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  (Source: Universal Studios)
Massive electronics retailer Comet devoted a factory to unauthorized Windows XP and Vista Recovery discs

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) on Wednesday struck a top UK electronics retailer with a stunning accusation.  In a press release it accuses the consumer electronics chain, Comet Group PLC, of being a "Tony Montana" of the software piracy world -- devoting an entire factory to and profiting handsomely off of its sale of illicit goods.

I. Is the UK's Second Biggest Electronics Retailer a Pirate Mastermind?

David Finn, associate general counsel, Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft comments, "As detailed in the complaint filed today, Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom.  Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products — and our customers deserve better, too."

The world's top operating system maker alleges that Comet actively sold personal computers bundled with unlicensed Windows XP and Windows Vista Recovery discs, which it printed at a factory in Hampshire, making them appear like the real deal.  Reportedly over 94,000 pirated copies were sold to consumers.

In its press releases Microsoft concludes by encouraging customers to "snitch" on suspicious retailer activity:

With an emphasis on education, engineering and enforcement, Microsoft seeks to protect its customers from counterfeiting and piracy — and ensure people get what they pay for. If customers ever question the legitimacy of their software, be it a shrink-wrapped product or recovery media, they are advised to visit to learn more and, if they have any doubt, report the suspicious software to Microsoft.

Microsoft Reading, Berkshire
Microsoft is based out of Reading, Berkshire in the UK [Image Source: Ghacks]

Microsoft currently employs approximately 2,000 people at its offices in Reading, London, Manchester, Endinburgh, and Cambridge.  The Reading location is home to Microsoft's UK base of accusations.

II. Comet Accuses Microsoft of Abusing Customers

While Microsoft paints comet as an "evil pirate", Comet sees things quite differently.

It boldly accuses Microsoft of abusing its customers and possibly breaking consumer laws.  In a short statement it writes:

Comet has sought and received legal advice from leading counsel to support its view that the production of recovery discs did not infringe Microsoft’s intellectual property.

Comet firmly believes that it acted in the very best interests of its customers.  It believes its customers had  been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery discs with each new Microsoft Operating System based computer.

The firm says it will "vigorously defend" itself before the UK's High Court -- a court somewhat akin to the lower U.S. federal circuit courts.

Supporters of Comet complain that Microsoft used to provide recovery discs for most of its laptops and desktops, but today pressures retailers to install recovery partitions instead and ship without a recovery disc.  In fact, Microsoft has cut off the supply of recovery discs for older operating systems.

Critics of this move point to the hard drive space wasted by the recovery partition and complain that the user could be forced to repurchase the operating system in the case of a full blown hard drive failure.

Windows XP
Comet is openly defying Microsoft claiming that it has the right to produce recovery discs that resemble those produced by Microsoft in the past, as Microsoft no longer supplies them to its customers. [Microsoft]

Microsoft, however, has argued that recovery discs are redundant and often lost.  Its perspective basically appears to be that that it doesn't want to have the discs and that as no law currently forces it to have them in the UK, that retailers should not be allowed to distribute illicit pirated copies of the discs.

While Microsoft may be technically correct from a legal perspective -- Comet has no right to reproduce its product without permission and masqerade it as a Microsoft distributed product -- its stance against recovery discs and decision to liken the printing to piracy is somewhat questionable.

After all, any user can and should make recovery discs to prevent having to repurchase their OS in the event of a catastrophic system failure.  But do so takes time, effort, and a bit of knowledge, so often users don't make recovery discs.

Microsoft isn't arguing that it's illegal for customers to make recovery discs.  It actually promotes that.  But it's fight against OEMs or brick and mortar retailers like comet going out and mass producing recovery discs as a consumer courtesy.

This is a curious move, given that the discs can't install Windows without an existing installation to repair and even if you could somehow trick the installer into running the process, you would still need a serial key, make the prospect of piracy unlikely.

It's more curious in that U.S. retailers have sold Windows XP/Vista recovery disks without reprimand, although its possible these large players ahd some sort of financial understanding with Microsoft.

III. Former Parent Says Comet Has "No Value" Anymore

Regardless of how badly Microsoft manages to mangle it in the UK federal court; the accusations are a stinging blow to Comet.  The UK retailer has a proud history, founded in 1933 as a battery retailer.

The company went through a period of dynamic growth in the 1990s, reaching a peak in 2005.  Since then, it has seen its profits slide.  

Part of the problem is that the company -- which has 250 stores in the UK -- has struggled to differentiate itself from rival retailer Currys who has 368 stores in the UK.  Comet attempted a rebranding in 2005, which cost it £20M (~$31M USD).

Things did not turn around and the situation is looking increasingly dire for Comet.  Profits are down to a mere fifth of what they were in 2004 and the corporation -- which always looked out for its employees -- has accrued a crippling amount of pension obligations.  Its pension plan is currently £39M (~$31M USD) -- or about four years of profits -- in the hole. 

French electronics giant Kesa Electricals plc. (LON:KESA) -- Comet's current parent company -- is rushing to try to dispose of the unit.  Reportedly it accepted a bid of £2 ($3.12 USD) (you didn't misread that) by OpCapita LLP, a private equity firm.

Comet store
Comet's struggles were highlight by its sale for £2. [Image Source: TJ Roadmarking]

Kesa agreed to retain responsibility of the pension fund and pay an additional £50M as an investment to settle the debt obligation and complete the sale.  It's clear that Kesa isn't thrilled about this money pit -- company chairman David Newlands states to The Guardian, "The £50m is categorised as an investment. We had to pay £50m to get the business away. We will write it off as having no value." 

OpCapita has agreed to spend £30M (~$47M USD) of its reserves and raise another £40M (~$62M USD) in financing to revitalize the laggard brand.

It is unclear who Microsoft expects to get money out of -- Kesa or OpCapita.  But what is clear is that new litigation could threaten the fragile deal and the long term survival prospects of Comet as a retailer.

IV. Microsoft Cracks Down on Piracy as it Faces Threat of "Free" Rival OSs

Microsoft has long shown mixed sentiments about software piracy.  Back at a 2007 Morgan Stanley Technology conference in San Francisco, Microsoft business group president Jeff Raikes infamously remarked, "If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else."

On the other hand Microsoft has also used a variety of tactics to try to combat piracy from discounts, to digital rights management, to lawsuits against illegitimate resellers Microsoft has tried to hack away at theft of its products at all parts of the piracy "food chain".

The operating system maker, who claims over a billion personal computers are using its software has been forced to soften its stance in nations like Romania and China where piracy is the government condoned status quo.  The Chinese government has been particularly vocal in its criticism of Microsoft's international anti-piracy efforts, complaining its software is "too expensive".

Microsoft takes a harder line stance in countries like the U.S. and UK, where intellectual property laws are firmer.

The OS maker, who also is a top player in the console gaming industry, the world's top browser maker, and the world's top productivity suite maker, is at somewhat of a crossroads in terms of the operating system market's general direction.

While PCs are still the primary computing device of choice for most people, Microsoft is seeing PC usage time cannibalized by smartphone usage -- a market where it has struggled.  As smartphones and tablets replace mobile devices it faces rivals with new business models -- like Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG) who offer operating system upgrades free of charge to consumers.

Windows Phone v. Android
Windows Phone has struggled versus as Android, even as Android races to match Microsoft's OS deployment numbers, once thought to be untouchable. [Image Source: ZDNet]

If Microsoft cannot conquer this new market, it hopes to at least profit off the good fortune of its rivals, via intellectual property threats.  

Microsoft reportedly is currently pulling in more money courtesy of Android than it's making off of its own mobile offerings.  Microsoft has a long-standing licensing agreement with Apple, but their royalty structure has not been revealed.  Microsoft's approach of threats-and-fees seems to be thus far working better than Apple's attempts to ban Android outright.  Most Android manufacturers have bowed to Microsoft's licensing demands. [1][2][3]

V. Microsoft Looks to Repair UK Public Image After Sexual Harassment Scandal

One thing that may work against Microsoft should the case go before a jury is the company's languishing reputation in the UK.

The UK unit is working to rebuild its public image in the wake of a highly public lawsuit alleging abuse by a senior manager.  The suit claims that at a 2009 Microsoft global party held in Atlanta, Georgia engaged the UK's number two Microsoft executive -- Simon Negus -- kissed an unwilling female employee and making sexual advances on other female partygoers.

Microsoft terminated Mr. Negus after a £10M (~$16M USD) sexual harassment lawsuit broke, and sued him, attempting to recollect his hiring bonus.  With little to lose, Mr. Negus has taken to the courts painting a sordid tale of what he claims was sweeping impropriety at the party.  He comments "drunkenness and outrageous misbehaviour were rife", and adds that Microsoft fueled the chaos with booze, stating, "The alcohol made freely available in unlimited quantities included neat vodka which could be drunk from an ice fountain, and a very strong German liquor called Jagermeister."

Mr. Negus has reportedly implicated high ranking Microsoft executives in the U.S. of sexual harassment and misconduct.  While the identities of these executives are unknown due to the court proceedings being closed, sources hint that most of them are still working at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. global headquarters.

While Mr. Negus's claims certain warrant a bit of skepticism given his disgraceful exit, numerous witness statements have corroborated his claims to some extent.  Testimony in the case reveals another senior level manager -- Steve Dunn -- also was actively sexually harassing female employees, even entering the women's bathroom "ridiculously drunk" midway through the party.  Mr. Dunn was a top Microsoft UK executive between 2006 and 2008.

At least some of the UK employees at the party, though, behaved chivalrously.  Two employees reportedly confronted Mr. Dunn over his persistent harassment of Emma Cloney, 42, Microsoft’s 'global alliance manager'.  The pair -- Jonathan Barrett, the financial services business chief at Microsoft UK, and Mark Dodds, director of the UK headquarter's 'special team unit' -- testify that they protected Ms. Cloney as she left the party, making sure the Mr. Dunn didn't lay his hands on her.

Microsoft scandal
Simon Negus (left), formerly second in command of Microsoft's UK operations is being sued by his former employer for sexual misconduct at a 2009 party against Zobia Chughtai (middle, left) and Martina Redmond (middle, right).  Mr. Negus has implicated high ranking Microsoft managers in the scandal.  Reported one manager --Steven Dunn sexually harassed Microsoft's head of global alliances, Emma Cloney (right).
[Image Source: BusinessWire, left; DailyMail, others]

The court that will be hearing the Comet case is the same civil High Court that's been hearing the sexual harassment proceedings, Microsoft's lawsuit against Mr. Negus, and Mr. Negus's countersuit against his former employer.

Sources: Microsoft, Comet, Guardian [sale of Comet], DailyMail [sexual harassment lawsuit]

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Hope things go Comet's way
By Indianapolis on 1/4/2012 12:58:41 PM , Rating: 5
I'm sure the legal arguments can go both ways, but I sure hope Comet prevails in this case.

Microsoft's push to stop including restore discs certainly appears to be an underhanded attempt to force people to purchase an OS in the event of a catastrophe. They know that most people will never bother making restore discs, and by the time they realize they need them, it may be too late. If somebody has paid for the OS, they should have the discs. Comet is providing a valuable customer service here.

I repair computers on the side, so I know from experience that a lot of people never make these discs. In some cases, they've had to buy a new OS.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By Theoz on 1/4/2012 1:48:46 PM , Rating: 2
If Comet is mass producing cds containing copyrighted microsoft code, than this can only really go one way - in favor of microsoft.

I agree with the rest of your points.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By kleinma on 1/4/2012 2:12:23 PM , Rating: 1
You can get recovery discs from the PC makers. They are the ones you bought the computer from if you are in a "need a recovery disc" situation. You are not a customer of MS, you are a customer of the OEM who happens to use an operating system by MS to power what they are selling you. MS does not supply recovery media to OEM users because they have no reason to. Blame the PC makers, not Microsoft. They license Windows, modify it to their OEM needs, and distribute it under an OEM license to the end user. They are the ones who should supply recovery means. They certainly can, they just don't to save money. The fact that comet was getting 100% profit from selling pirated discs, keys or no keys, means they are in the wrong.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By JasonMick on 1/4/2012 3:01:26 PM , Rating: 3
You can get recovery discs from the PC makers. They are the ones you bought the computer from if you are in a "need a recovery disc" situation. You are not a customer of MS, you are a customer of the OEM who happens to use an operating system by MS to power what they are selling you. MS does not supply recovery media to OEM users because they have no reason to. Blame the PC makers, not Microsoft. They license Windows, modify it to their OEM needs, and distribute it under an OEM license to the end user. They are the ones who should supply recovery means. They certainly can, they just don't to save money. The fact that comet was getting 100% profit from selling pirated discs, keys or no keys, means they are in the wrong.

I don't think this is entirely accurate. The situation is a bit confusing, given that most of the people reporting on it -- myself included -- don't live in Britain; and even the British publications are scant on details.

It sounds like they did NOT individually sell these discs, but merely handed them out with computers they built or computers they purchased from OEMs, that lacked recovery discs; or alternatively with valid licensed OS's that consumers purchased. The customer still needed the valid key that came with their system/OS purchase.

I think Microsoft is arguing that this became a selling point of their PCs/OS software and since it was bundled with them, accounts for some of the "millions" they made in PC/OS sales....

That's how I understand the situation.

I think the point here is, yes doing what Comet did without permission appears to be blatantly illegal, but the fact that Microsoft is essentially denying them the same privileges it's granting OEMs and customers is a bit odd, in that Comet appears to only have been trying to give a convenience, albeit a poorly legally thought out convenience.

I have yet to read a report that stated that Comet engaged in stand alone sales of recovery discs (say selling the recovery disc by itself for $10). If it did that, it was pretty stupid... but if it merely bundled them, it's still sort of stupid, but Microsoft would also be somewhat unreasonable in the latter case.

Now granted I'm a fan of the free market... I don't think the UK federal government/big brother should play nanny and force Microsoft to allow Comet to print recovery discs for bundled distribution. It's Microsoft's right to refuse.

But if that's indeed the scenario that's playing out, customers should take note and remember that kind of garbage when they're presented with a choice in the near future between say a tablet/laptop-minded Android variant (free) and a Windows operating system (paid). Of course convenience factors may trump such annoyance at Microsoft's policies, but if Microsoft accrues enough strikes with consumers, it could impact its sales, assuming valid alternatives eventually come along in the market (which would require a large app base -- like what Android and iOS currently have).

Current popular Linux distributions like Ubuntu and CentOS are great for scientific computing (which heavily uses distributed source code) or for basic net-top sort of use. But any sort of power use is simply not practical, given the lack of solid support for the best tools -- paid commercial apps like Photoshop (yes you can get CS5 to run on Ubuntu if you try really hard and use Knoppix but most customers don't want that much pain and annoyance; and yes there is GIMP, I've used GIMP, but GIMP is no Photoshop)... That's merely one example, but it's illustrative of why Microsoft for now is able to do whatever it wants and customers essentially have to put up with its poor decisions, should it make poor decisions.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By Trisped on 1/4/2012 3:45:46 PM , Rating: 2
While things do not seem clear from the American perspective, Comet must have been doing more then just giving away recovery disks with the computers they sold. After all, you can get a recovery disk made from your new computer at Office Depot, Best Buy, Staples, and every other computer store in the US, though you might have to pay $10-$40 for the disk.

From your article it seems Comet was copying disks and distributing them rather then using the software installed on the computer (either built into windows 7 or added by the OEM) which is what is suppose to be done.

Having worked in PC sales I can say there are a lot of things which can go wrong with making copies of on recovery disk rather then using the built in utilities (disk does not have the correct license, software, drivers, etc.).

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By Samus on 1/4/2012 5:34:07 PM , Rating: 2
HP charges $40 for a recovery kit for any of their PC's.

It's cheaper to make the discs yourself, but more expensive to opt to buy a whole new license from Microsoft.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By JasonMick on 1/4/2012 6:05:26 PM , Rating: 1
HP charges $40 for a recovery kit for any of their PC's.

It's cheaper to make the discs yourself, but more expensive to opt to buy a whole new license from Microsoft.

The issue, it would seem, is possibly that Microsoft gets a cut of that HP recovery kit's$40, but wasn't getting any similar cash kickbacks from Comet's bundled packages or perhaps individual sales.

That may be why Microsoft sued in this case... Just a hypotheses at this point, though.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By sigmatau on 1/4/2012 8:57:10 PM , Rating: 3
I love the recovery partitions but,

A disc in hand is better than two recovery partitions in the bush.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By Reclaimer77 on 1/5/12, Rating: -1
RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By kleinma on 1/4/2012 9:05:52 PM , Rating: 2
Samus, that is an interesting price figure. How far did you reach into your ass to pull it out?

I can get a set of recovery discs for a Win7x64 brand new DV7 series laptop from HP, shipped, for $16.00. That is IF I don't create a set of recovery discs when the machine is new and gives me the chance to, and need to actually order them. If your drive goes on you in warranty, and you didn't make recovery discs, they ship you a set for free with the replacement drive and overnight shipping. So you people can put your pitch forks and torches down, Comet did something illegal and against the license. They probably knew it wasn't legal too. They had to at least question the legality of it. They sure didn't bother to check with MS if it would be ok first, did they?

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By Aloonatic on 1/5/2012 8:08:34 AM , Rating: 2
It's great that you're happy to possibly have to pay twice for something.

Companies like MS really must love suckers like you :o)

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By kleinma on 1/5/2012 9:51:30 AM , Rating: 1
You are clearly another uneducated person who loves to rag on MS while typing on your overpriced macbook pro feeling good about yourself.

As stated several times already in the comments here, Microsoft does not make money on this. Microsoft does not dictate to HP, Dell, or anyone else how they should distribute recovery media, or at what price. Recovery media is not only a Windows install disc, it is a system image for a specific machine.

I did not say I am happy to pay for something twice, (nor would I ever have to). I was stating that someone saying "HP charges 40 dollars for recovery discs" is a total outright lie that they fabricated to try to make the situation look worse to people who read internet blog comments and accept them as fact.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By kleinma on 1/4/2012 8:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
Not for nothing Jason, but the quote from your own article does make it sound like they were in fact selling them.

"As detailed in the complaint filed today, Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom."

By Indianapolis on 1/4/2012 6:20:28 PM , Rating: 4
You can get recovery discs from the PC makers. They are the ones you bought the computer from if you are in a "need a recovery disc" situation.

While this may be true in many situations, it usually not free, and is never convenient. It can be a great inconvenience waiting a week or so for the discs to be mailed to you. Comet was trying to save their customer the trouble of jumping through pointless hoops, and I applaud them for that.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By BZDTemp on 1/5/2012 6:10:45 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree since that making CD's should be no different copyright wise than making hard discs with copyrighted Microsoft code on them.

Regardless of the outcome it won't change that Microsoft is evil and will try every trick to get things their way.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By drycrust3 on 1/4/2012 2:21:12 PM , Rating: 2
They know that most people will never bother making restore discs, and by the time they realize they need them, it may be too late.

My recollection of Windows (I've now used Ubuntu for several years) is that even if you wanted to make a backup disk you couldn't, or that you couldn't without use of some third party software of doubtful origin.
When one considers things like estimates that 90% of the software sold in China is pirated, the situation in the UK is really quite trivial, especially as both XP and Vista are more "end of life" products as far as Microsoft are concerned, and there could easily be difficulty in obtaining genuine disks from Microsoft.
Another problem is Microsoft's own policy of only supporting the official language version of Windows in a country, which discriminates against native speakers of other languages in that country. This forces native speakers of other languages to more of less use pirated versions of Windows.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By kleinma on 1/4/2012 2:26:11 PM , Rating: 2
Windows 7 has full image backup built right in. If you have an external hard drive, you can make a full image backup of windows and all your settings/files, and restore the entire image in the event you need to replace a drive or things get screwed up.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By Cheesew1z69 on 1/4/2012 4:04:16 PM , Rating: 2
And most companies put on a software to assist in the creation of the recovery disk, and are PROMPTED when they first setup the computer. If they aren't willing to spend 30 min to an hour to make the recovery disk, that's on the customer. Not the PC maker nor MS.

RE: Hope things go Comet's way
By priusone on 1/5/2012 9:39:57 AM , Rating: 2
Lets turn our IQ's down to freezing level, and consider this for a minute. A customer finally decides to get a laptop. Then get a mouse, an mp3 player, probably a laptop cooler, and get suckered into buying Norton. Note how I didn't sat a pack of blank CD's or blank DVD's. These same people do, however, keep most of the boxes their hardware comes in.

I'd be willing to bet that Comet sold genuine Windows software for those wanting to upgrade or build a custom machine, and they sold the copied discs.

What do I do when a friends hard drive dies and they don't have recovery discs? I fire up a utorrent and get a copy of Windows. Why in gods name is the Internet full of countless pirated movies, but I can't download a few ISO's to help my friend out? While HP, Dell, Toshiba, etc benefit from saving bandwidth, it still is annoying. And chances are, Microsoft would prevent OEM's from allowing free downloads, even if you were required to punch in the Product ID first, for verification.

By NellyFromMA on 1/5/2012 10:31:02 AM , Rating: 1
Consumers DO need a way to restore their PC... They also DO have the key right on their machine and in essence and OEM license specific to that machine so they LEGALLY can restore the system.

With that said, under NO cuircumstance should any company be allowed to generate counterfeit items to be sold from any other company and that is clearly wrong. Directly or indirectly, comet profits from this. The discs are printed with an anti-counterfeit logo on them.... circumventing this is a clear violation, no?

Seems obvious to me...

Dell (in the states at least) to this day still provides recovery discs... I assume OEMs are able to, whether by subscribing to a Microsoft sponsered program or some other means.

Piracy is a real problem for MS, they are VALID to pursue this. Anyone who denies that is choosing to ignore the facts.

By Breathless on 1/4/2012 1:46:38 PM , Rating: 3
You are missing the point.

The fact that they are not giving customers an option to get the necessary media to reinstall / repair the operating systems that they sell us forces customers to either:

A) "pirate" the iso images of the OS or ERD commander discs that they are not supplied with in the first place or happen to have misplaced

B) Contact a technician, which will more than likely need to resort to choice A.

C) Re-buy the operating system from a store, which is actually giving us the physical media... (or upgrade)

D) Contact the manufacturer assuming they are under warranty.

Hard drives go all the time... If a persons hard drive goes in the scenario that Microsoft has forced onto people, they are out of luck since their recovery partition will be gone. Don't get me wrong, since I am a tech myself I have no conscience issues about both doing choice A, and also taking a customers money to do the work for them since they are provided with no other avenue but to seek my help... but it doesn't mean its "fair" for the consumer to not have some easy option of re-installing their OS on their own under the above proposed scenarios. "Just upgrade" is not acceptable.

By Just Tom on 1/4/2012 2:12:56 PM , Rating: 2
Most manufacturers offers system restore discs for less than $20. The situation might be different in the UK but if it is not then the remedy for a hard drive failure is a lot less severe than what you describe.

By Breathless on 1/4/2012 4:01:57 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, some of the things you say in other posts make sense, but here you make yourself look like a real ignorant fool.

Having worked as an onsite Dell hardware replacement technician for several years, and replacing MANY hard drives, you are absolutely wrong that "customers are not twisting in the wind". The fact that you say that so confidently only proves how ignorant you are and your lack of onsite experience helping people with their PC's. Many customers have literally begged me to help them when I was just there to swap their hard drive (technically software installation wasn't allowed - just swap the drive and leave them). Do you know how difficult it can be to get through to a knowledgeable and helpful customer service representative from OEM's? It can literally take hours, even for a seemingly simple task, such as getting a recovery disc. I remember specifically when Dell told ME going through my "direct" technician support number that they didn't provide the discs anymore and that they could not be ordered either. They simply stopped making them and instead started putting images of the respective operating systems on replacement hard drives with recovery partitions already installed. This was in the days of XP Media Center Edition, etc. Perhaps that has changed...

The software that makes that PC anything usable by customers is microsofts software. I'm not bashing them as you suppose either, they have made me tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the last 15 years in repair work. However, they should absolutely provide a simple and convenient method to download the ISO's for the customers respective operating systems, even after the support period has ended, and even if it does have to cost a small fee. Otherwise, you have people like myself that will indeed go download the original unmodified and uncracked ISO's from pirate bay - not because I have stolen the software or will not end up using the license key attached to the case - but because it is out of shear necessity. Because I am forced to download said disc because I am given no other option does not make me a pirate either. Its the same unmodified disc that they would send me if I were to purchase a keyless disc direct from microsoft. Its the license that makes it legal or illegal - AT LEAST IN MY EYES.

The fact that it is often difficult / frustrating / sometimes nearly impossible to get a knowledgeable and helpful support rep from an OEM shouldn't mean "oh well you dumb customer, you're out of luck then" for buying said PC.

By Breathless on 1/4/2012 4:19:13 PM , Rating: 2
In other words, I'm saying that this is unacceptable:

"Dell no longer provides the operating system or resource disks in the box for Windows 7 Systems. It is important for you to create recovery disks in case of a hard drive failure. If you do not create the recovery disks, there may be a charge from Dell for the operating system recovery media."

Customers do not know this and it is not right for them to only find out after they have to reinstall their operating system. It should not be illegal to download OR BE PROVIDED WITH THE DISC from a company (such as the one in this article) with the same exact data so that it can be used to reinstall or repair an OS using your already purchased activation code.

By Cheesew1z69 on 1/4/2012 4:29:20 PM , Rating: 1
If you do not create the recovery disks
Keywords here. You are PROMPTED to create the recovery disk when the PC is first setup. If you don't, tough shit IMO. That's not on MS or the PC company.

By Cheesew1z69 on 1/4/2012 4:23:06 PM , Rating: 2
The PC companies OFFER you a WAY TO MAKE THE RECOVERY DISK. You are PROMPTED when the PC is first SETUP TO CREATE THEM. If you don't that's on YOU and NOT MS or the PC maker. Get a clue would you.

By messele on 1/4/2012 5:40:54 PM , Rating: 2
Do they provide the blank discs to make the recovery discs with the machine? I've been asked to help a friend's relation to set up a machine about 3 years ago, was prompted to create the install discs only to discover that the piece of crap didn't even have a disc burner. Awesome way to look after your customers.

The average Joe will buy their machine, bring it home, skip the recovery creation stage as they will not want to go straight back out and buy blank discs and will forget to go back and make the discs (if that is even a possiblity).

Not everybody is as smart as you Cheesew1z69, or as illiterate.

By Cheesew1z69 on 1/4/2012 5:58:44 PM , Rating: 2
It's not their place to give you blank disks. And illiterate? Um, right. Not sure where that is coming from, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

By messele on 1/4/2012 6:07:56 PM , Rating: 2
No absolutely, it's no PC vendors business to make sure their customers are satisfied with their purchase but to fleece them for future technical support that could have been averted by a few pennies worth of included disc.

Don't get me wrong though, it's not like I am that bothered as I jumped ship long ago to a PC vendor who include a means of reinstalling the OS at zero cost and without losing a huge chunk of HD space to a seperate partition, I don't have to reinstall every couple of months like I used to have to with MS's wares so it's all rosy over here.

If you are happy to carry on like that and defend these cheapskate practices then all power to you. Kinda makes you wonder what all that pre-installed Windows crapware is helping subsidise...

By messele on 1/5/2012 5:24:41 AM , Rating: 2
Try 3.11 WFWG, 95, 98, ME (I was suckered there), 2000 wasn't too bad, XP wasn't great and I abandoned ship before Vista but I've rolled my sleeves up a few times for colleagues and friends - amazing how many don't have any kind of working system recovery, even a partition recovery one one HP was mullered.

I have an Acer laptop sat nearby waiting for a Vista reinstall as the registry has mashed itself and it will be quicker to wipe the thing. Actually it would be quicker to toss the PoS out the window and pretend we got burgled but I'm thinking that will be a hard sell.

So yeah, MS are the villain if you want to put it in those terms. I've given up on software that falls apart like a Clown's car.

By Cheesew1z69 on 1/4/2012 6:22:26 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't had to reinstall Win7 forever.

By priusone on 1/5/2012 10:01:07 AM , Rating: 2

Luckily, I heard my buddies hard drive clicking and was able to copy over the recovery partition to a new drive. Okay, perhaps you never had to reinstall Win7, but there are around 7 Billion humans on Earth, so chances are, one or two people have had to.

By Reclaimer77 on 1/5/2012 10:29:59 AM , Rating: 1
He wasn't saying that, hello? He was claiming Windows is so shitty, he was "having" to reinstall it every few months.

In other words, he was lying.

By Aloonatic on 1/5/2012 8:20:55 AM , Rating: 2
The thing is...

I've had 3 laptops that have been shipped this way.

a) I don't want to be nagged to do something that I shouldn't have to.

b) I don't want yet another program running in the background every time I start up just so that MS can make more £$€ from people by selling them the same product twice, without MS having to do anything. The thinking behind this strategy is pretty obvious.

C) THE ABOVE (only using CAPS as you seem so fond of them) WOULD NOT BE SUCH AN ISSUE IF RECOVERY DISK PROGRAMS ACTUALLY WORKED! Of the 3 laptops that I have used (Dell, Acer and another one, I forget) that have prompted me to make recovery disks, which I always try to make, the program to create them has failed.

The only one that has worked, eventually, was the DELL but only after I installed an update from somewhere in the depths of their support page.

It's just pretty lame and a clear money grasping strategy that is only really possible in a market where one player has such a dominant position. It's no wonder that so many people are starting to move away. With this sort of attitude and clear disdain for their customers it seems that MS just don't give a damn.

By mechBgon on 1/5/2012 2:43:54 AM , Rating: 2
Worth noting: Microsoft has the full Win7 DVD ISOs available for download from Digital River. No license required, just download any version you want. It's just installation files to them, the licenses are what they're most protective of.

If you have an HP, Dell, etc, you're going to want your special OEM-specific, never-needs-activation SLP-locked version anyway, so just order it... last time I did that from Dell, they were $8.

By NellyFromMA on 1/5/2012 10:35:12 AM , Rating: 2
I've never seen a reputable OEM not provide media to reinstall your system, and I just purchased a system from Dell for my little sister. The media is right here. It CLEARLY says dell on it, therefor NOT in any way counterfeit. THATS the right way to do it.

Making a counterfeit disc is not. Period!

By JediJeb on 1/4/2012 1:54:25 PM , Rating: 2
My sister has and Athlon 64 X2 system that I finally added RAM to over the holiday to bring it up from 1gb to 3gb. This thing was horrendously slow until the upgrade running Vista. I can only imagine what it would be like to put Vista or W7 on my system which uses an AthlonXP processor and has 1gb ram. XP works ok on it but I can imagine W7 would be even more painfully slow than what her computer was. So there are reasons for the older software to still be around. And as was stated above, MS is worried more about making people upgrade their system so they can sell more software than they are about people being able to use something that still works well for what they do.

I am planning on upgrading my system with a new mobo, processor and memory but I will probably still reload my XP on it because by the time I am done I will not have $100 left over to buy a new copy of W7. Honestly I would still be using W2K if I hadn't lost the disc before my harddrive died the last time.

By Master Kenobi on 1/4/2012 6:54:13 PM , Rating: 1
If you have the money for those sorts of hardware upgrades, stop bullshitting yourself and buy the damn disc. You will drop 300-500 on a new mobo, processor and ram but cry over the price of the OS. Oh lookie, Windows 7 Home Premium System Builders Pack $99.99

Ya know what? I'm even gonna go the extra mile and throw you a bone here. For you poor students. $64.95 for Windows 7 Professional Upgrade

Here, if you are a college student you might be able to get even better pricing or perhaps free if your university isn't a bunch of cheapskates.

'Nuff said.

By nocturne_81 on 1/9/2012 5:10:15 PM , Rating: 2
I just love the continued existence of Vista complaints.. xD

Did you actually ever use Vista? Or did you just trust all the trolls online?

I used it throughout the entire developer preview and release candidate process (on a rather out-of-date AXP barton core), as well as two C1Duo laptops bought right after the retail release, and I never had any real performance issues. The entirety of the anti-Vista campaign came down to ignorance (in the form of trying to run a new OS on old hardware) and abhorrence of change (XP was around for just too long -- we all got too used to it).

Any 'real' performance issues I ever encountered on client machines running Vista were the result of idiots tweaking things that should be well enough left alone -- such as disabling executive/kernel caching, enabling large file cache, disabling the indexing service, disabling win accelerators.. all the same 'tweaks' ignoramuses still echo across the blogosphere with ill-informed performance guides to this day.

quote from slasher on ars:
By sprockkets on 1/4/2012 1:24:26 PM , Rating: 5
"The mom and pop PC shop i work for has been informed by microsoft that we are not allowed to sell any USED pc that does not have a recovery partition or original printed recovery CD or i had to put a new full price key/disc with it. They went so far as to send us a cease and desist letter to make their point. Keep in mind all the used PC's we were selling used had their original keycodes and were reloaded from OEM discs, but had long ago had the actual original discs lost or hard drives replaced. They really want people buying new PC's, this has cut our used inventory significantly, though we have started reselling refubished pcs that were re-licensed (aka MS got its $$ again).

MS wants people buying new PC's as often as possible as they get to sell a new license."

Not sure what MS problem here is, seeing how without keys recovery software is useless.

My OEM win7 copy also forbids "lending", like again, what is the disc without the key?

MS can be such a d!ck.

RE: quote from slasher on ars:
By Reclaimer77 on 1/4/2012 1:33:11 PM , Rating: 1
Lmao do you know how easy it is to get a key?

RE: quote from slasher on ars:
By adiposity on 1/4/2012 1:40:51 PM , Rating: 3
About as hard as getting an ISO of the disc.

RE: quote from slasher on ars:
By sprockkets on 1/4/2012 2:49:34 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, just as easy to get an iso from the internet and keygen or activation bypasser. Hence my point.

Or if you were agreeing with me, yes, it is absurd.

RE: quote from slasher on ars:
By Trisped on 1/4/2012 3:57:52 PM , Rating: 3
The problem was so many people were buying computers which did not have a valid recovery option, so when their computer died they had no way of recovering the computer without paying for something which should have been sold with the computer (Microsoft has guide lines on this sort of thing). As a result they have to pay the full $400 to get a new disk to install the OS because they do not know another way.

For small PC shops reselling PCs this is much easier. Before they can resell the computer they have to re-image the machine (because most owners do not know how to remove their sensitive data). If the machine can be re-imaged using one of these two methods then it is ready for sale, if not recovery disks must be obtained. Windows 7 makes it easy to make a recovery disk from an existing installation, or new disks can be ordered/download from the OEM (if there is one).

I would like to note that in the last 5-10 years getting recovery disks from most OEMs has become much easier and cheaper. Where it use to cost over $50 for a recovery disk, in many cases you can now download the .iso or have one shipped to you for ~$10.

The situation you are describing here is not (in my mind) Microsoft trying to make more money. It is Microsoft trying to protect its end users from buying products which do not meet Microsoft's standards.

By Cheesew1z69 on 1/4/2012 4:32:43 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, they did HAVE a valid option, they are prompted to create recovery disks when the PC is first setup. That's tough luck if they don't create these when prompted. That's not MS or PC makers fault. That's on the customer.

Sony started this YEARS ago so it's NOTHING NEW.

RE: quote from slasher on ars:
By Fritzr on 1/5/2012 10:32:39 PM , Rating: 2
"The mom and pop PC shop i work for has been informed by microsoft that we are not allowed to sell any USED pc that does not have a recovery partition or original printed recovery CD or i had to put a new full price key/disc with it. They went so far as to send us a cease and desist letter to make their point.

You are complaining that Microsoft requires a used PC that has Windows installed and a valid Windows license include either a Recovery Partition so that the buyer can Create the Recovery Disks, physical System Recovery disks or a Windows install disk.

Now assuming you got your wish and you are able to send your customer out the door with a Windows computer that has NO means of restoring the OS in the event of a crash. What method would your unlucky customer use to restor their computer after a crash?

I suspect that your customers would all be agreeing with Microsoft if it was explained to them that without the disk or partition you are unhappy to provide, they will be required to pay you again to use the disks Microsoft says you were supposed to provide.

"Deals" like you wish to provide are the reason Microsoft requires recovery media of some kind with every properly licensed system.

A license key will not reinstall the OS. To reinstall the OS requires the recovery media you don't want to give out.

Paying for a license, last time I checked
By ketchup79 on 1/4/2012 1:44:18 PM , Rating: 3
It will be up to the lawyers and courts to decide if the wording Microsoft uses can stop backup discs from being made, but I am skeptical that they can.

For example, you can make recovery discs for your computer. And, you can pay the manufacturer $5 - $10 to get recovery discs, as many times as you want.

The license Microsoft has is for the key, not the disc.

But Microsoft got away with all kinds of things back when Windows first came out, simply because it was one of the only OS's PC manufacturers could use, so anything is possible.

My favorite was the one that required PC manufacturers to pay for a Windows license for every computer sold, whether or not it actually came with the OS. Gotta love 'em!

RE: Paying for a license, last time I checked
By kleinma on 1/4/2012 2:24:19 PM , Rating: 2
except it is part of the OEM license that you as the end user can make your own set up backup discs. Likewise it is part of the OEM license between MS and the OEM that they can provide recovery discs for the OEM products they license. Comet is a total 3rd party, making discs, and profiting from it. They will claim "best interest of the consumer", but the reality is "best interest of their own wallets". Otherwise they would do the right thing and show consumers how to create their own recovery discs from the recovery partition.

By Unclep2k on 1/4/2012 3:09:00 PM , Rating: 2
I am certainly not qualified to interpret the legality of this issue, but Microsoft might want to work on their public relations a
bit. I think customers are wearing thin on loyalty. I recently was introduced to a couple distributions of Linux and was amazed at the inroads in user friendliness this operating system has made. The price is certainly right. Some of this money grubbing behavior may come back to bite Microsoft in the tail. I understand property rights need to be protect, but underhanded trickery to make people pay twice for an already over priced operating system doesn't buy many fans.

By hellokeith on 1/4/2012 3:10:20 PM , Rating: 2
Having worked on dilapidated poorly-kept budget desktops for over a decade (mostly for family and friends), I can wholly say that recovery partitions are the only way to go. Non-tech / non-nerd / non-geek consumers lose or throw away all PC hard materials within a week of purchase.

Recovery partition = fresh OS install + correct drivers + all original applications (which can include MS Office, not cheap).

My buddy called me up the other day asking for help with XP and a virus. Allegedly got the virus cleaned, but it stripped out half the network stack (.sys files and all). Guess what? No XP recovery partition and no i386 folder on the hard drive. I had to tell him he was out of luck without an XP CD.

By messele on 1/4/2012 5:32:44 PM , Rating: 2
Presumably it was established that the OS as installed on the computer hard drive was fully licensed and paid for? If so then the alleged crime is purely that Comet supplied the end user with a means of re-installing the operating system that is paid for and licensed and still requires the licensing key that is printed on the holographic sticker on the machine?

Or am I missing something here?

So, contrast that attitude with the methods that employed to distribute every other OS and it seems to me that Microsoft are the ones shafting consumers and using excuses such as "customers often lose recovery discs" is staggering in it's arrogance. Give me the recovery disc and I promise not to lose it. If I do then I will gladly re-buy your product through my own stupidity.

Linux distros do not treat people that way - they'd be a mass exodus to a rival system if they did. Apple even trust their users not to pirate their OS and so do not require keys for installation, you can create images on DVD or USB stick as required. That's forward thinking and a decent way to treat your customers.

I've a feeling that there is a possibility that Microsoft's legal terms will actually contradict UK statute law when tested and there is every chance that it will therefore be shown that Comet are only doing what the law already requires Microsoft to do. I see it as akin to buying a car with locking wheel nuts and the dealer keeping the key to unlock them.

The only solid case I can see MS may have relates to possibly producing the media discs that are not obviously marked as a Comet supplied recovery disc, perhaps using the MS logo on there in certain ways is a bad thing but then I recall around 10 years ago buying a VAIO laptop and the recovery discs had Sony and MS logos.

Above all I hope MS loses and are forced give away recovery discs with every OS installation.

others do it ??
By KOOLTIME on 1/5/2012 3:31:50 PM , Rating: 2
Well HP aka Hewlett Packard the largest pc retailer in the world charges 19.00 on their web site as an added fee to any computer or laptop you buy from them for a recovery disc.

Not sure about comet, but HP's discs have HP label on them as such, looks like comet was making them with MS label as a OEM windows CD. Recovery discs have alot of 3rd party software added on them. Why if comet is making and selling or even including a recovery disc an issue since HP does it and charges 19 bucks for the service.

Of they are labeling them as a MS windows CD then ya pirating, but if its recover cd with their name on it like HP does with all the bloat ware, well then thats questionable issue.

By ComputerNovice22 on 1/5/2012 6:50:38 PM , Rating: 2
I had a laptop that the HDD failed on and I simply used my friends windows disc, then used the serial number that was on my laptop's COA (Certificate of Authenticity) sticker.

You can also simply use another windows disc that you might own. Because the only thing you really need to re-install (with any windows disc) is your serial number which is right there on your PC's sticker.

I'm not 100% percent positive what the law is on that because I wasn't stealing anything since I was using MY serial number that came with MY PC purchase.

Screw MS
By Mr Joshua on 1/7/2012 7:07:47 AM , Rating: 2
They want nothing more than for you to NOT have a windows CD/DVD. If I sell my laptop or PC, I have every legal right to format that unit before I sell it and install Wondoze on a new unit if I so desire.
I should not have to buy a new license just because I buy a new box.
Screw MS I say, dam criminals and asshats that they are.

Seriously, guys..?
By nocturne_81 on 1/9/2012 4:58:32 PM , Rating: 2
In the case of 90% of consumers.. sure, a disc is a good idea.. Though, expecting your average consumer to keep track of it is like expecting them not to screw up their PC to begin with.

On the professional side, though, a stance which many of you are assuming.. you can't actually say that not having a recovery disc ever slowed you down in the least. Back when I still bothered with repair work, I always had my laptop with me with an up-to-date ISO of every major OEM's install/recovery discs (now even easier with multi-OEM hackup ISO's). All I had to do was burn it to a disc (to be left with the client -- nice touch) and I was good to go, taking the spare time during OS install to download whatever drivers I needed on my laptop. I'd of considered myself an amateur at best in those days, so I can't possibly imagine any one of you being any less prepared..

Proof-read your articles
By Soundgardener on 1/4/12, Rating: 0
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook

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