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The program uses either a stand-alone program to generate a key or an Active X control to discover whether the license key is valid; either way an Internet connection is required.
In addition to persistent notification and the disabling of non-critical updates, WGA also disables Windows Aero, Windows Defender and Windows Ready Boost.
The user is given a grace period in which to then pass validation, after which most of the operating system is disabled and Windows reverts to reduced functionality mode.
On Windows XP, if WGA determines that a user's copy of Windows is unauthorized but was installed from seemingly legitimate media (i.e., the CD/DVD and holographic emblem present on real copies of Windows seems genuine), then Microsoft will supply the user with a new CD/DVD.
However, newer versions of Windows will still require the user to purchase a new copy.