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Microsoft is to stop providing updates to non-genuine versions of its Windows XP operating system as part of its anti-piracy campaign.

The company also says it is changing the way some of its Certificates of Authenticity (COAs) are matched during activation. This is because "a significant number" of COAs are stolen from resellers and resold as new.

From the middle of 2005, the company will require users to participate in its "Windows Genuine Advantage" authentication program, if they want to receive software updates from the Microsoft Download Centre or from Windows Update. However, it will still provide security patches for pirated systems, which will be available via Automatic Updates in Windows.

The scheme has been running as a pilot since September 2004 for English language version of XP. These trials will now be extended to include 20 more languages, and Microsoft says more content from the download centre will be made available to participants.

In addition, a variation of the scheme in China, Norway and the Czech Republic will offer discounts on genuine copies of XP to participants who discover that they are unwittingly running pirated software.

Microsoft says pirated software hurts resellers, as well as taking a hefty chunk out of its own bottom line. It argues that counterfeit versions of Windows can be sold at artificially low prices, pushing legitimate system builders out of the market. ®

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