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quinta-feira, 26 de janeiro de 2012

Lost your Windows discs? How to get replacement media, legally

Summary: Did your most recent Windows PC come with reinstallation media? Many do, some don’t. But contrary to what you might have read, creating replacement Windows discs is easy, and every major PC maker will supply backup discs, sometimes for free. I have details.
Did your most recent Windows PC purchase come with a set of reinstallation media?
Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. As I noted in my coverage of Microsoft’s lawsuit against UK retail giant Comet, big PC makers—the so-called royalty OEMs—are required to include a recovery solution as part of their installation of Windows. But the details of those recovery systems vary by manufacturer, so there’s no one-size-fits-all set of instructions.
As part of its initial public response to the Microsoft lawsuit, Comet said it was acting on behalf of its customers. In a statement, the company said:
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.
That is, as my friends across the pond would say, bollocks.
My research shows that Comet is acting in its own financial self-interest, overcharging customers for something they can get for free or for significantly less money than Comet is asking.
I’ve done a brief but thorough survey of options available to customers who purchase name-brand Windows PCs, including several brands sold by Comet. Comet asserts that someone (they don’t say who) made “a decision to stop supplying recovery discs” with new Windows PCs. That statement is not supported by any facts.
RELATED POST: 12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC
I churn through a lot of PC hardware in my home and office. Many currently available PCs ship with reinstallation media. I have an office full of business-class and high-end consumer machines from Dell and HP, purchased over a four-year period. Every one of them included reinstallation media in the box. When I recently evaluated three 2011-vintage consumer laptops from HP, Samsung, and Sony, I found reinstallation media in every box. My wife’s new Samsung Series 9, purchased online from the Microsoft Store, included this System Recovery DVD.

Some cheap consumer PCs don’t include disks in the box. But every single PC sold with Windows preinstalled offers an easy way for the end user to create those recovery disks for literally pennies. The option is usually presented to the user as part of the initial setup and is included with the option to recover the PC from a hard drive partition. Here’s what Sony’s Recovery utility looks like:

And finally, a customer of any leading PC vendor should have no trouble ordering replacement media from the manufacturer of his or her PC, typically at a price well below the £15 charged by Comet (that’s $23 at current exchange rates).
For this report, I surveyed five PC vendors that were consistently atop the Gartner market share reports for 2011: Acer, Dell, HP (which also sells PCs under the Compaq brand), Lenovo, and Toshiba.
A few general notes about ordering recovery media.
  • In all the cases I looked at, you have to supply a serial number, service tag, or some other identifier to indicate that you own the system.
  • Your replacement media is for the version of Windows that came with your PC. If you bought a PC with Windows Vista and upgraded it, your recovery media will be for the original Vista install. (Sorry.)
  • Some companies require payment of a nominal fee to cover postage and handling.
  • Most companies limit the number of replacement discs you can order.
This report includes as many details as I could uncover about the policies and procedures that each company follows for its products.
I’ve divided the available information into three pages:
Page 2: Dell recovery and replacement policies
Page 3: HP recovery and replacement policies
Page 4: Acer, Lenovo, and Toshiba

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