Microsoft explains how it got people who installed a leaked build to stop using that build

Microsoft employee Raymond Chen today posted a story on how the company once tried users of a buggy leaked build to upgrade by changing the wallpaper. Leaks are now a thing of the past, but before the release of the Windows Insider program, a lot of Microsoft software became available before its official release.


(Screenshot of leaked Windows 8.1 Pro build)

In his blog Chen explains the leaks were a frustration to the involved product team because they often contained bugs and revealed features before Microsoft could get feedback from its partners. The premature disclosure also meant that the team’s big announcement event no longer had the impact they wanted. Chen also notes that there are legal issues tied to the date a feature becomes available to the public. And, a feature that went public also made that legal documents had to be finished in less time than anticipated.

Back in the days the most notorious group that leaked build was WZOR. This group is thought to be Russian and has always been able to remain secret. In contrary to Alex Kibkalo, a former Microsoft employee that leaked Microsoft software in his function as Product Manager for a company that created solutions on top of Microsoft software.

Build were usually distributed on secret FTPs first and then made their way to the general public when posted on e.g. Torrent websites. Often the users who installed leaked Microsoft builds were enthusiasts who always liked to have the latest features. When there once was a very critical, system breaking, bug in a leaked build, it was this fact that Microsoft used.

Once the critical bug was fixed, Microsoft released a new build with one other thing changed that should be quickly noticed by enthusiasts, it had a new wallpaper.


Chen explains, “The theory was that when the new build comes out with the new wallpaper, whoever it was that was leaking builds will say, “Whoa, this is a big deal,” and make a special effort to leak the new build, and then the underground sites who traffic in leaked builds will see that the new build has a new wallpaper and say, “Whoa, this is a big deal,” and they will abandon their old and busted build with the horrible bug and install the new hotness.”

“Psychology”, Chen concludes his blog.