Solving Windows Genuine Advantage Problems

The Windows Genuine Advantage program is an anti-piracy initiative developed by Microsoft to help protect Windows and Microsoft Office products. The WGA software connects to Microsoft servers, tests the validity of your product key and displays several warning messages if it determines that your copy of Windows is not legit. It can cause some surprising problems. Keep reading to learn how to fix them.

Aside from some complaints about how the system works, and the frequency with which it checks, I’m not too upset by this addition by Microsoft.  They have a right to protect their investment and intellectual rights.  In my opinion, WGA is a fine initiative — except that it has a habit of returning false positives.  Let’s take a look at how to fix it.

The Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications tool does transmit some information about your operating system to Microsoft.  If you are concerned about your privacy, you can read the WGA Privacy Statement.

The first step in resolving WGA issues is to ensure that you are running the latest version of the software.  As of the time of this writing, the latest version can be found at the link below.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/905474

If you’re unsure how to tell if your Windows installation or Windows media is counterfeit, you can find more information by visiting:

http://www.microsoft.com/howtotell/

But wait!  Why would I want to tell Microsoft that I have a counterfeit copy of Windows?!

The Windows Genuine Advantage program is also a means of protecting the consumer by identifying computer manufacturers who are selling computers with illegal or non-genuine copies of Windows installed.  If your system does not validate, the Microsoft police are not going to come beat down your door. 

In fact, if your system contains counterfeit software due to no fault of your own, you may be eligible for a complimentary copy of Windows or a replacement product key at no cost to you.  In the event that it is your fault, you will still be offered an opportunity to get legal at discounted prices.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

So despite a lot of claims, Genuine Advantage is a good thing for both Microsoft and the consumer.  Let’s take a look at how to resolve some of the issues that may arise while trying to validate using Windows Genuine Advantage.

{mospagebreak title=Try to validate online}

Resolution 1: Validate Online

The first way to resolve Windows Genuine Advantage issues is to try validating online via the Microsoft web site.  The web site requires Internet Explorer with ActiveX controls enabled.  Once you meet the requirements, visit the following link.

http://www.microsoft.com/genuine

On the left side of the page, click the Validate Windows or Validate Office button and follow the on-screen prompts.  Be sure to allow downloading of the ActiveX object.

The validation process only takes a few seconds in most cases.  When validation completes, you should receive a message indicating whether or not your system passed.

{mospagebreak title=Update Your Product Key}

Resolution 2: Update Your Product Key

A vast majority of non-genuine Windows installations are not the fault of the user.  In many cases, repair installs were performed in a repair shop using a non-genuine product key or an illegally issued Volume License Key.  In these cases, you can simply re-apply your own legally licensed product key.  To do this, you’ll need to locate your product key on the Certificate Of Authenticity that came with your computer or Windows CD.

Once you’ve located your product key, you can download the Microsoft Product Key Update Tool from the Microsoft web site.  Before running the tool, you should create a restore point.

After changing your product key, you’ll need to activate Windows.  Then, you’ll be able to try validating with WGA.

{mospagebreak title=Windows Genuine Advantage Diagnostics}

Resolution 3: Windows Genuine Advantage Diagnostics

If you are still having problems validating, and you know you’re using a valid product key, it’s time to look at some other common error points.  Windows Genuine Advantage can also fail due to problems with your system configuration that prevent it from operating correctly.  Microsoft provides two methods of testing for these problems.

The first of these is their online WGA diagnostic site.

http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/diag/

The site uses an ActiveX control to test various system components and settings required for WGA validation to complete.

Once the ActiveX object has been installed and run, the web site will display your results.  A successful diagnostics looks like the image above.

If you cannot use the online method, or wish to roll out across a network, Microsoft also provides a downloadable WGA diagnostic (direct download) utility.

{mospagebreak title=Specific Errors}

Problem: The Security Update for Windows Genuine Advantage (KB905474) fails to install.

Microsoft Critical Update KB905474 (Windows Genuine Advantage) typically fails to install if the permissions in the registry are not correct.  Repairing these permissions will generally resolve this issue.

Resolution: Repair registry permissions.

  1. Click Start and then Run… to open the Run dialog box.
  2. Type regedit and press Enter to open the Microsoft Registry Editor.
  3. Expand the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT node and locate the LegitCheckControl.LegitCheck subkey.
  4. Right-click the subkey and choose Permissions…
  5. Ensure that the Administrators group is allowed Full Control permissions.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 for the subkey LegitCheckControl.LegitCheck.1.

If that does not resolve the issue, download the update from the link below and install the update manually.

http://www.download.windowsupdate.com/msdownload/update/v3-19990518/cabpool/windowsxp-kb905474-enu-x86_4bafa8793e8cdcaf4ba4ffc494df32d496154544.exe

Problem: Online validation fails with no apparent cause.

Online validation will also fail if the Windows Genuine Advantage ActiveX control has been disabled in Internet Explorer.  This prevents your computer from communicating with the WGA validation web site.  It’s also important to note that this only works in Internet Explorer.  Attempting to validate in any other browser will not work.

Resolution: Enable the ActiveX control.

  1. Open Internet Explorer and select Internet Options… from the Tools menu.
  2. In the Internet Options dialog, select the Programs tab.
  3. Click the Manage Add-ons… button.
  4. Be sure the drop down list has Add-ons that have been used by Internet Explorer selected and select the Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool item in the list below.
  5. In the Settings section, ensure that the add-on is enabled.
  6. Close all open dialogs.

If the Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool does not appear in the list, visit the validation web site and install it.  You may receive a warning in the Information Bar.  Be sure to allow the program to install.

{mospagebreak title=More specific errors}

Problem: “Cryptographic Errors Detected” error when running WGA Diagnostics.

You may receive a “Cryptographic Errors Detected” message for a validation status when running the Windows Genuine Advantage Diagnostic Tool as a result of corrupt digital signatures in some required files.

Resolution: Re-register the required files.

  1. Click Start and select Run… to open the Run dialog box.
  2. Type cmd and press Enter to launch the Windows Command Prompt.
  3. At the command prompt, type regsvr32 softpub.dll and press Enter.
  4. You should receive a message that the registration succeeded.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for the following files:
    • wintrust.dll
    • initpki.dll
    • dssenh.dll
    • rsaenh.dll
    • gpkcsp.dll
    • sccbase.dll
    • slbcsp.dll
    • mssip32.dll
    • cryptdlg.dll
  6. Once all of the files have been re-registered, type Exit and press Enter to close the Command Prompt.
  7. Restart your computer and attempt validation.

Problem: "Product Key Inaccessible" or "0×80080212" Error.

You may receive either a “Product Key Inaccessible” or a “0×80080212″ error while attempting to validate on Windows XP Home or Professional due to incorrect security permissions on the data folder used by the validation tool.

Resolution: Correct the folder permissions.

  1. Open My Computer and select Folder Options… from the Tools menu.
  2. On the View tab, unselect the option for Use simple file sharing (Recommended) and choose Apply and OK.  Close any open dialogs.
  3. In My Computer locate the following folder:

    %systemdrive%Documents and SettingsAll UsersApplication DataWindows Genuine Advantage

  4. Right-click the folder and choose Properties… to open the Folder Properties dialog box.
  5. On the Security tab, select the Users group and allow Read & Execute, List Folder Contents, and Read permissions.  If you do not have a Security tab, restart your computer in Safe Mode and repeat this procedure starting at step 3.
  6. Click OK to close all open dialogs and attempt validation.

So here I’ve presented you with several troublesome scenarios that could arise during the WGA validation process, along with their resolutions.  I hope this smoothes out any difficulties you may be experiencing.  Until next time…

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