Draconian licensing makes piracy attractive

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Between all the computers I’ve bought with Windows XP installed, I have a half dozen legal licenses of Windows XP Home and Pro. I have little stickers on the sides of computers and on the bellies of laptops with Windows product keys on them. I have two retail CDs, one each of Home and Pro.

Several months ago, I took a laptop that had been sitting in a cabinet running Linux as a development server and decided to put Windows back on it and let one of my kids use it to play games and do homework on. No problem, since I have the XP Pro license key on the bottom of the laptop and an XP Pro CD on the shelf—except Microsoft, in an apparent fear of piracy, has determined that license keys that come with laptops (OEM licenses) can’t be used with a retail Windows CD.

An OEM CD solved that problem. I’ve used my OEM CDs several times to reinstall Windows using the licenses that came with the computers. These are computers I’m moving from Linux back to Windows, so you’d think Microsoft would be happy about that.

My youngest son has been showing an interest in making videos, so he got a copy of Adobe Premier Elements for Christmas from grandma and grandpa. His aging laptop doesn’t quite have enough oomph to run Premier well, so I decided to re-arrange my computing systems a little to accommodate him. The dual processor Dell graphics workstation that came with XP Pro but is currently running Linux and a jabber server for IMified development would be moved back over to XP Pro and I’d install my Debian dev system in a virtual machine. Those two processors and 4 gigs of ram were sitting idle most of the time anyway. He’ll be able to use this as a video editing workstation, and the spare cycles will power the jabber stuff.

That was the theory anyway.

The Dell workstation won’t boot into it’s utility partition, where I assume the recovery software is located that would allow me to roll it back to its factory fresh configuration. So I grabbed the OEM cd and started to install, only to find that the OEM CD key on the side of the workstation won’t work with the OEM cd I have. Do I need a Dell-specific OEM CD? Does Windows use different versions for dual CPU machines? I have no idea. But here I am with a legal copy of Windows that I can’t use because Dell doesn’t ship media and the media I can buy at the store doesn’t accept the CD key I have.

I wonder how many people have gone through a similar hell and been faced with the choice between buying a new copy of Windows and just using a pirated copy that doesn’t involve all this mess.

Jemaleddin
December 27, 2007 5:04 AM

And this is why so many of us that don't want to be pirates (arrrr!) end up switching to OS X or Linux. People like to point out that Apple doesn't have to worry about piracy because they're a hardware company. But if any of the big computer makers ONLY sell their systems with Windows installed (I can never keep track of which ones do or don't), there ought to be a way around all of this Microsoft Genuine BS.

DellCA
January 2, 2008 8:47 AM

My name is Brad and I work at Dell headquarters in Round Rock, TX. I am not sure if you have resolved your issue with the XP CD, but if not please contact me back directly and I will help you in any way that I can. Typically with Dell systems only Dell OEM issued disks will work. If you happen to use a retail copy you will need to use the key that it came with. The key on the side of the computer will only work with a Dell OEM disk. Brad Dell Customer Advocate

Phil
January 4, 2008 10:20 AM

Nice... A Dell rep responding to your post. At least Dell's customer service is making a come back.

Adam Kalsey
January 4, 2008 10:47 AM

Yes, and in fact, it [gets even better](http://kalsey.com/2008/01/dells_fantastic_service/)

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