More on: WGA False Positives

An Information Week article was posted earlier today that attempted to calculate the rate of false positives for WGA by using a rate quoted at one point in time as a lifetime average for the program. This does not produce an accurate view of the false positives as that number isn’t a real average throughout the history of the program. There was also a thread on Slashdot earlier today that in part took up this issue. In particular one poster asked what I thought were a few very good questions so I attempted to answer them. Below is what I posted back to the thread:


I work on the WGA team and I wanted to take a moment to answer a couple of these questions. Btw, I think these are great questions.

1. How many installs are erroneously flagged as genuine?


> We don’t have specific numbers on that but the system has been designed to give the benefit of the doubt in many cases. We are also in the process of designing a ‘yellow light’ scenario where instead of simply giving the benefit of the doubt we will be able to offer specific information to the user about whatever didn’t seem right with the system. We can then offer tools to help them to figure out whether their copy is properly licensed and genuine and fix the cases where the system appears non-genuine when it really is genuine.


2. How many installs are erroneously flagged as not genuine?


> Not very many, there’s an article now on Information Week that indicates the number is in the millions. This number was calculated by taking a previously disclosed ‘half of one percent’ estimate of false positives against into the total number of validations (512 million). Calculating the false positive isn’t quite that easy, the rate of false positives climbs and falls when issues are discovered then fixed. Given that the false positive scenarios are time bound in this way it’s not right to just use that number as a lifetime average.


3. How many installs are not seen by WGA?


> As has been pointed out in numerous places probably many of those that are aware that their copy isn’t licensed or genuine won’t visit one of our sites that require validation or attempt to install an application (IE7, WMP11 etc.) that have validation built into their setup. How many systems don’t we see? Hard to say but it’s a point worth making.


4. How many of those are genuine/not genuine?


> Again, I don’t know but it’s still a good question.


Comments (6)

  1. rdamiani says:

    That’s a cop-out. Any company smart enough to find and keep the kinds of folks I keep running into at MS is way too smart to not calculate that rate to at least 6 decimal points.

    Pissing off nice people who give you money is stupid. MS is a lot of different things. None of those things are stupid.

  2. mhornyak says:

    Microsoft sold faulty Vista keys to people who bought the family discount:

    Yet more WGA-related breakage.  Note the crappy response by the customer service.  The customers who desire Vista can either get a refund and pay the non-discount price, or they can sit on the faulty key until Microsoft figures out how to give people what they paid for.

    Customer service should be empowered to give customers a $10 rebate, and a 60-day temporary key with no questions asked.

    Also, note that people who are using hacked copies of Vista  are currently not suffering from this problem.  Not only were their copies cheaper, but they work better.

    This is why people call it Windows Genuine Disadvantage–because people who hack their copies of Windows get better performance than people who do the right thing.

  3. MSDNArchive says:

    mhornyak, the program you refer to has nothing whatsoever to do with WGA. But I do like your idea about empowering customer service to issue a temporary key. I can imagine some WGA sceanrios where that could possibly be a useful tool for helping customers. Thanks for the idea.

  4. whyJoe says:

    Oh, you mean like the scenarios where your paying customers get told their machines failed the WGA check? If that happened to me, I’d want more than a $10 rebate, by the way. You’d see me in person up in Redmond.

  5. calios says:

    The big problem for us customers is that we need reliable systems – any false positive is one too much.

    Descision processes on what to rely for WGA approval have to be carefull – till January i had confidence in Microsofts ability to do this right.

    Then all of a sudden my Windows XP Pro decided that i had made significant changes to my hardware (using a notebook and neither changed any component or plugged in any additional devices).

    It later turned out that convert command of the system partition from FAT32 to NTFS caused that issue.

    From that day on my confidence was damaged – i need to rely on the operating system i buy – and when WGA decides to mark my system as false positive on wrong assumption i cannot rely on it anymore.

    Sure WGA and Activation are two approches of ensuring proper licensing – but this incidence is proof that mistakes in these systems cannot be avoided – how can Microsoft guarantee that these mistakes wont impact crucial Systems?

    To name one – i saw a Windows XP Pro System in a hospitals intensive care unit to control patients life functions last year when i visited a relative.

    Remember youre not building Operation Systems for Home use – your OS is used in mission critical environments and has a giant impact on other peoples lives – so dont mess up on WGA false positives or bogus hardware-change reactivation!

    Greetings from Germany

  6. says:

    Microsoft bessert im Kampf gegen Raubkopien das WGA-System (Windows Genuine Advantage) f�r Windows XP nach.