What does “victim of counterfeit software” really mean?

What does “victim of counterfeit software” really mean?

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I wanted to follow up on our last post about Windows activation – a friend of mine had posted on Facebook about seeing a notification from Windows that he might be a “victim of counterfeit software”. Following his status update, someone else commented on his post and said that he didn’t understand how anyone could be a “victim” of counterfeit software. Let’s talk about what that means, because it’s really an important topic to consider. It’s critical that you to know what to look for when purchasing genuine Windows so you can avoid the risks of counterfeit software.

I’ll give you a scenario. Say that my friend “Mark” (not his real name, but we’ll use it for this scenario) wants to buy Windows 7 for his PC, and he’s trying to find a good deal. He happens to find an online classified ad or auction site offering it for a lower price than the one he’s seen in the stores, so he purchases it, and installs it when it arrives. So what might happen next? Well, Mark might notice that something doesn't look right about the packaging – maybe there are typos on the box, or the box itself doesn’t look as nice as the ones he’d seen in the stores. Or the product key that came with the installation CD doesn't work when Mark tries to activate Windows, or once it’s installed on his PC, it fails genuine validation. The counterfeit copy of Windows that Mark just installed could potentially contain viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, putting him at risk of losing his personal files and data, and even poses the risk of identity theft. Mark has now paid money for counterfeit software that provides none of the benefits of genuine software, including support from Microsoft and its authorized partners at a time that he probably needs it the most. I'd say that's a pretty compelling reason to avoid being a victim of counterfeit software.

So, how can you avoid Mark’s mistakes and better protect yourself from the risks of counterfeit software?

  • Buy only genuine software from trustworthy sources. The best way to purchase genuine Microsoft software is directly from the Microsoft Store or from an authorized Microsoft reseller. To locate a reputable reseller, you can use local resources such as a Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, and consumer publications.
  • Learn how to spot the fake. Microsoft’s How to Tell website contains plenty of information about how to determine whether the Microsoft software you’re purchasing is genuine, including pre-purchase checklists to use when you go shopping. You’ll also find plenty of visual examples of counterfeit software as well as anti-piracy features included in genuine Microsoft software that you’ll want to be familiar with, such as Certificates of Authenticity (COAs), installation media, and product packaging.
  • Take action. If you’ve mistakenly purchased counterfeit software, you can file a piracy report online or call Microsoft’s anti-piracy hotline at (800) RU-LEGIT. By reporting piracy, you can help Microsoft take action against software pirates and help others avoid being the victims of counterfeit software.

Until next time!

- Jodi

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  • @stuartbennett, Agreed, reporting piracy is obviously important, but that's only part of the picture.  Microsoft does actually offer a variety of solutions for getting genuine Windows.  To continue that scenario, if Windows running on Mark's PC doesn't pass genuine validation, the results page he sees will display information about what happened and ways to resolve the issue - including activating Windows with a genuine product key, for example, or options for getting genuine Windows from Microsoft if Mark doesn't already have a product key.

    @Merivel, thanks for letting us know about the activation issue you’re having with your PC.  There are a variety of reasons why this may have happened, and the best way to resolve the issue is to try activation again.  To do this, click Start, then type in “activate” and select “Activate Windows” from the menu.  Follow the instructions to put in your product key and activate Windows.  If activation still isn’t successful, please use the contact information in the dialog box to contact our product activation support folks, and they’ll assist you with figuring out exactly what’s going on and how to resolve the situation.  

    @Chicken Pens, that's a great question.  The best guidance is to buy from a trusted reseller or directly from Microsoft.  When shopping online, if you see a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is. The How to Tell site (www.microsoft.com/howtotell) can help you know what to look for whether you're purchasing in person or online.

  • How can you be sure it's not counterfeit if you buy it online?

  • Merivel
    1 Posts

    I received a message on one of my computers saying I might be a “victim of counterfeit software”. I bought a family / student version of Windows7. This allows me to upgrade three computers to Windows7 at my home. The only computer which has the message of “you might be a victim of counterfeit software” is my HP slimline that runs 64 bit. My other two computers are fine with no counterfeit messages.

    Is this an error with Microsoft or an error on my computer.

  • you keep talking about how to spot a fake copy but what if like this mark bloke you have fallen victim to this software piracy, yes your saying to report it to microsoft but in a global recession that does not help him get a genuine copy of the software he bought in good faith believing it to be genuine, maybe microsoft should offer victims a discounted copy of windows if they help identify the counterfit copies they had obtained after all by reporting it there helping you so why can't you return the favour?