How Genuine Advantage Notifications Work

By: Dave Roos

Criticisms of Genuine Advantage Notifications

Genuine Advantage Notification can be found in the Microsoft Update services.
Genuine Advantage Notification can be found in the Microsoft Update services.
Microsoft product screen shot reprinted with permission from Microsoft Corporation.

The first criticism of Genuine Advantage Notifications involves software distribution. Critics are angered that Microsoft included the GAN software as a Critical Update, something they believe should be reserved for security issues only. Since GAN was listed as a Critical Update, many people downloaded it without fully understanding what it meant. What's worse, many Windows XP users have signed up for something called Automatic Update that automatically downloads security updates via the Windows Update service. Critics say Microsoft broke a sacred security trust with users by sneaking the GAN software through the back door [source: ZDNet].

Microsoft argues that GAN qualifies as a security issue since pirated software can be dangerous for computers. Still, the company decided to remove GAN as a security update and list it only as a "high priority" update [source: Techblog]. However, GAN is still included as part of the Automatic Update service.


Some critics dislike the way the Windows Genuine Advantage system "phones home" to Microsoft with information about a user without the user's consent [source: ZDNet]. More specifically, the system only asks for the user's consent once information has already been collected. This is because the WGA system is a two-part process: validation and notification. No consent is required to run the software validation, which collects information and sends it back to Microsoft. Consent is required, however, to send notifications, which don't collect information. Critics say that Microsoft should ask for consent for both steps of the process [source: ZDNet].

But perhaps the most important criticism of Genuine Advantage Updates is that it just doesn't work [source: ZDNet]. Far too often, say the critics, the system targets perfectly legitimate software as fake. A lot of the false negatives appear to plague users who have returned laptops to the manufacturer for service. Something in the servicing process renders it difficult for the GAN software to identify the operating system software as legitimate.

Then the wrongly identified users are subjected to repeated, annoying messages reminding them that their copy of Windows XP is counterfeit and that they should take action to correct it. Critics say that Microsoft needs to offer better solutions beyond buying another copy of Windows XP or spending hours on a tech support hotline [source: ZDNet].

A final criticism of Genuine Advantage Notifications is that the software has been notoriously difficult to uninstall. Microsoft issued an update in late 2007 that made the process a little easier. Read on to find out how to remove Genuine Advantage Notifications from your system.