If you’ve received an error message in Windows that reads, “You may be a victim of software counterfeiting,” the Windows license installed on your computer is likely non-genuine or pirated. When Microsoft realized that many people were using pirated versions of their Windows Operating System, they created an anti-piracy update to flag false versions and prevent the spread of inauthentic software.

Luckily, there are a handful of ways you can troubleshoot this error and get your computer back in working order. Read on to find out what might be causing this error in your system and how you can fix it at home.

What Causes the “You May Be A Victim of Software Counterfeiting” Error?

Every time you update Windows, Microsoft installs a Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) update. The purpose of WGA is to validate your Windows license and ensure you’re using an authentic operating system and not a stolen or pirated version.

If you purchased your Windows computer used—whether from an online seller or a local computer shop—it’s possible that the computer was assembled using a pirated version of the Windows Operating System as a way to save money.

It’s also possible that the version of Windows you’re using is valid, but the license key used to authenticate it is being used on more than one computer. Unless you purchased the family pack Windows license, which allows you to use the license key on up to three computers, each license key can only be used by a single computer.

4 Ways to Fix the “You May Be a Victim of Software Counterfeiting” Error on Windows

While this error message may seem threatening, it’s actually not too difficult to handle. There are a handful of ways you can troubleshoot the issue yourself at home that should clear it up quickly.

There are four main ways to fix the “you may be a victim of software counterfeiting error” on your Windows computer. Continue reading, or click on one of the links below to read a specific section.

Reactivate Your Windows License

If you purchased your Windows Operating System directly from Windows, then you know you aren’t using a pirated version. In some cases, it’s possible for a glitch to occur that results in Microsoft flagging a genuine user as if they were using a counterfeit Operating System. If this is the case, you’ll want to re-activate your digital license/product key. To locate your product key, follow these steps:

  1. Open File Explorer by pressing the Windows key + E on your keyboard.
  2. On the left side of the File Explorer window, find This PC in the hierarchy of folders. Right-click it, then select Properties.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Properties window and locate your product key under the Windows Activation section next to Product ID.

Windows screenshot

Alternatively, you may find a physical recording of your product key in one of two ways:

  • If you purchased a PC that came with Windows, you can find your product key either on the device packaging or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to your device.
  • If you bought a boxed copy of Windows from an authorized retailer, find your product key on a label inside the Windows box.

If you purchased your Windows Operating System from the Microsoft store online, you can also find your digital license or product key in the confirmation email that was sent to the email address you used to make the purchase.

Once you’ve located your digital license or product key, follow the steps below to reactivate it:

  1. Open a Run window by pressing the Windows key + R simultaneously. Type “slui.exe” and hit Enter.Windows screenshot
  2. Choose the option Change product key.
  3. Type in the digital license or product key you recorded in the first step and hit Enter.

If this resolves your issue, your system will be properly activated and you won’t encounter the error message again.

If this doesn’t work, you can try to reactivate your license key using a different method.

  1. Return to the Windows Activation tab following the same steps listed above.
  2. Choose the option Activate Windows online now.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to see if your license can be successfully reactivated.

If you’re still unable to re-activate your license key, return to the Windows Activation tab and click on See other ways to activate. Follow the on-screen instructions to contact a Microsoft Answer Tech, who can help you troubleshoot the issue further.

Remove WgaLogon Folder

One of the simplest ways to solve the counterfeiting error is by removing the WgaLogon folder from your computer’s Registry Editor, since this folder  is what causes the error message to appear. Here’s how to remove it:

    1. Open the Run window by pressing the Windows key + R simultaneously. This will open the Run Dialog window.
    2. In the search box in this window, type “Regedit” and click OK or press Enter. This will open the Registry Editor window.Windows screenshot
    3. On the left side of the Registry Editor window, you’ll see the hierarchy of folders. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and click the arrow to the left of it to open its subfolders.
    4. Choose SOFTWARE > Microsoft > WindowsNT > CurrentVersion > Winlogon > Notify.
    5. Right-click on the WgaLogon folder and choose Delete.

This will delete the WgaLogon folder from your Registry files. If you still see the counterfeit error message occur after walking through these steps, you’ll want to go a step further and get rid of any other WGA files that are still running. The next section will walk you through the steps.

Remove Additional WGA Files

Even if the last step resolved your issue and you haven’t encountered the counterfeit error message again, it can still be helpful to take it a step further. Remove any additional WGA files that are still running, as they may cause the error to occur again in the future. Here’s how to remove them:

  1. Open File Explorer by pressing the Windows key + E simultaneously on your keyboard.
  2. On the left side of the File Explorer window, you’ll see the hierarchy of folders. Navigate to OS (C:) and click the arrow to the left of it to open its subfolders.
  3. Click the arrow next to the Windows folder.
  4. In the Tools menu at the top, select Folder Options. Click on the View tab.
  5. Select the Show hidden files and folders option.
  6. Click Apply, then click OK.
  7. Navigate to the System32 folder.
  8. To locate all WGA-related files within the folder, use the search bar and type in “Wga”.
  9. Delete any WGA related files that appear. This could include Wgatray.exe, WgaLogon.dll, and WgaSetup.exe.
  10. After this, delete additional WGA files from the dllcache folder, which you will find in the System32 folder. Use the same steps above to navigate to the System32 folder and locate the dllcache folder within it. Follow the steps above to perform the same file removal process in this folder.
  11. Restart your computer.

After working through these steps, all WGA files should be removed from your computer, which will prevent the error message from returning.

Remove Future WGA Updates

Even if you’ve worked through the previous steps to remove all WGA files from your system, there’s a chance the counterfeit error message could return the next time you install a new update. This is because the WGA update will automatically be installed during any other updates that occur. To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to disable automatic updates. Here’s how to do it:

  1. In the Start menu, choose the Settings option (or the icon shaped like a gear) to open the Settings window.
  2. Select the Updates & Security option.
  3. Click Advanced options.
  4. Check the box next to the Turn off automatic updates option.
  5. You can also check the Notify me but don’t automatically download or install them option in order to be notified about updates, but prevent them from being automatically installed.
  6. Click Apply then click OK.

After walking through these steps, you should no longer receive automatic updates that could potentially reinstall any WGA files you already removed, causing the counterfeit error to return.

Restore Previous Windows Information

The final method you can use to remove the counterfeit error is by restoring your system to a previous date. This method is only applicable if you’ve created a system backup in a previous version of Windows, known as a Restore Point. If you made a backup of your system at a time before the counterfeit error started appearing, you can restore it to that version to stop the error from showing up.

If you’re worried about losing files or data after a System Restore, don’t worry—the process has no impact on personal data stored on your hard drive, including documents, photos, videos. A System Restore will only affect recently installed programs and drivers. When you go through the steps below to do a System Restore, Windows will display a list of the programs that will be affected for your review before the process is complete.

Here’s how to restore Windows to a previous version:

  1. Open File Explorer by pressing the Windows key + E on your keyboard.
  2. On the left side of the File Explorer window, find This PC in the hierarchy of folders.
  3. Right-click on This PC and select Properties.
  4. On the left side of the screen, click System protection.
  5. Choose the System Restore option.windows screenshot of system restore
  6.  If applicable, click Next. You’ll then see a list of Restore Points you’ve created.
  7. Choose the Restore Point you created before you started seeing the counterfeit error.
  8. Click Next and follow the on-screen instructions to restore your system to this version.
  9. Windows will automatically restart and complete the restore process.

As frustrating as this error can be—especially if it pops every few minutes while you’re trying to use your computer—working through any of the steps above should take care of the issue. If you bought your computer secondhand and suspect the Windows version it came with could be pirated, it’s worth purchasing an official license key from the Windows store. This will protect your data and prevent the counterfeit error from reappearing in the future.

For more help protecting your data online, be sure to check out how Panda Security helps keep your devices and information safe with great tools like free Antivirus software.