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Microsoft Replaces Your Pirated Windows, For Free 574

th3d0ct0r writes "ZDNet reports that Microsoft is now willing to replace your pirated version of Windows XP. As part of the recently started "Windows Genuine advantage" program, Alex Hilton explains that this incentive aims to bring out customers who bought PC's with Windows XP preinstalled from vendors that pirated the Microsoft OS. Not only do they offer amnesty to anyone coming forth with a pirated version, but also to ship an original version of their product with a valid license to replace the pirated one, each customer being able to get up to 5 such replacements. Hilton says: "Our goal is not to prosecute the individual, our goal is to get to the source".
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Microsoft Replaces Your Pirated Windows, For Free

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  • Important to note (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:01AM (#10915715)
    This is only a pilot program for the UK, and it requires a proof of purchase (so they have someone to go after).
    • by chuckfucter ( 703084 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:03AM (#10915729) Journal
      Oh, I'm glad you said that because I didn't read the artcle.
    • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:11AM (#10915792)

      This is only a pilot program for the UK, and it requires a proof of purchase (so they have someone to go after).

      Crap. I thought I might be able to scam them into giving me a free upgrade to XP Pro even though I already have a paid-for W2K Pro license.
      • by hunterx11 ( 778171 ) <.hunterx11. .at.> on Thursday November 25, 2004 @02:27AM (#10916387) Homepage Journal
        Crap. I thought I might be able to scam them into giving me a free upgrade to XP Pro even though I already have a paid-for W2K Pro license.

        Your comment contains a grammatical error. You mistakenly use the word "upgrade" instead of "downgrade."

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Why is this funny?

          The real upgrade to windows 2000 is windows 2003 (server).
        • That's not a grammatical error. Even the following sentence is grammatically correct:
          The invisible red ball is floating in a green love with very loud lemon flavour.
          Not that it made any sense, of course :-)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is only a pilot program for the UK

      So if you're not a pilot, you need not apply.

    • by Spetiam ( 671180 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @01:51AM (#10916273) Journal
      Even if it is only a pilot program, I must say, Microsoft has much better PR (and marketing) people than the RIAA et al.

      I feel too lazy right now to draw up a "step 1, step 2, profit!" list, but I think this is a pretty smooth move by Microsoft: increase consumer trust/goodwill, nail pirate "hubs" and generally solidify market share.

      I'm no fan, but I have to say, Microsoft has its act together on this one.
    • They've done something like this in the past, even if they didn't advertise it. I was working in a small computer shop several years ago, and one of our regular customers, a local dentist with a small office network, came in to get Windows 95 installed on his 5 machines.

      Being an honest guy, he'd actually purchased 5 copies at the local computer show. Unfortunately, they were counterfeit copies - a fact that probably wasn't obvious to someone who didn't see the real thing every day.

      Anyway, we called Micr
  • by beee ( 98582 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:03AM (#10915730) Homepage
    This has very little to do with converting pirates (which I'm sure even M$ realizes is a losing battle). The piracy sector M$ is genuinely worried about is people who get suckered into buying pirated copies from bootleggers or shady computer shops.

    I seriously doubt many knowing pirates are going to turn themselves in after a sudden guilt trip. M$ knows this too. But this puts them in the blogs and the papers, and they appear to be the good guy.

    It's a PR move, nothing more, nothing less, move along.
    • by luvirini ( 753157 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:06AM (#10915752)
      Nope, this is not a PR move.. this is an attempt to find people who SELL pirated software
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I don't know about that. I know many clusers who have bought a machine that "had Windows XP" from "a local guy" just to find that Windows update didn't work after SP2.
    • by Tyreth ( 523822 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @01:11AM (#10916107)
      The idea is that you purchased a computer that included windows xp in the price. You show them the receipt to prove that you paid for it.

      Microsoft then checks your version to see if it really is genuine. If it isn't, they assume you are innocent (since you have receipt to demonstrate that you bought it believing it was the real deal). Then, they go after the company that sold you the pirate version.

      So it's not a trick, it's not about converting pirates, and it's not a PR move. If you pirated your copy deliberately, then you won't be able to get a legal copy for free without getting in trouble. If you believe you have a legal copy but want to check, this is a way to do so for free.

      I'm a member of the popular Microsoft hating slashdot group, but this is not what you suggest - not as far as I understand it.

    • This has very little to do with converting pirates (which I'm sure even M$ realizes is a losing battle). The piracy sector M$ is genuinely worried about is people who get suckered into buying pirated copies from bootleggers or shady computer shops.

      Does anyone else find this post disturbing? It starts off with the comment that the crooks operate with impunity (even M$ realizes they can't stop the pirates). This "M$" moniker stems from the idea that somehow Microsoft is this evil empire stealing from the
  • How do you know? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scarykitty ( 833721 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:04AM (#10915736)
    How do you know if you have a pirated copy of Windows?
  • The Right Move (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Staplerh ( 806722 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:04AM (#10915737) Homepage
    Cudos to Microsoft for a great move that should hopefully encourage customers to report on their pre-installed pirated copies of Windows XP. Rather than attacking the user, they can go to the supplier. This can only be a move in the right direction, in my opinion, and I feel this sort of move should be lauded and supported by the general public.

    I'm curious to see what the general reaction to this move is.
  • Danger of Joe Jobs? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:04AM (#10915738)
    What if someone buys a computer from some small company, and then installs a pirated copy on it (say they screw up and lose whatever discs they have) and claims the small company put it on there to get another licensed copy. Or what if they buy a computer without an OS (or with Linux) and claims the pirated copy they got was from the small company?
  • Clever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Malfourmed ( 633699 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:06AM (#10915753) Homepage
    MS gets to identify and crack down on hardware vendors abusing their licensing programme and is more likely to generate future revenue stream via product upgrade fees.
  • by sTalking_Goat ( 670565 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:06AM (#10915756) Homepage a gun buyback program in Iraq...
  • MS speak (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:08AM (#10915774) Homepage
    "Our goal is not to prosecute the individual, our goal is to get to the source".

    Translation: Our goal is future upgrade revenue.
  • by Magickcat ( 768797 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:10AM (#10915785)
    Microsoft often target computer hardware companies in Australia - doing surprise audits and that type of thing. The teenage pirate isn't as damaging to them as computer sellers.

    Not a bad thing really however - because a great deal of Microsoft's monopoly has been achieved because people have pirated their software. It will likely be a way that consumers are forced to make the switch to Linux, because they'll be no way for them to access illegal copies.
  • Change of focus (Score:3, Insightful)

    by serps ( 517783 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:13AM (#10915809) Homepage

    This is interesting and I'd be especially interested to see which countries get this treatment.

    If I were a cynical MS executive, I'd tolerate, heck, encourage widespread piracy of my products in developing markets such as Asia, but ruthlessly crack down on developed markets that already have high (monopolistic?) Windows penetration.

    It maximises profits; those British will still have to pay the Microsoft Tax on new PCs, whereas PC retailers in asian countries, who don't do what MS tells them anyway, will still be spreading Windows throughout the region at the expense of every other OS. Eventually, MS will lean on those governments and say, "Do you know how much money our company is losing to piracy? Enforce your laws or else. By the way, your department's support contract for MS Longhorn is about to expire and we're raising prices by a lot. It's to cover lost sales due to piracy, doncherknow..."

  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:14AM (#10915811)
    I'm thinking a LOT of slashdotters would be wary about giving up their names and addresses to this sort of program, regardless of the promises of Microsoft.

    IMO, I think Microsoft is honest in their intentions, but I can see where this might come back to bite some people, with the RIAA and MPAA lawsuits as an example.

    All in all, though, this is good business for Microsoft - they've ALWAYS been quite generous with their licenses (developers, network admins, etc have always enjoyed a lot of freebies or outrageously generous package deals). Microsoft knows that once they get you on the straight and narrow, you'll probably keep coming back to them with legitimate purchases.

    Of course, an outfit like the RIAA has the opposite business model and problem - selling crap CDs at inflated prices and chasing down, threatening and prosecuting every last potential user. The real problem for them is that for every person they "catch", there are 100 more who decide the RIAA and their ilk deserve no business and pirate out of spite.

    Microsoft doesn't have that problem... the "haters" would be hipocritical to pirate Microsoft products, after all, they hate the product, right? So pirated copies almost become "free samples" to entice people in, and amnesty is the way to get that user back to buying the product (or at least the next cycle). Sure, they'd prefer you paid for the license, but they aren't as stupid as the record labels and movie people... they know many users either won't pay or paid a dishonest vendor; if you couldn't afford it anyway, they haven't lost a customer - but if you could afford it, you'll probably BUY the next version, or perhaps other Microsoft packages, because they were nice to you.

    In short, it's a win-win for people who bought PCs with pirated Windows on them (and the vendor comes out as a loser when Microsoft comes knocking on THEIR door).

  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:15AM (#10915818) Journal
    You still have to shop the guys who you bought your unlicensed copy of the OS from. And that includes signing a sworn statement to the fact.

    So, in essence, Microsoft gives you a legitimate copy of the software (or at least a license for the software that you already have installed) and you give Microsoft a mid-sized piracy outfit on a silver platter.

    Total cost to Microsoft for eliminating a pirate that might be costing them tens, if not hundreds, of thousands: next to nothing. The pirate outfit will probably end up forking over the lost income one way or another (in court or out of court, whichever Microsoft decides) and even it it doesn't (because it declares bankrupcy or something similar) it'll never be selling another pirated copy of Windows XP again, which means more legitimate Windows XP sales for Microsoft in the long run.

    You have to admit, it's one helluva smart play by Microsoft. It gets to make more money and it gets to look like the good guy too.

    Oh, and why not totally free? Well, apart from the legal stuff that you have to sign, there's a good chance that any outfit that's pirating Windows XP on a large scale barely has its head above water. The cost of getting caught by Microsoft, or even the cost of going legitimate from there onwards, is likely to drag such a company down like a stone. If that happens, your PC's warranty won't be worth the paper that it's written on.
  • by mshiltonj ( 220311 ) <(mshiltonj) (at) (> on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:19AM (#10915839) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft Replaces Your Pirated Windows, For Free

    There's another group offering to replace your copy Windows, no questions asked! Check out the free downloads []. And there's no limit of five free replacments. Replace as many copies of Windows as you want!
  • Great idea! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:20AM (#10915846)
    This is a great idea! Linux and the BSDs should start a similar initiative.
  • by Mad Martigan ( 166976 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:27AM (#10915878) Homepage
    I also got this notice from the police station today that says I have won a speed boat! All I have to do is go down to the station to sign the title and get the keys! I hope it won't be a problem that I have like 11ty billion unpaid parking tickets!
  • So what about (Score:3, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:28AM (#10915888) Journal
    If I tell them I bought my PC from an auction or buy-and-sell, etc - but wasn't given the original media. Nobody trackable to turn in, can I still go for a free legal CD-key?
  • by Desiderata ( 828917 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:30AM (#10915894) Journal
    I live in the Philippines and here pirated software is part of the culture. You walk down to the mall and buy it. I'd be surprised if you can actually get very much original software.
    Even our school was using pirated software until a year ago. The government is trying to launch an anti-piracy campaign, but when the computer stores themselves sell and install only pirated software, you can't get very far. Microsoft needs to acknowlege that nobody wants to pay that much money for a piece of software full of bugs.
  • by agendi ( 684385 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @12:43AM (#10915976)
    This is about getting backyard whitebox builders who install winXP on the machine to "test" it and then accidently give it to the buyer before deleting it so they can shave a few hundred off the price while still giving them a WinXP installed machine. It's a very common practice here in Sydney, Australia.

    What stinks about this scheme is that first of all most people that buy from the corner shop guys are not mum and pop (they tend to buy from the larger retail stores), they are the semi computer savvy people and small business owners that need computers a the cheapest prices and probably know very well that they aren't getting a fully licensed version but don't really care. However now that MS are going to reward them with a legit copy and give them a golden handshake - the people that are going to cop it are the PC sellers who (while they should have known better anyway) have probably done the thing on the buyers request anyhow.

    Even more scary is if you've built a system for a family member and they think they are doing the right thing by getting a legit copy may implicate you without purposely meaning to but they are trying to get something for nothing.

    Another thing, to drive the local competition out of business go buy a few machines from them with a pirated version and then graciously line up for your free legit copies then drop their names and then profit.

  • There Goal (Score:4, Funny)

    by Snaller ( 147050 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @01:07AM (#10916084) Journal
    "Our goal is not to prosecute the individual, our goal is

    World domination - check.
  • Smart...Very smart (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aailob1448 ( 541069 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @01:07AM (#10916086) Journal
    I don't know who at microsoft thought of this but once you get over the initial shock, this makes sense.

    The people who already have a pirate version of Windows that came pre-installed in their pc have no reason to buy a legitimate copy ; therefore, giving them one for free does not represent a loss for microsoft. They'll spend the same money they spend on manufacturing an SP2 update cd which anyone can order for free.

    And I imagine quite a few people will turn on their "shady" local pc stores if it means getting something for nothing. Even if the something is only an imagined peace of mind. Microsoft can in turn sue those stores for tidy amounts of money. I suspect they'll make enough of it to pay for the cds, the publicizing and the lawyer fees.

    Of course, any profits from these lawsuits would be too small to be of interest to Microsoft. However, once enough stores are sued, not only will that ensure most of them will start paying microsoft for legitimate copies of winXP, but it will also ensure that many other stores will fall in line because they fear some of their customers will report them.

    Divide and conquer : The oldest trick in the world

    And while I do not harbor any affection for Microsoft because of their condemnable business practices, I have take my hat off to the guy who thought of this.
  • by FireBreathingDog ( 559649 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @01:12AM (#10916110)

    1. Allow users to get free, pirated copies of your product.

    2. Contact those users and offer to give them a free, unpirated copy of your product.

    3. ???

    4. Profit!!!

  • OEM "Restore" Discs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @01:25AM (#10916168)
    I bought my PC from Dell and it came with WinXP preinstalled. Can I swap this stupid "restore" CD for an honest to god Windows CD????
  • IRC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @01:59AM (#10916295) Journal
    So what if someone downloads windows from irc or bittorrent? Can we give out our irc logs as proof of purchase?

    [XDCC-R4p3-M3] your file transfer Windows.XP.With.Crack is done
  • by mcleodnine ( 141832 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @02:43AM (#10916438)

    Yeah. There. I Said it.

    If Microsoft had bulletproof copy protection back in the Microsoft Windows 3.1/WFW3.11 days, they wouldn't have become the giant they are today. "Back in the day" lots of folks made a copy of the Windows floppies (yep, people used to sell software on floppies!) that came with the new PC delivered to the office for use on their home PCs, or even to 'update' older PCs in the office. It was a trivial task and it made Windows so prevalent in the work and home environment that by the time Windows 95 was launched people were hooked. Think crack dealer ("first one's free, dude.").

    Whether by guilty conscience, rabid fan-dom, or dare I say consumer satisfaction, people were ready and willing to pony up the bucks to get the latest goods, even using a very liberal and unchecked upgrade policy. How many folks here remember doing the math on upgrades and realizing you could save a hundred bucks by using your copied diskettes as a "qualfying upgrade" product? This was also the case for Microsoft Office - you could go out and buy MS Works and an Upgrade Edition of MS Office 4.2 for less than the shelf price of a full-blown Office Standard install and feel like you've laid a can O' whup-ass on "the man".

    That's about to change, the hammer is coming down, World Domination has been achieved. Every potential customer has been tapped. Format lock-in and closed document 'standards' ensure consumer lock-in for the next upgrade round. Maybe.

    Consumers are geting really tired of the upgrade mill caused by operating system version changes/upgrades which invariably require them to upgrade all their applications as well, and the insufferable gymnastics involved in something as simple as moving or *gasp* copying their root install to a new hard disk. People really are getting smarter about software and the realize that Microsost is more worried about their intellectual property than the users' precious data. In short, they're treating us like criminals; guilty until proven innocent. SOP.

    I like it. I see more and more customers looking at alternatives, and even if that means that have to buy a Linux install from us with Crossover Office just to run their MS Office stuff, so be it. The sooner the end user, the part of the equation that really matters, realizes how badly they've been treated, the better.

    Sure, beige box twits who install dodgy copies of XP, and Joe Sixpack users who find themselves unable to update the pirated version they just "bought" with their new whiz-bang PC will find their machine rendered more useless with each newly discovered exploit to go wild, are gonna sweat it huge, but it just means more clients to me. I'm armed and ready with whatever distro they think is pretty enough, and can sell it with a clear conscience.

    Are you?

    • Indeed MS was happy to encourage piracy to enable them to become a complete monopoly. Now they have achieved saturation their shareholders are squeezing them for continued growth and so MS in turn are turning on the squeeze on their customers.

      All my friends here are begging me to install Linux so they can go on the Internet safely. The first person I made the mistake of installing Gentoo. What a mistake. I can't even get my own machine into a usable state let alone find time to do someone else's. I'm going
  • Profit (Score:5, Funny)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @05:34AM (#10916955) Homepage
    It used to be like this;
    1. Create a crappy OS.
    2. Let every pirate copy it for free.
    3. Everybody uses crappy OS.
    4. Every company switches to crappy OS because everybody already uses it.
    5. Profit

    Now they've protected WinXP a bit too good;
    1. Create a crappy OS.
    2. Nobody can pirate it.
    3. Nobody uses it.
    4. No company switches.
    5. No profit.

    So they're fixing it like this;
    1. Create a crappy OS.
    2. Nobody can pirate it.
    3. Distribute it for free to pirates.
    4. Everybody uses it.
    5. Every company switches.
    6. Profit.

    Sounds familiar?
  • by pandrijeczko ( 588093 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @07:11AM (#10917185)
    None of us, whether Windows or Linux user, should lose focus as to the real reason why Microsoft are doing this.

    Windows XP has always been Microsoft's first big step into clamping down on the freedoms that most users have taken for granted up until now.

    From Microsoft's perspective, there is very little money to be made from just selling OSes any more, hence the licensing lock-ins that most guarantee regular income to MS.

    With regard to home and private users, make no mistake that MS intends to become a utility company alongside your electricity, gas and telephone provider. They want everyone to rent software and licenses that allow all of us to use the data we freely had access to and control over ourselves.

    Windows XP, along with WMP 10 and ultimately DRM hardware will force the rental model upon all Windows users - sure, it will be sold as security enhancements to Joe Public but will ultimately force all Windows users to continually pay to use their software or suffer deactivation.

    This is why Microsoft can afford to give away XP because, in the longer term, they will gain from this.

    It's important that, in the Open Source user-base, we continue to push home the message that it's not just about security & stability when choosing to use FOSS - its primarily about personal freedoms and maintaining our rights to use whatever software we want on our computers.

    So don't get lost amongst the smoke and mirrors of what MS is doing here by giving away XP - it's ultimately about everyone paying money to MS in the future for the rights to do the things they did freely in the past.

  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2@earthsho[ ] ['d.c' in gap]> on Thursday November 25, 2004 @07:16AM (#10917206)
    In all my born days I have seen about a dozen legit copies of any version of Windows {including 3.11 on a stack of floppies} -- including about six at my workplace. Everyone else I know has an operating system they didn't pay for: either a dodgy copy of Windows, or Linux.

    This is how it works in the UK. If you go to a back-street computer shop -- not PriCey World, not Dixons, but an actual independent retailer, a 21st century artisan -- to buy a machine, you get told the cost of the hardware not including software. Not even Windows. You are then given a choice: either you can take the machine away like that and install your own software, or you can pay for a legitimate copy of Windows and Office and all the usual crap like Outlook Express and Internet Exploder.

    At this point the customer probably is going to be shocked by how much the software will cost; and unless they are particularly straight-arsed about such matters, will inquire discreetly about a cheaper way. The shopkeeper's younger assistant will offer to do the job, strictly on the quiet and subject to the customer never breathing a word. The receipt says "No Operating System" and the cost of the software is paid, in cash, straight into the assistant's sky rocket. Lovely!

    The customer leaves, thinking they got one up on Microsoft by ripping off "hundreds of pounds" of software. Hey, it feels so good, stickin' it to The Man! And Ballmer cackles, because he knows the customer still believes they need Microsoft. Truth is, it's The Man who stuck it to you. Just because you didn't pay for it, doesn't make it less buggy or crash-prone. You still haven't got the source code -- and having a competent programmer look at the source code is the only way ever to make it less buggy and crash-prone. You still get every disadvantage you would have got if you had paid full whack for a legit copy, on top of the twin disadvantages that it's illegal and you know full well.

    In a more sorted universe, the shopkeeper would of course say, "Sure! You could have Linux and OpenOffice instead, for nothing." The customer would spend a day or two getting used to it and then realise they didn't need Microsoft. The customer's friends, being emailed loads of .sxw and .sxc files, would be a little baffled at first; but soon come to realise that they are OpenOffice files. Then they would install OpenOffice -- and maybe notice that instead of dire warnings against copying, comes a notice encouraging you to copy and spread their software!
  • Easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Thursday November 25, 2004 @07:37AM (#10917268) Homepage
    hell, I'll replace your pirated windows for free.

    Which distro would you like?

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.