Microsoft is pushing a new update for Windows 7 soon, innocuously named “Update For Microsoft Windows (KB71033),” which will check in with Microsoft’s servers every 90 days to make sure that your installation of the OS is genuine.
A better name for the software is Windows Activation Technology, or WAT. If WAT detects that your software is pirated, it will downgrade you to “non-genuine” status, which means Windows will essentially lock itself down:
The background wallpaper will change to black. You can set it back to whatever you want, but once an hour or so it will reset again to black.
Various “nag” notifications will appear at intervals to “remind” you that your system has been tagged as a likely pirate and offering you the opportunity to “come clean” — becoming authorized and legitimate by buying a new Windows 7 license. Some of these nags will be windows that appear at boot or login time, others will appear frequently (perhaps every 20 minutes or so) as main screen windows and taskbar popup notices.
Fortunately, there is a way around this. KB71033 is will be available on the Microsoft site to manually download on February 16th, and it won’t be pushed to Windows Update until February 23rd. So when you’re installing updates on your Windows 7 machine, make sure to manually set what new updates you want to install.
A lot of people are talking about this as if it were some exceptionally backhanded tactic on Microsoft’s part, which it really is not. They’re a software company. When people pirate their products, they are potentially lowering Microsoft’s profits. To liken this to thugs bursting into your house and forcing you to turn over your PC is a bit much (yes, some bloggers are actually saying that), but it is fair to say that this update kind of sucks.
The reason why it sucks is because validation tools frequently go wrong. Vista was notorious for errors which made the software recognize itself as pirated.
Of course, if you’re really unhappy about this, you don’t have to use Microsoft products. I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that for the most part, we have a free choice as to what software we run. Not happy with Windows? Run Linux.