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Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA)

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is a program that investigates Windows -based computers to be sure that their copy of the Windows operating system ( OS ) is legitimate. The system checks the OS version, the product key, the license key, the hard disk serial number and other information about the hardware and software in the computer.

The installation of WGA is required for Windows users to receive certain services such as automatic updates. The computer contacts Microsoft periodically. The service works best with high-speed connections. In some cases, firewall s and anti-virus software can interfere with the functioning of WGA. This may prevent users from receiving desired updates unless the program settings are changed to allow the computer to communicate with Microsoft.

The fact that WGA causes computers to "phone home" has aroused concern among privacy advocates, leading to accusations that WGA in effect forces Windows users to submit to the installation of spyware on their machines. Microsoft has indicated that WGA does not transmit personal information to the company or anyone else and does not take any sort of police-like action against users or computers that fail to pass the legitimacy test for any reason.

Critical updates, such as those necessary to protect computers against hacker s, can be downloaded and installed even if an OS checks out as illegitimate. After WGA has been installed, it can prevent users of computers with unlicensed copies of Windows from downloading optional OS updates or receiving special offers from the company. Microsoft provides a forum to assist users who have licensed copies of Windows that erroneously check out as illegitimate or who believe they may actually have an illegitimate copy.

This was last updated in March 2011

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