Windows had put a serious clamp of piracy of its Operating Systems product by introducing WGA aka Windows Genuine Advantage.
Although numerous ways have been cracked by hackers to remove the WGA check and allow continuous use of the pirated Windows OS, the latest WGA seems to put a stop to piracy on Windows Operating System.
WGA is installed via automatic windows update and will produce a black backgroundless screen and prevents Windows from running normally. This means that the PC with its pirated operating system is unable to run any application, making it completely unusable.
When presented with this Black Screen of WGA Doom, most users helplessly reformat their hard disk and while waiting for the reformatting of the hard disk to complete, will also rush out to their nearest PC store to get a copy of the original Windows XP or Vista. Sadly this impetus move will result in the loss of personal data on the hard disk. And it's a very painful experience to have a shiny new operating system only to realize that you had forgotten to perform any backup of the existing files of personal importance.
Before even starting to format the HDD, one should perform the backup of the HDD first.
The easiest way to do it would be to remove the HDD from the PC and place it in a USB enclosure such that the HDD becomes an external USB HDD. By plugging this USB HDD into another PC, you can then copy the important files out of the HDD before formatting it.
Important files might include :
a) Outlook Personal Storage Table (.PST) files which contains your emails in Outlook.
b) Office documents such as Powerpoint(.ppt) or Documents(.doc) or Excel(.xls) files.
c) Pictures and images from your digital cameras stored within hard disk eg(.jpg) or (.bmp) .
d) Bookmarks from Firefox or Internet Explorer ( Instructions on link ).
e) Any other files deemed important to save a copy of.
Another method which doesn't require the use of another PC or a USB enclosure would be to use a Linux Live CD. A Linux Live CD is able to boot the PC without relying on the internal HDD. The most common Live CD would be Ubuntu and the current Ubuntu Live CD is able to allow access of your current HDD and with another thumb drive, you can then proceed to copy the files from the HDD to the thumb drive to have a backup copy. More instructions on making the Live CD here. ( Using Ubuntu Live CD ).
Once the Live CD is created, just set in the bios to enable the Live CD media to boot first instead of the internal HDD. After the Live CD is booted into the Graphical User Interface, click on "Places", select the media which denotes your HDD [ usually can guess by the size of the HDD ]. From there, you will be able to copy out the files required out into another USB thumb drive.
Note: Make sure that the Windows HDD was shut down the proper way when it was last booted up. If the last session of Windows did not shut down properly, Linux will not allow access into the Windows drive.
Today is 6th April 2009
Time now is 12:40 hrs
In the next post, I will share on how I managed to revive the system, stuck with WGA, without having to reformat or reinstall XP again. ie. no need to backup files, no need to start afresh.