The patch is designed to sniff out activation hacks that allow users to bypass software authentication process.
Microsoft will introduce an update to Windows 7 in the coming days that will allow it to ensure users are running genuine copies of the operating system and have not used any activation exploits, or hacks, to defeat the company's validation process.
"The update will determine whether Windows 7 installed on a PC is genuine and will better protect customers' PCs by making sure the integrity of key licensing components remains intact," said Joe Williams, general manager for Microsoft's Genuine Windows program, in a blog post Thursday.
Copies of Windows 7 can be downloaded for free, but users must purchase a legitimate registration key to activate the software. But numerous activation exploits have popped up on the Internet that are designed to let users illegally bypass the registration process.
Williams said Microsoft's new patch, called the Windows Activation Technologies Update, will sniff out all known activation exploits every 90 days to ensure computer users have not employed them, whether knowingly or unwittingly.
If non-authentic software is detected, the update will prompt users to take action (i.e., pay Microsoft) and any background wallpaper in use will be switched to a plain desktop as an additional reminder that action is necessary.
Microsoft first plans to distribute the patch through Windows Update to Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 next week. It will also be available online at the company's Web site starting Feb. 16.
The patch will not be offered through Microsoft's Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), but IT administrators who wish to import the update can do so through the Microsoft Update Catalog.
Installation is voluntary, but Williams said that while it may be tempting for consumers to finagle their way around Microsoft's activation process in order to use Windows 7 for free, it's not worth the risk.
"Searching for, downloading, or installing activation exploits or counterfeit software on the Internet is risky," Williams wrote.
"Sites that advertise these pirated products often contain malware, viruses, and Trojans, which are bundled with or directly built into the activation exploit or counterfeit software," said Williams.
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