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Windows XP Learns New Nag Tactic for Pirates

For those of you that are familiar with anti-piracy measures implemented within the new flagship operating system from Microsoft, you may know that some changes have taken place since its release – most notably with the release of Windows Vista Service Pack 1.

Originally, unless Windows Vista was activated correctly, the operating system would fall back into what was referred to as ‘reduced functionality mode’. When this happened, the only thing the user of the system could do was access the Internet. With this limited functionality the user could purchase a legitimate key online, or complete online activation.

Upon the release of Service Pack 1 things changed slightly. Incorrectly activated copies of Windows Vista would no longer fall back into ‘reduced functionality mode’, instead the system would proceed to nag the user by removing your background wallpaper every 60 minutes. It would also prompt the user with warning boxes by the taskbar claiming that you might be a victim of software piracy.

Let us all welcome this feature to Windows XP Professional with the new Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) update from Microsoft. This update puts into effect the same nagging measures in place with the Vista platform.

After updating to the new Windows Genuine Advantage, users of questionable copies of Windows XP Professional will notice upon logging in that their desktop wallpaper has been removed and replaced with a standard black background. Users can reset their wallpaper using standard methods, but every 60 minutes it will be removed in favor of the black screen.

In addition to the new black screen ‘feature’, users will also experience what Microsoft calls ‘persistent desktop notification’ (PDN). PDN is essentially a feature that watermarks the desktop with a warning box that is non-interactive. Users cannot click on it or remove it in any way.

This update will initially be released for Windows XP Professional as Microsoft claims the Professional edition to be the most widely pirated version of Windows XP. Many months down the road we may see this feature implemented on other versions of Windows XP, such as Home edition and Media Center edition.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this over the next few months. Some of us may remember reading how we could sort of bypass the old protection scheme on the Windows XP platform.

According to the WGA blog, this is a feature that users requested for the Windows XP platform. It is a bit unusual to see that only Windows XP Professional is getting the update and not other editions. Regardless of which platform is currently the most widely pirated, the other versions have their share as well. Maybe Microsoft is feeling the waters to see if this new feature makes an impact on piracy of Windows?

Will this update make a difference to those using ‘questionable’ copies of Corporate Editions of Windows XP Professional with Volume License Keys? Corporate VLKs do not require activation. And there are many known ways to prevent WGA from driving pirates mad. Only time will tell.