Microsoft to scan for pirates every 90 days


Microsoft will step up its fight against counterfeit software by issuing an update for Windows 7 that will check every 90 days to see if users have attempted to circumvent its activation processes.

Many users around the world have implemented "hacks" to enable them to circumvent Microsoft's activation processes and use pirated software.

With its update, Windows Activation Technologies Update for Windows 7, Microsoft is intending to identify users who have implemented hacks.

Upon finding evidence of a hack, Microsoft's update - due for release on Tuesday - will install a watermark on the user's desktop warning that they must only use a genuine copy of Windows and repeatedly prompting the user to buy.

The update will detect 70 of the most common hacks, Microsoft said. Windows Activation Technologies is Microsoft's latest name for the often unpopular anti-piracy software which preceded it Windows Genuine Advantage and Windows Product Activation.

"The update will determine whether Windows 7... is genuine and will better protect customers' PCs by making sure that the integrity of key licensing components remains intact," wrote Joe Williams, Microsoft's general manager for Genuine Windows, in a blog post.

"The update protects customers by identifying known activation exploits... If any activation exploits are found, Windows will alert the customer and offer options for resolving the issue."

The update will check every 90 days to see if any new hacks have been installed. Each check will include new signatures aimed at identifying the latest hacks.

Some users were unhappy at the prospect of Microsoft's latest update. One comment on the post noted: "Excuse me but no. Enough is enough. I run a tight ship here. I scan for malware. Microsoft, I'm sorry, you don't get the right to run period validations of my Windows 7s in my office every 90 days."

Other users may be concerned that the update could identify their genuine copies of Windows as pirated, as has occasionally been the case in the past.

While the update will be pushed out to individuals, it will not be available to enterprise customers through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), which is used by businesses to manage the distribution of software updates. Instead, IT professionals will have to import the update into WSUS through the Microsoft Update catalog, if they wish to install it. Installation is voluntary, Williams insisted, adding that users of genuine copies will notice no effect from the update.

Notably, release of the update will be delayed in China, where Microsoft has for years grappled with notoriously high levels of Windows piracy. Users there will not see the update until the summer.

Microsoft is already on the back foot in China over its plans to crack down on pirated versions of Windows XP, which involved turning the screen black for users of pirated versions. The latest delay may be a concession aimed at heading off a possible conflict with Chinese users.