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Microsoft is no longer providing updates to non-genuine versions of its Windows XP operating system. From today, the company has switched over to a full launch of its Windows Genuine Advantage Programme as part of its ongoing anti-piracy campaign.

Users will now have to join the WGA authentication program if they want to receive software updates from the Microsoft Download Centre or from Windows Update. However, MS says it will still provide security patches for pirated systems, which will be available via Automatic Updates in Windows.

To register for the WGA, users just need to visit the Microsoft Download Centre, Windows Update or Microsoft Update. There they will be prompted to download an ActiveX control that checks the authenticity of their Windows software and, if Windows is validated, stores a download key on the PC for future verification.

Microsoft stresses that this process "does not collect any information that can be used by Microsoft to identify or contact the user".

Back in January 2005, Microsoft extended the pilot scheme - which had been running in English since September 2004 - to include 20 different languages. It also broadened the kind of content available to participants. Microsoft says many of the 40 million people who signed up for the pilot did so because they wanted a way to check that their own copy of XP was genuine.

The company also says it will replace pirated software with genuine versions - free of charge to customers who submit piracy reports and proof of purchase, and for £61 or £92 for XP Home or Professional editions respectively for customers who submit piracy reports but don't have proofs of purchase. ®

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