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dell laptop, vista won't activate

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Carol Haynes:
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.
-Innuendo (September 19, 2009, 10:16 AM)
--- End quote ---

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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