Windows Activation Technologies: Activation and Validation in Windows 7

Earlier today we posted on Microsoft's Press Pass site an interview with our group's General Manager, Joe Williams. In the interview he discusses our approach to anti-piracy in Windows 7. The full details can be found here; but basically the interview covered the following points.

The Windows 7 activation experience will be familiar to users of Windows Vista SP1

The Windows 7 activation experience is based on that of Windows Vista SP1 and should appear familiar to users of Windows Vista SP1. This includes the notifications that alert customers if they need to activate their copy of Windows and helps them with issues that may occur -- including the possibility that they might be a victim of software piracy.

Windows 7 includes an updated notifications experience for product activation

We heard feedback from customers that while the notifications that appeared in Windows Vista were effective at helping alert customers, there might be more we could do and say that would be helpful. So for Windows 7 our goal was to do a better job of helping customers make decisions with confidence about which action to take. In Windows 7, we're being more descriptive about what Windows is actually doing and providing more information about what, if any, actions the user should take as a result.

In the Windows 7 timeframe, one of our goals is to improve support for deployment and activation in the enterprise and other large organizations

We also heard from enterprise customers that there were some scenarios where our activation tools could be improved, to help ease the burden on IT departments. So we've added to some of the existing tools for IT professionals and made them easier to access to better support those who need to manage Windows activations at an organizational level. One example is the new support for activation in virtualization scenarios where KMS now counts virtual clients. This is important for customers who have fully virtualized environments or customers who have dev/test environments where virtual clients are used heavily.  

Other changes

Though not a core part of the Windows 7 product experience, one of the changes we are making to our anti-piracy efforts is to better distinguish between the generations of technology we're deploying. As many of you know, our online validation program, known as Windows Genuine Advantage, is a program designed for use with Windows XP. It was also designed to be added to the existing product activation technology that began shipping broadly with the versions of Windows XP that were already in the market. The addition of WGA to the anti-piracy technology used to protect Windows XP was key in that it enabled us to be much more agile in our response to techniques used by counterfeiters and pirates. As a result of the success of WGA, we built validation technology into Windows Vista from the beginning. These components were new and were built for use in Windows Vista. The same components, though tuned up a bit, form the basis of our activation and validation technology in Windows 7. To better reflect this latest generation of technology we will refer to the activation and validation components in Windows Vista and Windows 7 by a new name, Windows Activation Technologies.

In this latest generation of the technology activation and validation work together to protect Windows from being compromised or tampered with for the purpose of working around product activation. The notifications experience and the steps required to resolve issues are largely similar between Windows Vista and Windows 7 though we have made a number of improvements. In most cases a customer simply needs activate Windows with a genuine product key to resolve issues.

One of our design goals in this generation of the technology is to enable Windows to get smarter over time so we added the ability to receive new information that Windows can use to detect and protect against the latest activation exploits, tampering or other attempts to circumvent product activation.

We've also added to the online service that supports activation and validation on the Microsoft side with extensive systems monitoring, geo-redundancy and a focus on accuracy.

Overall, Windows 7 represents the latest technology in the tools and methods Microsoft has developed fight software piracy. As we look ahead, we know there will be new exploits that pirates will try once Windows 7 ships. In fact, we've already begun to see evidence of these efforts; our customers and partners have our pledge that as long as pirates keep trying to exploit Windows for their own ends, we'll be working to beat them through the technologies we develop and the programs we run to protect our customers, partners and Microsoft's intellectual property.

To see some of the changes between Windows Vista and Windows 7 take a look back at my post here about the notifications experience from the Windows 7 Beta, I don't expect much to change between that and our final release.

Comments (5)

  1. rdamiani says:

    The name change is very cool. Calling it ‘Windows Genuine Advantage’ was an incredibly bad idea that guaranteed bad feelings and bad press.

    I’m curious to see how large-scale activation is handled in Windows 7. Vista was never compelling enough to bother with the mess of KMS servers or mass activation, but Windows 7 looks a lot better.

  2. Microsoft Takes Aim at Piracy and Outlines Windows 7 Anti-Piracy Experience Q&A: Joe Williams explains

  3. rdamiani says:

    I really like the new name. The old one was a double-speak PR disaster. I hope that WAT is simpler to deploy than WGA 2 in Visa was. Vista didn’t seem to offer enough benefit to overcome the activation issues. Windows 7, on the other hand, looks pretty interesting.

  4. When Windows XP was launched, Microsoft also release an an Anti-Piracy tool called WGA (Windows Genuine

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