From Elizabeth Montalbano of IDG News Service:

Microsoft has updated software that verifies whether a copy ofWindows is genuine in its Windows XP Professional edition, making itsimilar to the notification in Windows Vista and thus more persistentlyvisible to users.

In a blog posting attributed to Alex Kochis, a Microsoft director ofproduct marketing and management, the company said it made the changesto the Windows Genuine Notification (WGA) alerts for XP Pro because itis “the product edition that is most often stolen.”

Now when a version of Windows XP Pro is found to be pirated orcounterfeit, the next time a user logs on to the system, the desktopscreen background will be black, replacing whatever custom desktop mayhave been set by the user. This will reappear every 60 minutes, even ifa user resets the screen’s background. Previously, this was not a partof the WGA notification for Windows XP Pro.

Another new feature of the alert system is to put the PC into“persistent desktop notification” mode, with a banner at the bottom ofthe screen informing the user that the copy of Windows is not genuine.The notification is translucent and users can interact with any objectsunderneath it; however, it will continue to appear on the screen untila user installs a genuine copy of Windows.

Microsoft said the update to WGA also simplifies the installation ofthe alert system on Windows XP Pro. In addition, the company hasimproved its ability to detect non-genuine copies of Windows.

Users have had mixed reactions to the WGA program, which Microsoftlaunched two years ago as part of an aggressive program to eliminatecounterfeit and pirated versions of Windows. While some think it’s agood way for Microsoft to prevent use of non-genuine Windows software,others found the program irksome and an intrusion, particularly when itwould peg systems they knew to be genuine as pirated or counterfeit.

The program even at one point was thought to be acting like spywareby sending information from people’s computers back to Microsoft.However, Microsoft said it only provides information about whether thecopy of Windows is genuine, not any other information about the user orthe PC.

Microsoft first distributed WGA only to users of Microsoft’sdownload services who wanted to install add-on software, excludingsecurity releases, for Windows XP. Eventually, it became an automaticpart of Microsoft’s update services and then was built directly intoWindows Vista as the company developed that OS.