In an interesting move that could help people who unwittingly or not purchased pirated copies of Windows XP in the United Kingdom, Microsoft will offer those users free legitimate replacements of the software. The program is designed to mitigate the sudden rise in pirated XP versions, which is become especially problematic in businesses in the UK.

"This is a great opportunity for users to confirm the authenticity of their Windows XP software, while helping gather vital information about illegal traders," says Microsoft license compliance manager Alex Hilton. "We're trying to get to the source of the problem." Microsoft's aim with the program is to understand how counterfeiters work, because a recent spate of fake copies of XP are extremely well made. Up to 29 percent of software used in the UK is counterfeit.

Microsoft says that companies will be able to replace up to five copies of pirated versions of Windows XP Home Edition or Professional Edition purchased before November 1, 2004 with legitimate versions. The replacement program applies only to XP copies that were preinstalled on new PCs and does not include volume license key (VLK) versions of XP.