. Since I know my copy of Windows was genuine, I went ahead and reactivated the Windows with Microsoft. It went without a glitch and my Windows installation was back to normal.

I started to wonder exactly how Microsoft validates whether a copy of Windows is genuine or not. According to my own experience, it can’t just take a figure print of the hardware installed since I haven’t changed any hardware for more than a year. So it must take some software installations into consideration, but why? As software can be installed and uninstalled all the time I strongly doubt this is the case. Maybe it is just a one time abnormality, but it nevertheless was very frustrating to get such validation failures with no apparent reasons…

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