Only genuine Windows will get patches

Microsoft has formalized a plan that will block access to its security updates from machines running pirated versions of Windows XP.

Microsoft's customers will soon have to have the authenticity of their copies of Windows checked before they can download security updates from the software company's Web site.

The move is part of an antipiracy initiative called Windows Genuine Advantage. When the program is launched later this year, customers must participate if they want to access any content through Automatic Updates or Windows Update, the company said. Microsoft is also working to change how some certificates of authenticity are matched during activation.

Windows Genuine Advantage began as a pilot program in September, involving only English-language versions of Windows XP. The company will expand it to include other language versions of Windows XP starting Feb. 7. Microsoft also plans to offer software incentives valued at about $450 to customers who participate in the program.

Incentives include a six-month trial of Microsoft Office OneNote 2003, 50% off of hosted Windows SharePoint Services, 50% off Microsoft List Builder service and 30% off of the Microsoft Office Outlook Live service.

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