Although Microsoft, for example, warns users when it detects illegal or pirated software, it is not always easy to determine whether you are a victim of software counterfeiting. If you encounter problems when downloading and installing updates or when registering your version you may be a victim of software counterfeiting. Counterfeit software can be remarkably close in appearance to the original, but in some cases, the packaging or the quality of the disk can be a sign of a counterfeit product.
If you think you may be a victim of software counterfeiting, look for relevant error messages or warnings when using the software. This is especially true with counterfeit Microsoft® products. If you have received the "You may be a victim of software counterfeiting" message, it is likely that your copy is illegal. Another way to check for counterfeit software is to install Microsoft® Genuine Advantage Notifications. When purchasing Microsoft® products, check the origin of the software. Illegal copies will often be printed with "Made in the USA" when they should say "Origin Ireland".
You may not be able to register counterfeit software, or you may encounter difficulties when trying to download or install product updates. The software may not be recognized as a licensed version, and updates may be refused altogether. Some counterfeiters include instructions in their software that disables Internet access when the software is installed or that will keep the software from updating. In some cases, the software will activate with the key provided but cease to function after a certain period.
If you suspect you are a victim of counterfeit software, check the product disk and packaging. Some copies are so well made that it is difficult to tell the counterfeit copy from a genuine one, but in some cases, there may be noticeable differences. One telltale sign of counterfeit software is removable labels or packaging that differs from the original in color or design. A lot of software manufacturers use holographic images on the packaging of their products or use embedded labels. If the label can be scratched off or removed, the disk is probably counterfeit.
Victims of counterfeit software often purchase from sources other than the product manufacturers. Software counterfeiters are known to use online auction sites to promote illegal software, so if you have purchased software from a vendor other than the product manufacturer, you may have a counterfeit copy. Purchasing from the official product site or directly from the manufacturer is the best way to ensure that you receive genuine software.