For anyone running a pirated copy of Microsoft Windows, the update to Service Pack 3 (SP3) will be thwarted by Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA). Unfortunately, this may affect as much as 20% of all legitimate Windows users and will subsequently inundate you with a frequent reminder that your Windows may be invalid.You will most likely encounter a WGA error during a Windows Update; however, it can also happen during the installation of a number of Microsoft products (Windows Defender, MS Private Folder, and Windows Media Player 11).

In my case, WGA had already executed on my PC. Notwithstanding the fact that WGA had already run with Media Player 11, an attempt to execute a Windows update returned a cryptic error about not being able to install the Windows Genuine Advantage tool. A review of the WindowsUpdate.log file shows the following:

- Install call failed
- Reboot required = No
- WARNING: Exit code = 0x80240FFF; Call error code = 0x80004002

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is designed to ensure that your Windows installation is a non-pirated version and that it isn’t using one of the pre-designated Windows product keys that are considered stolen. Since I am certain that my Windows is valid, my next task was to arrive at some method for getting WGA installed again.

If WGA fails you may visit and it will take care of performing the validation task using an ActiveX control in your browser.

While this seemed to fix the WGA error, the next Windows Update for XP SP3 produced the same error. Not having many options left, my assumption is that the WSUS datastore is corrupt and my only option remaining was to reset it:

@rem Stop the Windows Update Service
net stop wuauserv
net stop MSIServer
@rem Purge log and current cache
del %WINDIR%\WindowsUpdate.log
del /f /q /s %WINDIR%\SoftwareDistribution
@rem Re-register System DLLs
regsvr32.exe wuweb.dll
regsvr32.exe wuapi.dll
regsvr32.exe wups2.dll
regsvr32.exe wups.dll
regsvr32.exe wucltui.dll
regsvr32.exe wuaueng1.dll
regsvr32.exe wuaueng.dll
regsvr32.exe wucltui.dll
regsvr32.exe MSXML3.dll
msiexec /unreg
msiexec /regserver
regsvr32 msi.dll
@rem Start Windows Update Service
net start wuauserv

After running another Windows Update, Windows XP SP3 was downloaded and installed successfully. To make matters even better, the total free space on Drive C went up considerably as a result of purging the SoftwareDistribution directory.

This is almost as exciting as trying to stop my Apple iPod from deleting everything on it the moment it plugs into my computer at work. While it’s understandable that companies want to protect their intellectual property, these kinds of draconian measures are going to do nothing but discourage customers from using your products. The fact that a computer specialist may be needed to reconfigure your WGA support is almost as insulting as hiring your automobile service technician to turn your car on in the morning.

Microsoft should either eliminate the complexity of this unnecessary service or anticipate that more users will seek alternate computing platforms when WGA fails them.