Welcome to the next round of the cat and mouse game between Microsoft and the pirates. While the first round undoubtedly belonged to crackers – who managed to circumvent Windows 7 Activation measures by faking OEM certificates and using OEM-SLP (System Locked Pre-installation) product keys, Microsoft is ready to strike back.
The Windows Activation Technologies (WAT) update (KB971033) was made available through Windows Update earlier this month. While the update is optional, it is not very easy to spot. Microsoft simply describes it as an Update for Windows 7 (Important). Windows Activation Technologies is mentioned only in the details pane – which most users tend to overlook.
Microsoft claims that the Windows Activation Technologies update is capable of detecting more than 70 known and potentially dangerous activation exploits. If the WAT tool determines your copy to be legitimate, then nothing will happen. In other words, you will notice WAT only if your copy is determined to be pirated (counterfeit). Even in that case, you won’t lose any major system functionality . This time around, Microsoft has decided against implementing any drastic measures. Instead, it will try to annoy you into purchasing a legitimate version of Windows 7. Among other things, you will get frequent reminders/notifications, your wallpaper will be removed (although desktop icons, gadgets and pinned applications will remain) and a prominent watermark will be placed on your dektop. The new WAT tool is programmed to run a validation check every 90 days and will periodically download database updates (much like an antivirus software).
Undoubtedly, the new WAT tool is a lot more subtle than WGA tool for Windows Vista. Microsoft seems to have learned from their mistakes. Although they are being slightly sneaky, they aren’t forcing this down the user’s throat and they aren’t even disabling the system if it’s determined to be pirated. WAT tool appears to be a balanced approach to the problem of piracy and as long as the execution is good Microsoft will be spared the brickbats.