A relative approached me about helping to repair their computer. They have an old IBM Netvista. It had just stopped booting up, and the way that they described the problem to me over the phone, it sounded like the CPU may have died.
When they brought it over, though, it actually was booting to the BIOS screen, but crapping out after when it tried to start the operating system. This machine had an originally installed copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home edition. The license key was on a sticker on the computer case, which is completely normal.
After a bit of research, I found that others had this same problem, and it had been something that might go wrong with some versions of this model. The solution was to reinstall Windows and claim your machine back. So, I sourced out a copy of Windows XP Home Edition, as I don’t run Windows on my computer at all. A friend lent me his XP Home CD and I proceeded to install the operating system.
I chose a “repair”, as I wanted to try and save the data on the hard drive, since my relatives are perfectly normal and don’t have backups (I bet they’ll make one this time).
As usual, the installation took over an hour to do, but it went without much of a hitch. I got to the screen where Microsoft wants you to enter the license key for your purchased product and it wouldn’t accept the valid key on the computer sticker. This made me angry. Why would they not accept a paid for license key?
I was able to proceed with the installation without the key, with a message about having to activate the product with Microsoft within 30 days. I got to the activation screen and decided to try an online activation and see if it would accept the license key this time.
Of course, it was a no go. I had heard and read of this often, but never experienced it, as had long ago found that Linux was just a lot more fun for me to run. What to do?
Since I had allowed a lot of time for the installation, expecting to have to go search for drivers on the net to complete the install, I decided to contact Microsoft to solve this problem. Their website produced a phone number for me to call about activation problems. **as a side note, I found the Microsoft Activation website to be very intuitive and clever in its design. They got this right** I called the number.
The first thing that I encountered was an automated attendant. I entered the information on my computer screen with the keypad of the phone and was promptly told that this machine had failed activation and the attendant suggested that I contact my PC vendor to have them correct this problem (this is code speak for YOU ARE A THIEF). I chose the option to talk to an agent. I got “Chris” on the phone. Microsoft seems to require their agents to adhere to a prepared script. I complied and was told that the activation was invalid. I advised “Chris” that I was using the key on the sticker on the side of the computer. He told me that I needed to contact Microsoft Technical Support to get a new key and he gave me their number.
I called the technical support number and followed the prompts. I was asked if this copy of windows came on the computer or whether it was installed after. When I selected the option indicating it came with my computer, the call was abruptly terminated.
I called back. This time, I did not select that option and I was connected with “Melvin”. He asked me what he could do to help. I explained that I had reinstalled Windows on this computer and that the product key was not being accepted. Once it was established that I was trying to use a product key that was on the side of an IBM machine to validate a copy of Windows that came from a Microsoft CD, he informed me that I would have to contact IBM, as they have installed this copy of Windows and they would support it.
WTF? Microsoft, the maker of Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, whos sticker is prominently displayed on the side of this computer, won’t suport Microsoft Windows. Apparently, this license key was granted by IBM, according to “Melvin”. Melvin provided me with a phone number for IBM.
**I should note that I am doing this as an exercise to find out what would happen. I would have given up and installed a free operating system for myself**
I called IBM and selected software support. This was the wrong option, as it is for supprt of IBM software, not Microsoft. You have to select hardware support for this software issue. The agent I got was helpful, though. Lafongi (I may have misspelled his name) advised me that I could not proceed with the Windows CD install with the IBM key, so I’d need an IBM recovery CD. Out of warranty, this would be a $45CDN investment for the operating system that came on the computer. In addition, it would wipe the drive and reinstall a fresh copy of Windows. It would also carve up the drive into two partitions and create a hidden recovery partition for future problems. This was not the original setup, but it is now, apparently. He suggested that I back up all data first and then call in to order the CD, if necessary.
So, Windows is reinstalled on this computer, but activation is destined to run out in 29 days. I have four options. I can convince my relative to install Linux, which won’t ever cause this problem. I can convince them to pony up the $45 for the product that they already had on their computer. I can convince them to buy a retail copy of Windows or get someone to provide them with a license key that they haven’t used for their purchased copy. Or, I could hunt around and find one of the many cracked copies of Microsoft Windows out there and they can run with an invalid license key. I am convinced that the money machine is set up to force people to do the last thing.
That’s commerce for you.
perhaps there is a reason why the Microsoft employees used psudonyms. The IBM employee certainly didn’t.