Last month we explained some of the details about software licensing and reminded you that it is illegal to allow anyone else to use software that is only licensed to you.
But what if you purchased a used computer and you don't know how to verify that the software that is already installed on your system is actually legal software?
Microsoft provides a simple way to check. You can go to a special web page where your system will be checked to see if the software you are running is Genuine Windows software. Knowing this information could be particularly important if you are planning to sell or give away your current computer. You don't want to be liable for passing along a system that contains illegal software!
But you can easily check. And what's more, when you do...assuming your system is legit...Microsoft provides you with a link where you can download some additional software goodies as a thanks for your efforts.
How to Validate your Windows Software
Go to the Microsoft's Genuine Windows web site at this link: http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/default.mspx
As shown below, near the top of the page is a tab saying How to Tell. Click that link.
The next page will have a few images and groups of other links, but the one you'll be looking for is in the middle of the page and says: Validate Now. Obviously, you can read the other information on the page. But if you want to just get it over with...move directly to this validate section.
Click the link within the Validate Now group for Windows Validation Assistant.
Moving along, the next page starts the process.
But first, you will need to allow an ActiveX control to be temporarily installed so that the web site can access the necessary system files to validate your software. ActiveX controls are programming files and because hackers can use them for dishonest purposes, such as spyware applications secretly loaded on your system, most modern browsers will stop this process and ask you if you really do want to allow this file installed on your system.
That's good! And you'll always want to be very cautious about saying yes to this type of web installation! ONLY allow installation files like this from sites you know and trust. You can trust this Microsoft control for this purpose. It simply needs to activate the online checking of your system. This is the same type of process you would allow if you were using Microsoft's web page to check if you need software updates.
If you are running Windows XP or Windows 2003 Server, click the Start Activation Now button. If you see a flashing bar on your browser, it means your browser is checking to verify you want the ActiveX control installed...click to allow this installation.
Note! If you have raised the level of your security so that ActiveX controls are not allowed, you will probably not get the option to choose now and the process just won't work. So if you have problems, check your security level settings.
If you've succeeded so far, the programming code will begin to whirl and twirl to check your system files to make sure they are genuine Microsoft system files and not from a pirated version of Windows.
Assuming your software is genuine, you'll get this Thank You message. Sorry, I don't know the message you'll get if you're running pirated software because that screen didn't show up on my tests.
Microsoft has a second validation scan you can run to check the legitimacy of your version of Office. That screen will be offered up next.
If you want to run the Office validation process, read the instructions and continue. If you do not want to go through this process, you can close your browser or click the Genuine Microsoft Software link on that page (shown below in red) to go back to the main page.
Back here at the Home page for this site group, you can now click on the Genuine Windows Benefits link, as shown below.
Back here, where you started, you can click the Special Offers link to see what benefits are offered for validated users.
Here on the Advantage page, you can review the offers provided for users of Genuine Windows software and download the few goodies offered up.
Realize that the pages in this Genuine Software web site have many links...so there are several routes to get to the same end result...this article explains the main route I took for the benefit of users unfamiliar with this process. If you're an ol' pro at this stuff...I'm sure you'll manage to find other ways to get around the site.
Probably the biggest benefit of not running pirated software is that you'll be eligible to download future security updates. This is important to keep your computer safe from the ever growing list of viruses and spyware.