Pirated Keys only cause 80% of all WGA failures

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 4, 2006
Updated • May 29, 2012

You all know windows genuine advantage (wga) which checks if you are running a legit copy of Windows XP on every startup and when you try to download certain tools and updates from the Microsoft website. Microsoft confirmed that only 80% of all WGA failures are caused by pirated keys which means that about 20% are not caused by pirated keys.

I think this is pretty interesting. Ed Bott from Zdnet tried to get an answer about the other 20% and received an evasive answer stating that Microsoft would not be able to share specifics and that those mostly resulted from "activities such as various forms of tampering and unauthorized OEM installations." The only conclusion that I can come up with is that there is most likely a large number of false positives and Microsoft does it's best to keep this number secret.

Update: The Computer World article has been deleted, and is no longer available as a result. Ed Bott's piece is still available though.

Microsoft followed up on the false positive rate two weeks later on the Genuine Windows Blog where the company tried to explain why there were so many false positives, 60 million at the time out of 300 million validations.

According to the post, only a handful of those false positives where in fact real false positives, while the large majority were flagging systems as not genuine that indeed were not. The article mentions four scenarios in which the tool is working correctly.

Scenario 1: the PC user was sold counterfeit but it looks genuine to them so their first reaction is shock followed by disbelief and frustration (occasionally people seem to contact us right at this point!) but in truth these people are victims and the product is really a counterfeit made to look like genuine. When people are ripped of this way we offer to replace their product with a genuine copy if they fill out a counterfeit report and send it and the counterfeit into us. So far we've provided hundreds of free copies of Windows to users who've been ripped by high-quality counterfeit, and we plan to continue this offer.

Scenario 2: the PC user really doesn't know that they did something wrong, such as install the same copy and key to more than one PC at the same time. If a customer such as this bought their copy at a reputable outlet, a national chain or received Windows pre-installed on a PC from a major manufacturer they might believe that what they have is 'genuine' but they don't realize that they're violating the license in a way that results in a WGA failure. The solution to this is really educational, there are some requirements as to how Windows can be installed, these are of course spelled out in the EULA and for many are common knowledge.

Scenario 3: a friend or acquaintance offers to 'fix' or repair your system or offers a 'free upgrade' by installing their copy of Windows on your machine. as in the scenario above, if you didn't now that wasn't allowed under the license you have for Windows you might be surprised when WGA fails. The challenge in scenario 3 and 4 is that there is no way to tell the difference from someone unknowingly pirating the software, with good intent or not, and someone who does this for a living to rip off consumers and/or Microsoft.

Scenario 4: you take your PC to get a new video card or hard drive or to be worked on for some other reason at a repair shop, in the process of the upgrade a new [improper] copy of Windows is installed. Sometimes this happens because those doing the work will take shortcuts to install a copy of Windows that is laying around or is convenient. Often times this is done with a key and a copy of Windows that's handy for the repair person but is really the wrong version or edition or installation for your system. WGA detects some of these miss-matches and will fail systems that are installed with versions of Windows that aren't licensed properly. For customers who find themselves in this situation there's a number of solutions available none of which require that they purchase a new copy of Windows.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):


  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.