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Author Topic: dell laptop, vista won't activate  (Read 13089 times)
nite_monkey
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« on: September 15, 2009, 03:44:02 PM »

I purchased a dell laptop a while back (sadly before the date that would make it elegable for the free 7 upgrade)
It came with windows vista business (which is what the product key on the bottom of the laptop is for), and it had a free xp downgrade, which is what came installed on the laptop.

I reinstalled xp a while back (I won't go into detail why... something about attempting to do a ha**in**sh), and it was preactivated when I got into windows (like dell systems should do)

Well I was bored and wanted to mess around with vista, so I took the vista cd that came with my laptop, and yesterday I installed it on my laptop, but unlike my xp cd, it wasn't already activated when I got into windows.
It had the oem key installed. I don't really know much about dell activation, so I guessed maybe I have to use the key on the bottom of my laptop, so I hit the activate button (with the oem key still on the system) and it asked me to type in a new key. So I typed in the key on the sticker on the bottom of my laptop... the problem is it still wont activate.
So I don't really know what the problem is. I wouldn't think it was something with the bios since my xp pre-activates, but I went ahead and updated the bios (which happens to now let me pre-activate windows 7... if I had it), and then I re installed vista, but with no luck.

My brother sugested that I got a bum vista disk. (if so, that kind of sucks for me... and with my first dell purchase)

So my question is, does anyone know what I can do to allow me to activate my copy of vista on my computer?
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2009, 05:19:56 PM »

You're perfectly within you rights.

Microsoft's official position is as follows:

Quote
End users may reinstall Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate at any time, provided the downgrade operating system has been removed from the computer, and the Windows Vista software is reinstalled on the PC it was originally installed on with the original OEM System Builder edge-to -edge media distributed with the original PC. The end user will need to use the Product Key, located in the center of the COA, in order to activate the product.

If it installed, and you were able to boot into a Vista desktop, you can rule out bum media. Activation is a whole separate issue.

There are a lot of reasons your activation might have failed. But the quickest way to get that straightened out is to follow the onscreen contact information Microsoft provides if Vista refuses to activate. A Microsoft CSR will walk you through what you need to do to fix the problem.

---

Quick question: did your brother, or anyone else you know who has a Dell laptop, borrow your previously unwanted copy and install/activate it on their machine?

That happened to a client of mine. She and her son both have identical brand and model laptops. She bought his with (at his insistence) XP. Hers came with Vista and the downgrade option. She downgraded to XP shortly after she got it. A few months later, her son reformatted his laptop and used her copy of Vista without telling her. A year later, she went to reinstall Vista and discovered it was already in use when she went to activate it.

The Microsoft reps were polite but firm...

She's now waiting for Windows 7.  undecided

« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 05:23:09 PM by 40hz » Logged

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nite_monkey
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2009, 05:32:39 PM »

This was the first time the cd had been used. (I even had the break the sticker that sealed the cd sleeve)
We were thinking that the cd was a bum cd in that it didn't have the oem certificate loaded on it or something.

I did try clicking on the contact dell support button when it refused to activate after I typed in the key on the bottom of the laptop, but it only popped up the vista troubleshoot box with random garbage in it that didn't even relate to activation problems (I guess it was the troubleshoot box... it was a help box thing, whatever) I don't know if I did that right. I will see if I can follow the onscreen contact information and see if that does anything.
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Hirudin
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2009, 06:02:57 PM »

I'm not certain, but I would think there would always be a phone activation option (what if you didn't have internet access?). If all else fails disconnect from the internet (turn off the Wi-Fi if you can) and try activating again. Windows should give you the phone option when it figures out that there isn't an internet connection available.

I've done the phone activation many times. The Microsoft voice recognition system is actually very good. Usually after you say the activation code you'll be connected with an operator who will ask a single question which is something like "onto how many computers is this copy of Windows installed?". You just tell them how many (it should be just one of course) and they'll give you a new code to type into the comp. It almost always takes between six and seven minutes.
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40hz
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2009, 06:09:14 PM »

but it only popped up the vista troubleshoot box with random garbage in it

Ooooo...now THAT does sound like either a bad install or a bum disk. tellme

Try doing another installation first and see if that clears things up. If it doesn't, something is probably wrong with your media.

Anyway, try starting with <*choke*> Dell's Support. (I know, I know. I feel your pain. Wink) But look at it this way: if it turns out you do need a need a replacement Vista CD, Dell is the only one that will be able to ship you one without your having to pay for it.

----

+1 with Hirudan BTW. Microsoft takes a lot of heat for their Genuine Advantage and activation policies. But so far (knock wood) I've done phone activations dozens of times and have always found the Microsoft reps to be efficient and helpful.

Luck & let us know how you make out. Thmbsup

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nite_monkey
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« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2009, 06:14:46 PM »

I'm not certain, but I would think there would always be a phone activation option (what if you didn't have internet access?). If all else fails disconnect from the internet (turn off the Wi-Fi if you can) and try activating again. Windows should give you the phone option when it figures out that there isn't an internet connection available.
I may have to try that and see if it works
Usually after you say the activation code you'll be connected with an operator who will ask a single question which is something like "onto how many computers is this copy of Windows installed?". You just tell them how many (it should be just one of course) and they'll give you a new code to type into the comp. It almost always takes between six and seven minutes.
Eew, thats the part I don't like. The person is usually Chinese(or Japanese I don't know which) and I can't really understand what they are saying very well.

but it only popped up the vista troubleshoot box with random garbage in it

Ooooo...now THAT does sound like either a bad install or a bum disk. tellme

Try doing another installation first and see if that clears things up. If it doesn't, something is probably wrong with your media.

Anyway, try starting with <*choke*> Dell's Support. (I know, I know. I feel your pain. Wink) But look at it this way: if it turns out you do need a need a replacement Vista CD, Dell is the only one that will be able to ship you one without your having to pay for it.

----

+1 with Hirudan BTW. Microsoft takes a lot of heat for their Genuine Advantage and activation policies. But so far (knock wood) I've done phone activations dozens of times and have always found the Microsoft reps to be efficient and helpful.

Luck & let us know how you make out. Thmbsup


oh joy, I may have an effed up disk then. I've installed vista three times now with this disk (on the same computer, all three times not being able to activate)

edit:well I just got the phone option(after I typed in the key on the bottom of the laptop) I wish I didn't have to do this, but oh well I will see what happens I guess
« Last Edit: September 15, 2009, 06:57:07 PM by nite_monkey » Logged

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Innuendo
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2009, 11:08:36 AM »

The thing about Dells (and Compaqs, Sonys, HPs, etc.) is that if you use the disc that came with the PC there should be no activation at all. To simplify the explanation, there are three components your Dell needs to activate: a royalty OEM key which is embedded in the installer on your Dell-provided disc, a certificate file which is also on the disc, and a string of data that is in your laptop's BIOS.

If all three of these things are present when you install Vista or Win 7 your OS will be permanently activated when it boots up for the first time with no need to contact Microsoft. The key on the bottom of your laptop is a fallback in case the above doesn't work. Since it doesn't work, either, and coupled with the 'garbage' you are seeing it sounds like a bad disc.

Contact Dell and have them send you a replacement disc and all will be well. If that doesn't give you any satisfaction you can get a copy of any Dell OEM Vista disc from a friend or elsewhere and it'll work just as well.

Feel free to contact me by PM if you have questions about pursuing a solution that doesn't involve Dell taking pity upon you.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2009, 06:46:43 PM »

Have you tried restoring factory settings via the Dell recovery partition? If you purchased a machine with Vista and XP downgrade the recovery partition will probably be the activated version of Vista (unless the downgrade overwrote it with an XP install).

Usually to restore a factory setting (it will wipe everything so backup first) you press F10 when you see the blue Dell bar at startup (you have to be very quick). If it doesn't work either check in the bumpf that came with the computer of do a search in Google for 'factory restore' and your model number.
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app103
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« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2009, 07:24:09 PM »

Chances are that if it came with a disk, it doesn't have a recovery partition. If the disk was made with the backup utility after purchase (which backs up the recovery partition to disks and can be used only once to make a single set of disks), then the recovery partition should still be there (unless the user removed it) Since you mentioned that you had to break the seal, we can rule out that the disks were made by you from a recovery partition.

Vista with downgrade to XP is only offered to Dell business customers not home user machines as far as I know, and there is no recovery partition that I am aware of, and they install XP and give you both XP and Vista installation disks. (at least that's how they did it with both of my Dells, and I had to go through Dell Small Business to buy machines with XP downgrade option)

There is 2 thoughts that I have had about this situation:

1. Did you try to install Vista over the XP to upgrade it or did you format and do a clean install? Your Vista disk could be an OEM for new installations only and not intended for upgrading, so if you tried to install it over the XP that might cause an issue and invalidate the install.

If this is not the situation, then maybe this is:

2. Have you tried washing the disk yet? Sometimes an optical drive is really sensitive to tiny amounts of foreign matter on a disk that you might not notice, such as the skin oils in a fingerprint. Just wiping with a soft dry cloth doesn't remove these oils, and it can still cause problems in some drives.

What you can do is wet it under running water (room temperature, not warm or cold) and then apply a single drop of a mild liquid dish washing detergent made for hand washing dishes (not the stuff that goes in a dishwasher machine! and not the stuff with hand lotion in it!). Then rinse it well, and dry it with the back of an old soft well worn T-shirt that has no printing on it.

Wait about 10 minutes and try doing a repair install or reinstall. (be really careful not to get any fingerprints on it).

I used to have a PC that one of the optical drives was so sensitive that I had to do this to ALL disks I used in it, or the drive just couldn't read them properly.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2009, 03:30:12 AM »

I have yet to see a Dell machine without a recovery partition (even when they come with discs - which I suppose they would have to supply for 2 different operating systems).

You are almost certainly right though a clean install would be a likely requirement.

As an aside - the sticker Windows codes on the bottom/back of computers hardly ever work these days and MS won't activate them manually either. They are really just a 'this a genuine copy' certificate and the codes are pretty much deactivated because OEMs use a totally different mechanism to avoid any sort of activation. The problem with the sticker code (from Microsoft's point of view) is that in the past these were usable codes and so people installed the OS on another PC as well as the intended OEM PC. Given that the code on the box was never the same as the one used for the original OEM installation that didn't require activation MS had no way to check if the label code waas being used on the same machine or not.
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Innuendo
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2009, 09:37:22 AM »

I have yet to see a Dell machine without a recovery partition (even when they come with discs - which I suppose they would have to supply for 2 different operating systems).

I just gifted someone a new Dell laptop & set it up for them. It did come with a real install disc for the OS and a recovery partition complete with the app that yells, "HEY! STOP! You should really stop and take the time now to make backup DVDs of your recovery partition."

Another reason Microsoft invalidated all those product keys one sees on the sides/bottoms of computers is that people would walk through stores or stroll through work & use their cell phones to take pictures of all the codes for use at home later.

Nothing is perfect, though, and every once in a while I hear about someone trying one of those codes on their PCs and it works. I guess the blacklisting procedure isn't as thorough as MS world like. One has to wonder, though, if MS doesn't intend for those codes to work why bother putting the code on the sticker to begin with? Just leave the code off and problem solved.

Edit: Cleaning up messy quoting. Bah...
« Last Edit: September 18, 2009, 04:29:17 PM by Innuendo » Logged
app103
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« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2009, 10:16:52 AM »

I have yet to see a Dell machine without a recovery partition (even when they come with discs - which I suppose they would have to supply for 2 different operating systems).

I am having a DC get together at my house in December, and you are invited. If you choose to accept the invitation, while you are here I'll show you 2 Dell machines that came without recovery partitions, and even more amazing...without a preinstalled crapware bundle. Both machines are Vostro 410's purchased in October 2008 through Dell Small Business, with XP preinstalled (I went for the downgrade option) and came with 4 disks: Vista, XP, drivers, and a separate disk for monitor drivers.  Wink
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nite_monkey
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« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2009, 10:41:57 AM »

Well I had the recovery partition... but it got removed (by me). I have also tried a different dell oem vista disk but it wasn't activated at startup either, so I dunno what the deal is. What is strange tho is that my xp disk does activate autimaticaly.
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40hz
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« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2009, 02:36:13 PM »

What is strange tho is that my xp disk does activate autimaticaly.

Not really. XP is XP - and Vista is Vista.

The folks who like to play games with Microsoft have gotten smarter over the years. And so has Microsoft's activation mechanisms.

It should come as no surprise Mr. Bill & Co. have gotten less and less trusting over the years. We can thank the scam artists now that we all get to experience the inconvenience and annoyance of product activation.



@nite_monkey:  So! Have you finally gotten around to giving Microsoft a call? They can get you activated pretty quickly once you talk to them...

As an aside - the sticker Windows codes on the bottom/back of computers hardly ever work these days and MS won't activate them manually either.

tellme Wow!
I haven't ever run into that in the USA. I wonder if it's an overzealous local Microsoft policy (or senior employee) that's responsible for it where you live. Over here, Microsoft's rule has always been to give the customer the benefit of the doubt in a situation like you're describing.

Has anybody else had an experience where Microsoft refused to activate an OS reinstall from the OEM CD back to the original machine?

« Last Edit: September 18, 2009, 02:41:06 PM by 40hz » Logged

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nite_monkey
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« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2009, 03:43:34 PM »

lol, I've been putting off calling microsoft, because I don't want to do that. I've kind of just decided to go back to xp until I can find a different true dell oem vista or 7 disk and see if it will activate. I just wish I knew why my vista disk wont activate.

One more question, is it possible to somehow get the recovery partition back? (I deleted it, and never made a backup of it, and was curious to see if that would give me an activated vista install)
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« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2009, 04:34:25 PM »

Don't bother calling Microsoft. You're having troubles with a Dell OEM OS. They are just going to tell you to call Dell and resolve it with them.

And there's no easy way to get that recovery partition back. That's why when you first turn on your PC after unboxing it you get screamed at to back up your recovery partition to DVDs as it's darn near irreplaceable.

The recovery partition is useless, IMHO. It's just the image of your PC as it came from the factory with any shovelware/crapware/crippleware that came installed from the factory. The Dell OS Install Disc is what is useful as it will give you a clean OS install looking just like a retail disc install.

It does sound like your disc is bad. I'd call Dell ASAP and arrange to get a replacement. Will probably cost you $10-20.
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nite_monkey
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« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2009, 04:53:31 PM »

thats weird. I was never told to backup my recovery partition when I turned on my pc.

I guess I will have to go call dell now and see if I can a replacement disk.
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Hirudin
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« Reply #17 on: September 19, 2009, 02:02:23 AM »

I'm no expert, but I have owned a few genuine Vista DVDs so far. For craps and giggles I've used Beyond Compare to compare at least two different images that I personally made of different Vista discs. I know I compared a Vista Business disc that Microsoft was giving away at trade shows and an OEM Vista Home Premium disc. I'm also pretty sure I've compared my retail Vista Home Premium disc. They were all IDENTICAL with the exception of around ~10 (or less) blank characters (ascii code 255 I think) at the very end of at least one of the discs.
- To put this a different way: The 64 bit image I have is 3,796,500,524 bytes, when I've compared disc images approximately the first 3,796,500,514 bytes were identical between all discs. The tiny portion that wasn't identical was only a few blank characters at the very end of the file.
[edit]Sorry, I forgot one pretty important detail: the discs only have the 32 bit versions OR the 64 bit versions. To be prepared for all possible installs you'll need two discs, a 32 bit and a 64 bit.[/edit]

Why I mention this is to let you know that if you can get ahold of a real Vista disc you should be all set, no matter if the key you have is for an OEM version, retail version, Home Premium, or Ultimate.

I just remembered an issue I had once while activating Vista on an Acer laptop that came with Vista Home Premium with service pack 1... None of my discs have service pack 1. IIRC the key on the bottom of the laptop would allow me to install Vista Home Premium OEM but when I got finished it wouldn't activate for some odd reason. In fact, I think I now remember having an issue where I couldn't get it to activate over the phone either. Then I realized that it may be the lack of having SP1 installed that was holding me up. After installing SP1 it activated over the internet without any more issues. Perhaps you're having a similar problem? If the code is for SP1 and you only have the... uh... "SP0" disc you may be in business. If the code is for SP0 and you only have an SP1 disc you might have an issue, but this is a scenario I haven't yet tried.

I'm pretty sure I called Microsoft tech support (not just the phone activation people) when I was having this problem. I even told them I was using a burned DVD (I quickly blurted out "as it says I'm allowed to do in the EULA"). They didn't seem to have a problem with it. As I eluded to before, every time I've called the people on the other end have been pleasant. Unfortunately this particular call didn't give me the answer I needed (I had to figure that out on my own) but they were nice and were trying to be helpful.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2009, 02:12:52 AM by Hirudin » Logged
Innuendo
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« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2009, 10:16:27 AM »

Vista retail and OEM discs are indeed near identical. The same holds true for Windows 7 as well. However, what we are discussing in this thread are what some call Royalty OEM discs. These are discs that are keyed to a certain brand computer.

These discs are characterized by never requiring an install key if installed on a PC it's been keyed to, showing as being activated even if a computer has never been connected to the internet & usually there are logos of the company (in this case Dell) emblazoned in the Computer's properties dialog and on the disc label. These discs have a few differences than retail and regular OEM discs that make the "never require an install key or require activation" magic happen.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #19 on: September 19, 2009, 12:52:10 PM »

The same holds true for Windows 7 as well. However, what we are discussing in this thread are what some call Royalty OEM discs. These are discs that are keyed to a certain brand computer.

Indeed Windows 7 discs are identical expect for one very tine config file which specifies the installation type. If you use a tool to rip the disc to an ISO and remove the file from the image before burning a new image then the installer specifically asks you which type of install you want to do. Of course the installation key only works for the edition your purchased.

OEM discs are a different issue as they have keys and activation pre-encoded by the OEM company (e.g. Dell) so that activation is not required. Given that most of these discs are prepared for a single edition installation they may well remove some of the stuff that won't get installed anyway.
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« Reply #20 on: September 19, 2009, 04:46:51 PM »

The key on the computer will work with any (real) Vista disc though wont it? If nite_monkey can get ahold of a new disc he/she should be able to use the key to install Vista on the computer and successfully activate it, right?

[/topic]
I think Microsoft made a wise decision making all the Vista discs the same, this way people have extras (I have something like 5). This makes it easier for people to get "real", unadulterated install media. Back when a friend of mine was using Windows 2000 I... I mean he ended up downloading a Windows 2000 image from the net - an image that could conceivably have had viruses and stuff on it.
[topic]
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nite_monkey
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« Reply #21 on: September 19, 2009, 06:28:41 PM »

The key on the computer will work with any (real) Vista disc though wont it? If nite_monkey can get ahold of a new disc he should be able to use the key to install Vista on the computer and successfully activate it, right?

Yes, that is possible. My friend has a dell desktop that came with xp media center, and he has problems with loosing things, so he couldn't find his recovery media. Luckily my brother works at a repair shop that has the microsoft action pack (whatever it is called) so he had a regular copy of the media center that we used with the dell key on my friend's computer.

On a side note, I contacted dell and got them to send me new cds for my laptop (at least I think I did, I used the online request form and got an email from dell). So as soon as the new disks arrive, I will see if this new vista disk will work, or if I will just have to stick with xp.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2009, 04:02:22 AM »

The key on the computer will work with any (real) Vista disc though wont it? If nite_monkey can get ahold of a new disc he/she should be able to use the key to install Vista on the computer and successfully activate it, right?

That's what we have been talking about. It may be regional but certainly here in the UK the registration code on the outside of the computer won't activate windows - they are blacklisted numbers that are only provided toprove you have genuine windows. If you have an OEM edition preinstalled it uses a different installation technique that avoids activation all together which is linked to the BIOS and the manufacturer. You should not therefore need to have any code to reinstall if the manufacturer provides a method to reinstall your system.

Most manufacturer simply provide image of the system as supplied and it is up to you to make a backup copy when you buy the computer. IME most users never get around to this and have problems later. If I supply computers to people I set them up for them and do the backup my self and explain why it is important to keep those discs safe.
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« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2009, 01:23:35 PM »

If I supply computers to people I set them up for them and do the backup my self and explain why it is important to keep those discs safe.

Well done! Thmbsup


Like you, we've tried spelling out to our clients how important it is not to lose media. But "this is America" over here, so our words often fall on deaf ears. But being firm believers in the notion of redemption (and that a burned hand teaches best), we've since come up with a practice that semi-solves the problem, and garners us a deal of goodwill.

On a new or reinstalled system, we make and archive a full image backup before delivering the machine. If our client loses the media, we'll do a basic recovery (one per client) for free. After that, we charge our regular service rates.

Wherever possible, we keep also track of as many "details" as possible (i.e. serial numbers, activation keys, purchase dates, configuration settings, registration information, etc.). This gets done automatically for anything we sell, install, or repair. We keep this information in a secure database for retrieval as needed.

It doesn't cost us much (other than disk space) to do any of this this. It's been a lifesaver for our clients on several occasions. And that gets translated into customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Just a thought. smiley



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« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2009, 09:07:03 PM »

But in my experience the code WILL ALWAYS work, so long as you use an actual Windows DVD with the same service pack as the code. Maybe it is indeed a regional thing.

Easy solution: get a real Vista disc, use your code to activate. Yes, it will take two additional minutes.
Complicated solution: get new crappy discs from your computer manufacturer. Hope that you can avoid the activation process.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2009, 09:16:55 PM by Hirudin » Logged
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