Windows7 WGA “Error”

| by Ken | in Admin, Technology Add comments

As I wrote before, I’ve been having a problem with WGA on my new Windows7 laptop. It’s not that I get a note saying that the validation determined I’ve got a non-genuine copy of Windows, it’s that the validation itself crashes. I started with an e-mail to Microsoft and besides the response being useless, the response include a misspelling of Microsoft – no “f”. A bad start, to be sure.

The process continued last week when I decided to call in for support. I had problems right away for the following reasons: 1.) they mistakenly thought my problem was non-genuine software, 2.) they thought I had a non-technical problem, and 3.) technical problems with the OS install are the responsibility of the OEM provider – Dell in my case. So once I convinced them I did have genuine software, then I’d be bounced to WGA people who then told me that it was a tech problem that should be handled by OEM, etc.. I went through that circle a few times even talking to some of the same people a couple of times! (And one guy tried to pretend he didn’t remember – when I said “I just talked to you!”, he asked me “how did that work out?” – I’ll give you a hint: I’m calling again, so probably no so hot, thanks.)

I did eventually convince them to help me but the guy they connected me to was certain it was a problem with my software not being valid. I think it is the case of a hammer thinking every problem looks like a nail. But I figured if he had to go through the process of figuring out that my product was valid so he could realize that it was a WGA software failure, then so be it. After numerous tests and no changes, he tried a new product key which the wouldn’t even activate. At least my old one was activated. He then transferred me to the activation department to fix it but they couldn’t get it active and were stumped. Now three and a half hours later, with my computer in worse shape then when I started, they said they’d have somebody from the next level support team call me the next day at 9:00am.

At 10:30am on Tuesday, I sent an e-mail to the address I had for the support call saying no one had called me. An hour later, I got a call from a guy saying the person who was supposed to call me was out sick (really, this is how they run things at Microsoft?) so he’d help me. But he was acting as though he was doing me a favor and had a bit of attitude – not a good start considering what I’d already been through with Microsoft on this problem. Then things got worse when he took control of my computer and didn’t tell me anything about what he was doing. Virus tools were disabled permanently (some were temporary, others were permanent changes), IE settings were reset, patches were installed, etc.. And when I asked him to explain what he was doing, he said that I should be quiet and let him work. I’m not making that up – that’s what he said. This went on for an hour with no improvement eventually leading up to him saying that he was going to run a check that would take two hours during which I couldn’t use my computer and he wanted me to stay on hold for those two hours. I’m not sure if he was serious or if this was his way of getting me to hang up – as you might expect, two hours during my work day on top of the hour I’d already spent that day and the 3.5 hours the previous day were way more than I can give Microsoft to fix a problem that is clearly theirs.

The way I see it, if Microsoft has a tool that crashes, then that tool is faulty. It may be that the software encountered something it didn’t expect, and therefore the tool needs to be fixed to not crash and instead report something like “your browser setting needs to be changed for this to run” or “you have installed blah blah which is incompatible with WGA” or whatever it is. Furthermore, when a user calls in and asks for help with the software, they don’t want their system turned inside out – effectively putting the blame on the end user and their computer rather than on the faulty original software. What I needed was somebody who knew exactly why WGA was crashing or somebody who could run WGA in a debugging mode to find out why it was failing – somebody who could find the exact problem directly rather than blindly trying random guesses.

In the end, I had to reinstall the operating system – partly to get WGA working and partly to undo the things that Microsoft had done during the failed attempts to fix my computer. I confirmed that WGA worked after the reinstall. I don’t know what was wrong before but I did everything the same way that it had been done before. My conclusion is that something about the WGA install had failed initially and that it was the WGA components that were broken, not anything to do with my computer. If I had it to do over again, I’d try to uninstall all things related to WGA (add-ons, programs) and then try a clean WGA attempt before calling Microsoft support.

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