updated 7/26/2005 8:02:41 AM ET 2005-07-26T12:02:41

Microsoft Corp. has kicked off a new program aimed at severely curtailing the ways people using pirated copies of its Windows operating system can get software updates.

When a computer user starts to download updates, the new program, called Windows Genuine Advantage, will scan the machine to see if it's running an authentic version of Windows.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

If the program detects a counterfeit copy, it will offer two options:

  • Customers who fill out a piracy report, provide proof of purchase and send in the counterfeit CDs will get a free copy of Windows Home Edition, which retails for $199, or Windows Professional, which sells for $299.
  • Those who simply submit a piracy report — giving details of when, where and from whom the operating system was purchased — and send in the counterfeit copy will get either version of Windows at half price.

The authentication process was optional until Monday.  From now on, it will be required for all software updates except security patches.

After prompting customers that their operating systems need to be authenticated, the program will scan the computer, detecting the product number automatically — unless, of course, it's a fake.

Will Poole, a senior vice president in Microsoft's Windows division, said more than 40 million customers took part in the pilot.

The world's largest software maker did not disclose how many pirated copies of Windows it has rooted out since the program began as a pilot program last September.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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