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May 20, 2010

The KOMO 4 Problem Solvers and I team up to tackle Windows counterfeiters

Windows is the most popular piece of software in the world – more than a billion people rely on it every day. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who use Windows’ popularity and necessity to take advantage of others by selling counterfeit copies, many of which are laden with malware and other nastiness.

That kind of swindle is how I came to meet Kerry Yocum-Zutant. Kerry had a Dell Vostro 1710 running Windows Vista, and after hearing all of the great things about Windows 7, decided to upgrade. She did what a lot of people do who are looking to buy a copy of Windows – she looked online at a major retailer – and after some searching, found what she thought was a pretty good price on two copies of Windows 7 Ultimate. She placed her order, got her software, and sat down for her upgrade, just like millions of customers have done before.

That’s when Kerry noticed that something….wasn’t right. The box looked funny. The DVD was of poor quality, and her activation code didn’t work. It didn’t take her long to realize that she unknowingly purchased counterfeit software.

Fortunately for Kerry, this story had a happy ending. She contacted the KOMO 4 Problem Solvers, who got in touch with me. The KOMO crew came by my office to talk about the warning signs of counterfeit software (more on that in a bit) and the value of Genuine Microsoft software. Being Ben the PC Guy, I couldn’t bear to see a PC out of commission, so I took some time to do a clean install of Windows 7 and load her system with Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Live Essentials, so she could get up and running as fast as possible. We got her Dell back to her last night, and according to Luke, she’s a very happy (and relieved!) customer. The KOMO 4 news clip is below, and you can read the whole story here.

Of course, I can’t re-image every machine that’s the victim of counterfeit software (this was a one-time deal for a customer who happened to live and work right down the road), so the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to educate yourself before you buy so that you’re sure you’re getting the real thing. If a deal looks like it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Microsoft’s How to Tell website has pretty in-depth information on what to look for in terms of the box, discs, product key for activation, holograms, and more. And if for some reason you suspect your software isn’t real, report it! Contact our Anti-Piracy Team at 1-800-RU-LEGIT (785-3448), or report it online. Your help is vital in tracking down counterfeiters and will help keep users from all around the world safe.

Kerry’s saga brings up a good question – beyond the obvious benefit of getting what you paid for, what’s the real value of buying genuine Windows? I talked for a few minutes with Jodi Kogan, the maven of all-things-genuine-Windows, to talk about why buying an authentic copy of Windows (and all of your other software) is so important. Here’s what she had to say:

“Yes, there definitely is that benefit of getting what you paid for when you know that Windows is genuine. Basically, you get everything you expect without the risks that can come with counterfeit software – stuff like viruses or other malware. On top of that, you also get access to exclusive special offers and downloads from Microsoft. For instance, genuine Windows customers receive a complimentary subscription to Microsoft Security Essentials, our award-winning antivirus program.”

Have you, or anyone you know, been a victim of software counterfeiting? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @BenThePCGuy.