Microsoft Pardons Users of Pirated Windows

Defrauded customers may be eligible for free Windows XP Pro, but with some strings attached.

Microsoft is offering users a chance to redeem themselves for having purchased—unwittingly—computers or software containing counterfeit versions of the Windows XP operating system. All customers have to do is turn in the alleged perpetrators.

This latest pilot offer is part of Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program to curb the damage that global software piracy is costing the company. Counterfeit software rakes in an estimated $29 billion per year, with 21 percent of PCs in the United States running non-legitimate copies of Windows, according to a study released last year by International Data Corp.

“Microsoft created this pilot to help customers become genuine and avoid the dangers of counterfeit software. The offer is also designed to protect our partners from competitors who engage in counterfeiting, and to facilitate our ongoing work with authorities to enforce anti-piracy policies and laws,” the company said, in a statement.

According to Microsoft, of the 48 million visitors who have viewed an opt-in page for the product authentication program, 27 million, or 56 percent, have chosen to participate, since the pilot program began in September 2004.

To receive a complimentary copy of Windows XP Professional, customers must send to Microsoft the pirated Windows software, a proof of purchase and a counterfeit report. The online report asks whether the bogus Windows was preinstalled and/or come on a CD and if it came with a certificate of authenticity. Other questions pertain to the purchase method (online, in-store, street vendor) and the reseller’s name.

Customers who do not have the counterfeit software on CD and a proof of purchase can buy Windows XP Professional directly from Microsoft at the reduced price of $149. Some users may be eligible to receive a license key online if the customer’s installed version of Windows is found to be complete and not corrupted or tampered with, which is determined by an electronic scan via Microsoft’s Download Center or Windows Update.

Microsoft Windows XP Professional retails for $299.

The offer will run until July 30. For more information on the WGA program, go here.

About the Author

Dan Hong is the associate Web editor of,,, and

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Aug 26, 2005 Nishath Ahmed India

there is a new technology to avoid piracy.

Wed, May 18, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

I attend one of the Microsoft CTEC's, and you don't get free usage of the software. As one person said, you get some trial copies that are useful. You DO however get the opportunity to purchase legal copies of the software for extemely discounted prices. I think XP Pro is something like $20 and Office 2003 is under $100 or something.

Sat, May 14, 2005 Doh Anonymous

mmmmmmm, XP

Sat, May 14, 2005 Not Required Anonymous

Microsoft sold Windows XP to Thai Police $1 a copy in December 2003. The reson for this deal was that Thai policewas shifting over to Linux OS and Microsoft wanted to keep them on board to make business. Moreover I think Piracy helps Microsoft. Though I have got all the licensed copies but just see if you don't know how to operate windows would you ever like to go for MS stuff. People go for MS stuff because they only can operate it. Otherwise Linux is 1000 times better than this OS (MADE MORE CUTE AS WELL). :)

Fri, May 13, 2005 Yes_I_have_a_Job Warmer than WI

To Cobra in WI, I work and my business is based on helping people with computers that fail. And even if the customer is the problem I would not phrase it the way you did. Never call a customer stupid. I worked in the corporate environment for 17 years before starting my own business. My primary job there was to provide computer and LAN support to over 200 programmers. Most programmers I've met are good programmers but don't have the vaguest idea what goes on inside the box. And I too think the OS from Microsoft is overpriced. I would tell you to chill out but you are already in WI. By the way Cobra, the caps lock key is on your left.

Fri, May 13, 2005 Bri Anonymous

So CodeRider, where do you get an OEM version without having to buy 100 units? If Gates wants to avoid this problem, make it affordable for everyone... and yada yada yada about support... pluuueeesse... the knowledge base is there for everyone OEM or not...

Fri, May 13, 2005 COBRA WI.



Fri, May 13, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

It has been a long time since I have been to a Microsoft Certified Technical School, but back in 1999 I was given a copy of NT4 that only had a 90 day license that could not be renewed. That NT4 version had to be completely reloaded to start the license over. What I was given was a copy of Win 95 to use as I pleased because Win 98 SE was the big selling OS at the time. But I agree that the price of XP it the driving force behind the piracy. I opened my own in home PC service company and many of my customers have 3 or 4 PCs in their homes to handle the needs (many schools now require all reports be type written). This could cost over $1000. And I don't care what the government says about how well the economy is doing. Many of my customers are just keeping their head above water.

Fri, May 13, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

What if you were a student at a "Microsoft Certified Technical Institute" and you received the "XP Corp" edition that didn't require an authentication code? ..... and then you used the program that generates the new passkey so you could download SP1 and SP2 ?

I heard that students are allowed full usage of all Microsoft Products free of charge when they are at the school.

Thu, May 12, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Face it Bill, the one main reason there is so much piracy of the Win XP OS is because of the $299 per seat retail price. Lower the price to under an affordable $100 per copy and your sales will greatly increase. Besides most of the hot software I have come across came from some off shore enterprise that relocated its shipping point weekly and all carry the same CD-Key. This is my way of telling the hot version. I will work on it and solve technical problems, but I explain to the customer why I can not reload it on their PC if needed. And yes I know about CD-Key changers. But the changer can't change the orginal CD Key.

Thu, May 12, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Isn't Loghorn coming out soon? Shouldnt the price of "obsolete" OS's drop?

Thu, May 12, 2005 CodeRider Anonymous

Just one comment for those who don't know the difference between an oem copy of windows and a retail copy. The biggest difference is support. Microsoft does not support oem copies of it's software, that is left up to the reseller. You can legitimately purchase an oem copy of windows, you just won't be able to call Microsoft when you run into problem. That is unless you want to pay for the support call. :)

Thu, May 12, 2005 la Anonymous

I agree whith nyc they should drop the price of XP to $150.

Thu, May 12, 2005 NYC Anonymous

I say, if they can let copies go for $150. which is the price of an OEM retail ( without box). Then why not let it be that price all the time? The maybe just maybe someone may purchase it ligit. I mean realy XP is nolonger a new OS.

Thu, May 12, 2005 OEM Mouse Anonymous

Hey Anon E. Mouse the only OEMs buying a full WinOS for less than$70 are getting pirate stuff - and there is no "redemption" available. Organized crime is estimated to import several sea containers of pirated software every month. The cops only catch a few. So if Bill is a "greedy thief" what do you call the criminal who pays 2 cents to clone a CD and resell it for $20? At least Bill is paying a bunch of programmers big bucks to make an OS that (mostly)works and develop future capabilities or improvements. If you want a legit $20 desktop go to Linux. Then ask yourself if it's all about the price why can't all the genius Open Source techies build a better platform! MAC users say they already have one so it must be possible.

Thu, May 12, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

OEM XP Pro sells to System Builders for $149.00. I'd like to know where Anon E. Mouse gets his figures!

Thu, May 12, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Apparently "Working in IT" has never participated in open source forums for tech support before. Clueless one -- you have obviously been conditioned well for IT. LOL!

Thu, May 12, 2005 Working in IT Anonymous

No. Believe it or not it costs money to develop, distrubute, patch and maintain OS over the lifespan of 5 years per edition! Working in IT, I always respect software piracy laws and purchase legal OS copies for all business users and for home use. It's true Solaris 10 Intel version is free but why is Windows so much more popular then? Perhaps in some future year, Open Source will gain over Windows but for now I welcome the Windows standard platform advantages over a weaker unsupported wild west open source based OS world.

Thu, May 12, 2005 Anon E. Mouse Anonymous

More importantly, BillCo charges OEMs between 10 and 20 bucks, on the average for Windows.

If it's good enough for OEMs, why isn't it good enough for the customers ???

Thu, May 12, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Personally, I would NOT participate in this simply because I don't like Bill Gates. I'm not turning anybody in just so I can get a legitimate copy of the OS. I do have licenses for my OS's (they came with purchased computers, or are UNIX based).

"This latest pilot offer is part of Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program to curb the damage that global software piracy is costing the company."

It's not 'costing' the company anything. They are arguably the most lucrative company out there. I understand they’re not making the money they could make if every copy was legitimate, but that’s not costing them anything. They’re crying because they’re pockets aren’t as deep as they could be.

“Why pay for a service that would be dirt cheap if it wasn’t run by a bunch of profiteering gluttons”

Here’s to you Bill, greedy thief, you may stop a few of us, but you’ll never stop us all. Pirates are the ones who keep your business thriving. If we were unable to pirate your software, then I’d abandon MS completely.

Wed, May 11, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

I bought my first computer January 2005 from a major retailer. Soon after a second computer was needed to keep the peace in our house. Within a month I had acquired enough knowlege to be dangerous. I set out on a quest to build to be better, faster and cheaper. I was given a authentic 2000 CD as well as a bootleg copy of XP to bring my new creation to life. I had no problems with registering my computer. Ater a few months of taking full advantage of "free sotware" thanks to peer to peer file sharing, I became a downloading madman. I have now been told my 5 installs is over. I told windows support , I had reinstall because of viruses collected along with the "free music, movies,and software I had been harvesting over the past 3 months. Thanks to several very courteous microsoft support techs ,my windows XP has been activated and registered many times since. How can I become legit, when price means nothing...

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