I’ve received several questions that show there’s still a lot of confusion about Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) and Windows Genuine Advantage Notification (WGAN) in Windows XP.
These are two different programs that do two different things. One is mandatory for almost anything you want to download from Microsoft. The other is optional — and you can block it from being presented to you as a Microsoft Update.
First, let’s put this all in perspective. WGA is a piracy-prevention system; well, really, it’s a piracy-CORRECTION system.
Microsoft has locked down many Windows updates and other downloads from microsoft.com. In order to get them, you have to run their Windows Genuine Advantage program. This program is designed to validate that your computer has a legitimate copy of Windows.
On the other hand, Microsoft allows downloads of security updates even for pirated copies of Windows — or, at least I think that’s their current position on this. They’ve flip-flopped back and forth between allowing and not allowing security updates for unvalidated copies and copies that failed the validation.
Notice that I’ve very carefully phrased this issue — the WGA program has been known to have false positives. In other words, sometimes it declares that a legitimate copy of Windows is a pirated copy.
The other program that’s related to WGA is Windows Genuine Advantage Notification (WGAN).
WGAN is a nag program. It’s designed to encourage you to buy a legitimate license of Windows, if the WGA program decides that your copy of Windows isn’t legitimate.
You HAVE to get WGA if you want to download anything from Microsoft.com or anything except security updates for Windows.
You DO NOT have to download WGAN. It is optional. Repeat. It is OPTIONAL. I did not install it on my computers.
As I wrote earlier, you can block the WGAN update from being presented to you by Microsoft Updates. Read how in New Version – Windows Genuine Advantage Notification, which was in a Special Edition email newsletter to my subscribers.