Pirated software is counterfeit software that cybercriminals illegally copy and sell. They sell it to unsuspecting individuals via the Internet, at some low-price retail outlets, and sometimes from people selling wares on the street.
Only computers with genuine Microsoft software can get important software updates needed to operate reliably and protect from malware often found in counterfeit software. Also, pirated software often contains viruses, spyware, and scams that can cause a loss of data, a corrupted system, and even identity theft.
You will be asked to validate your copy of Windows if you want to get updates from Microsoft Update or Windows Update.
You also will be asked to validate your copy of Windows if you request a genuine Windows download from the Microsoft Download Center.
Software you can get with genuine copies of Microsoft Windows includes:
Microsoft Security Essentials: Free software that helps protect your computer from viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.
Windows Defender for Windows 8: Windows Defender is built into Windows 8 and helps guard your PC against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software in real time. If your copy of Windows 8 is genuine, Windows Defender will update automatically.
Internet Explorer: The newest version of the Microsoft web browser helps protect against phishing scams and other fraud that can lead to identity theft.
Validate your copy of Windows or Microsoft Office on the Windows Genuine website.
The validation only takes a few minutes, and once you've completed it, you can download Microsoft software more quickly in the future. You will also have access to updates that can help protect your computer.
One way you can usually identify genuine Microsoft software is by making sure it has the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) label. A COA is not a software license—it is a visual identifier that helps you determine whether or not the Microsoft software you are purchasing is genuine. Without it you will not have a legal license to run Microsoft software.
A typical COA looks like this:
See more examples of genuine Microsoft labels.
Pirated software often looks authentic and is sometimes distributed in packaging that imitates the original manufacturer's packaging.
You can see several examples of counterfeit software in the Counterfeit Microsoft Software Gallery.
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