Find: Windows XP
November 4, 2006 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a legal copy of Windows to go with my product key.

My old computer came with a Windows Certificate of Authenticity (hologram, product key, bar code, etc) but no actual Windows install disk. I don't even have the repair disk it came with at this point. I am contemplating reformatting + reinstalling that computer. Am I eligible to get a CD/official download somewhere, or must I go download it from somewhere scandalous and use my existing key?
posted by sophist to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Response by poster: Also, am I within my rights to do so?
posted by sophist at 9:05 PM on November 4, 2006

Best answer: What type of machine is it? There are unfortunately a wide variety of OEM installations (Dell, Compaq, generic OEM) and the difficulty with CD Keys is they are bound to the product ID (xxx-xxxxx format).

What this means is you need to call the vendor probably to get a replacement. You might find another OEM cd that will let you install Windows, but if the installation has a slightly different product ID, but still lets you install Windows, you may fail a more stringent test as soon as you try to install SP2, or anything that attempts to validate your copy of Windows.

What type of machine was it?
posted by SirStan at 9:08 PM on November 4, 2006

Response by poster: 2nd-tier distributor. I Buy Power, they build custom gaming system similar to Alienware or Monarch.
posted by sophist at 9:11 PM on November 4, 2006

Best answer: I think you should be fine with a standard OEM hologram CD.

I don't know if you would be within the letter of that legally-binding hundred page agreement you signed, but then for all you know you've broken it by asking this question, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

Here's a question: I have a hologram CD with a key, but without a Certificate of Authenticity. However, I got it from a Microsoft rep in a gift bag. Is it illegal for me to use it?
posted by alexei at 9:23 PM on November 4, 2006


Alexei is probably correct, you need a generic OEM cd most likely. These are hard to come by, as the market is somewhat saturated by Dell restore CD's. Look for cheap copes of XP on froogle, as they are usually OEM w/o COA. Call the vendor and ask if they will work with any machine. Any vendor selling a non COA'd cd for OEM XP is pretty sketchy as is, so you might get screwed either way.

Akexei: That is not legal software. During a BSA audit they would not consider a "CD FROM MICROSOFT WITH A CD KEY" a legit copy of Windows. Though lately some countries are even saying a COA does not prove software ownership.
posted by SirStan at 10:59 PM on November 4, 2006

Why don't you call IBuyPower on Monday, and explain your issue? I am sure they can send you a CD for a nominal fee. I purchased a Compaq XP Home Restore CD and recovery CD's from HP for $20 to cover "shipping". Any legitimate vendor should do the same.
posted by SirStan at 11:01 PM on November 4, 2006

SirStan: As long as the key is yours and is valid (ie. able to be activated, he doesn't need a COA).
posted by mphuie at 2:29 AM on November 5, 2006

You may well find that your machine has a hidden partition with a Windows installer on it, that you can get to by pressing some combination of keys during startup, or by running it from the Start menu. IBM laptops, Packard Bell and some Acer, HP, Dell and Compaq desktops are set up this way. Packard Bell calls it "Smart Restore". I call it "Stupid Pain in the Arse" because unless you take to pieces and figure it out before running it, it will load your nice new Windows up with Norton Antivirus or some such crap and mess up your default user folder so that your My Documents and My Pictures folders end up belonging to bogus users. But if it's still there, and if you're going to re-use the same hard drive, it will probably restore your machine to the same state it was in when you bought it.

The licence terms for all the OEM editions of Windows allow you to run them only on the machine they were originally purchased with, and the only way you're supposed to be able to get a Windows OEM disc is with the purchase of a complete system.

Given that computers often resemble Grandfather's Axe, making the concept of "original system" somewhat slippery, Microsoft is pretty reasonable about phone-activating OEM installs of Windows that refuse to activate on the Internet. If you manage to track down an OEM copy of Windows XP, and it installs OK with your existing product key but won't activate: give them a call, tell them it failed to activate after you reinstalled it on a bigger hard drive after a head crash, and don't say a word about where you got your CD-ROM.
posted by flabdablet at 2:33 AM on November 5, 2006

Best answer: Seconding the suggestion to call the vendor. I supported about 20 of these machines from that vendor, and they had pressed OEM CD's made by Ibuypower, not standard Windows hologram CD's.

Depending on who you get when you call, this could be anywhere from free to whatever the fee they charge is (i can't recall what the fee was offhand)

Contact info:

Customer Service Hours:
Mon - Fri:
8:30 am - 5:30 pm PST

Toll Free: (888) 462-3899
Phone: (626) 281-8262
posted by richter_x at 10:22 AM on November 5, 2006


I have XP OEM, but you need to specify if it's Home or Pro. Send me an email, and I'm sure we can work something out.

Just to be clear for all the world, no keys will change hands. Key and activation are your own problem.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:14 AM on November 6, 2006

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