Monday, May 17, 2021

Office Genuine Advantage Bites the Dust

There were no death notices, but Microsoft confirmed Monday several reports over the weekend that it has killed off its sometimes controversial Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program.

Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) anti-piracy program for Office, which was introduced in the U.S. in August 2009, worked by making internal checks in the users’ Microsoft Office software in order to determine whether the code was legitimate or stolen.

In confirming the death of OGA, though, Microsoft said it had actually accomplished the desired result, which was to raise consciousness of the problem of software piracy.

“The Office Genuine Advantage program was designed to notify many customers around the world whether their copy of Microsoft Office was genuine. The program has served its purpose and thus we have decided to retire the program,” a Microsoft spokesperson told in an e-mail.

In fact, that’s more than Microsoft’s online announcement of the change said.

“The Office Genuine Advantage program has been retired and the features of the OGA Notifications tool will no longer be active,” a brief statement on the Genuine Advantage Solution Center site said.

Microsoft provided no further details about reasons for dropping OGA.

However, when OGA was introduced, it caused anxiety among some users that they might have somehow ended up with hot copies of Office.

Although Microsoft characterized false positives as rare, the worry was still real, particularly after the experiences some users had previously with the earlier Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program.

As originally delivered, if WGA ran a validation test against a user’s PC before allowing a download — say the user wanted the latest patches for Windows Vista — and for some reason identified that system as pirated, a so-called “kill switch” feature in the software would greatly limit the software’s functionality until the user paid up or proved he or she had a genuine copy of Windows.

Microsoft’s WGA garnered complaints around the world. Three years ago, Microsoft dropped the kill switch in favor of displaying annoying notices that the software “may not be genuine.”

The company subsequently renamed WGA to Windows Activation Technologies (WAT) in May 2009.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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