Free program from Microsoft stops WGA

Brian livingston By Brian Livingston

False readings from the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) applet were described in a May 21 Top Story by contributing editor Susan Bradley, who described a way to install Windows XP without ever downloading or running WGA.

If you’ve already installed WGA on XP, however, a program known as Autoruns — which is downloadable from — lets you easily deactivate the applet.

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In addition to Susan’s articles on the subject, Dennis O’Reilly’s Known Issues column on May 21 featured comments by readers who’d been seriously affected by erroneous “nongenuine” readings from WGA.

Susan linked to WGA removal instructions provided by Microsoft (see Knowledge Base article 921914), but she reported that the steps work only on early, “pilot” versions of WGA, not later versions.

WS reader Eric Levy suggests a simple way for legitimate Windows users who are suffering from false positives to disable WGA: Autoruns. This is a free program developed by SysInternals, a company started by developers Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell and acquired in 2006 by Microsoft:
  • “In Susan Bradley’s article, ‘Get all security patches without WGA nightmares,’ she mentions having to deal with the WGA tool at boot if Automatic Updates automatically installed it. She states that you either have to let it run or click Cancel every time you boot.

    “Unhappily, I’ve already had to deal with this very issue and have found a beautiful way out of it. The first time it comes up, click Cancel to stop the WGA tool from setting itself up. Once the desktop is loaded and stabilized, execute autoruns.exe from SysInternals (Microsoft).

    “Select the Scheduled Tasks tab and remove the check mark next to the line that contains the Windows Genuine Advantage tool….

    “That’s it! Problem solved. Mark Russinovich comes through again!”
SysInternals' autoruns scheduled tasks tab
Figure 1. Uncheck the WGA entry (not shown in this figure) under the Scheduled Tasks tab of Autoruns to stop the validator from running.

There are other ways to edit entries in Scheduled Tasks, but Autoruns is a great utility that all Windows users should have at hand. You can download Autoruns from the utility’s page on Microsoft’s TechNet site. The download page also includes instructions for using the program.

For more details on how to detect and configure WGA in XP and Vista, see WS contributor Scott Dunn’s Nov. 29, 2007, article.

WGA morphs into Windows Activation Technologies

Susan’s article also elicited a response from Microsoft spokeswoman Jill Lovato. Susan had mentioned that WGA will be renamed Windows Activation Technologies (WAT) in the forthcoming Windows 7. Jill pointed to a blog post by Alex Kochis, director of Microsoft’s Genuine Windows program, who says:
  • “As many of you know, our online validation program, known as Windows Genuine Advantage, is a program designed for use with Windows XP…. As a result of the success of WGA, we built validation technology into Windows Vista from the beginning. These components were new and were built for use in Windows Vista. The same components, though tuned up a bit, form the basis of our activation and validation technology in Windows 7. To better reflect this latest generation of technology, we will refer to the activation and validation components in Windows Vista and Windows 7 by a new name, Windows Activation Technologies.”
Microsoft posts statements about how WGA works in XP and Vista on its MS Genuine Advantage Program information page. Windows Secrets will cover the behavior of WAT in future stories.

Reader Eric Levy will receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of his choice for sending a tip we printed. Send us your tips via the Windows Secrets contact page.

The Known Issues column brings you readers’ comments on our recent articles. Brian Livingston is editorial director of
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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2009-05-28: