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The WGA validation process validates the present installation of Windows and its license key against the detected computer hardware and determines if the software was licensed from Microsoft.It is accessible by either a stand-alone program, a Netscape-compatible web browser plug-in, or as an Active X control within Internet Explorer, the latter of which is relevant to any attempt to access Microsoft updates via its browser.It includes the following steps: The Active X control is downloaded on the first validation and when a new version is available, but the validation itself can be performed any time the user connects to a Microsoft Website to update.On Windows Vista without service packs, WGA validation failure has a greater impact.Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is an anti-infringement system created by Microsoft that enforces online validation of the licensing of several recent Microsoft Windows operating systems when accessing several services, such as Windows Update, and downloading Windows components from the Microsoft Download Center.
The user is given a grace period in which to then pass validation, after which most of the operating system is disabled and Windows reverts to reduced functionality mode.
This behavior however has been removed in Service Pack 1 of Windows Vista in favor of prominent notices on systems believed unlicensed.
The Active X control checks Windows 2000 Professional licenses as well.
WGA also advertises the latest service pack, Service Pack 3, for Windows XP, which requires manual intervention to disable.
Previously voluntary, it became mandatory for use of these services by July 2005.
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Despite its name it does not actually evaluate the integrity or security of any computer.