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back to article Comet 'sold 94,000 pirate Windows CDs', claims Microsoft

Microsoft has accused high-street retailer Comet of pirating 94,000 Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs and selling them to consumers. The software giant announced this morning that it had filed a suit against Comet Group PLC, accusing the group of manufacturing counterfeit discs at a factory in Hampshire and selling them …

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M$ are dicks when it comes to people selling recovery media, my Dell laptop came with Windows Vista but im running Linux Mint so the recovery disk which i received wasn't needed so i thought i would flog it on ebay for a few quid for someone to make use of if they needed to reinstall Windows.

Ebay removed the auction after a couple of days because M$ flagged it up as against there T&Cs to sell the recovery disk even though i had clearly stated it was just a recovery disk and you would still need the corresponding COA on your PC to make use of it.

If you even look at the M$ license agreement for selling a second hand PCs with Windows installed if you don't have the original recovery disk you either need to contact the OEM supplier and get a replacement disk or buy another windows license. You can even reinstall windows from say an acer restore disk on a Dell PC and just enter the key off COA as this is against the T&Cs also.

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Silver badge

Chances are you cant use an Acer disk on a Dell.

Unless you meant can't instead of can. If so sorry.

The keys etc. are checked to make sure the licence key issued for say a Dell ties up with the OS installed thats likely flagged an Acer OEM version.

Years ago you could rebuild anything with a plain XP OEM CD but MS have tightened up big time on this.

To be certain if its a Dell you are rebuilding then you use a Dell reinstall CD, likewise for any other OEM brand.

YMMV but its quite rare for mix and match to work nowadays. Hopefully maybe the EU will step into this and make it so as long as you have a valid licence on the machine you can use any disk that matches the type of OS or make it so physical restore media has to be supplied.

It's enough to make you install Linux.

Almost.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm

"Comet 'sold 94,000 pirate Windows CDs', claims Microsoft"

I'm surprised they managed to sell one - who wants Winblows these days?

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Anonymous Coward

MS cost cutting exercise

You buy an OEM copy of Windows, you get a disc.

Buy a laptop preloaded with Windows and crapware you get fiddled out of hard disc space thanks to the recovery partition and at your own expense and time you have to burn recovery disks.

It's corporate arshole thinking like this that moved me onto Linux years ago.

MS if I were you I would listen to Comet as they actually sell the fucking things and deal with costumers face to face rather than some shitty call centre in India. Looks like MS is learning from Sony's "how the shaft the customer" manual.

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Anonymous Coward

errr

You do know that Microsoft doesn't sell computers, right?

And that they probably don't do a lot of backroom dealing with Symantec, Roxio, etc. to install their crapware on the computers that they don't sell?

If you want to rant at companies for not including recovery media and installing crapware, rant at the OEMs.

And if you can find one, please tell us which large IT company has call centres in countries OTHER than India.

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Headmaster

Errr....

Yes the do technically, XBOX's.

Computer - An electronic device for storing and processing data, typically in binary form, according to instructions given to it in a variable program.

It's not the OEMs bleating about a retailer helping a valid customer recover their bought and paid for machine which MS gets a slice of the price.

I will also lay you a wager that MS stipulate the installation method for the OEM.

As for call centrers - never us em as it's a muppet on the other end of the line, regardless of nationality

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Anonymous Coward

Errrrrrrr

Good point. Have you ever thought about running for office? You made a solid argument, complete with a smug definition, that has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

Anyone else having a hard time getting Windows recovery media for their XBox?

While we're wagering, I'm willing to bet that the OEMs have the option to include recovery/reinstallation discs in the box with your laptop, but why bother when they can save a few bucks?

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Headmaster

@ Alan Smithie

FYI, the plural of 'box' is 'boxes'.

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Anonymous Coward

After Reading On Ars Tech (Keep Up Reg !).........

Comet were allegedly charging £14.99 for a disc, so MS I apologise and please kick Comet hard in the backside for being slimy money grabbing toads. Then kick yourself in the backside for not supplying a recovery disc in the first place.

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Coat

What not "boxen"?

That is all

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Megaphone

Errrrrrrrrrr!

Considering this was you opening assertion:

"You do know that Microsoft doesn't sell computers, right?"

It's not a smug definition, it's a correction on your basic understanding of what a computer is, which would appear to be somewhat wanting.

PS recovery discs don't help with the red ring of death.

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Silver badge
Pirate

Hmm, tricky one.

This is not as simple at all as the Title would suggest.

Even MS own site has an article saying you don't need your own CD/DVD media to re-install or "Slipstream" service packs or drivers. You only need the Licence.

So obviously the problem was how Comet was supplying these. If they supplied separately from the sealed HW package, without permission or royalties , then likely they ARE in trouble. Free or charged is not relevant. You'd probably need permission to commercially copy the media, even if supplying it "free" in the PC box.

Comet may have been idiots.

MS are acting like Apple, unless Comet was selling these to ANYONE, not just included solely in HW box.

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FAIL

ID10T Error

How are Microsoft acting like Apple? If they were acting like Apple they would:

* Provide recovery media

* Sell upgrades to the OS at a reasonable price…

* …in one version, rather than a crippled 'home' version and a bloody expensive 'ultimate' version

* Give a complete IDE away for free, rather than a crippled IDE for free

* Have no license number to enter on install

* Have no activation either

* Provide a complete, posix environment…

* …that is a joy to use.

* Make the greater part of the OS source code available for download, open source.

So no. In all fairness, Microsoft are acting like Microsoft. You may not like what Apple provides - but if you intended to be fair you'd have to conclude that the only company that acts like Apple is Apple.

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h3
Bronze badge

OSX is junk

Any OS without focus follows mouse is not worth having. (3rd party apps are not acceptable because they are likely to be broken totally on a whim by Apple).

(Registry hack on Windows 7 works great / Pretty easy on most *nix & clones (Just don't use gnome3 or unity).

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Trollface

You sir are a Troll

... and I claim my finders fee.

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Anonymous Coward

Not the only store

A couple of years back a client of mine had purchased a laptop from PC World. He had bought a copy of Office 2007 without the DVD at the same time. The one that is just a licence card to enable the copy that came prebundled with the laptop.

PC World had included a DVD-R in the box with a COPY of office on it. This one I send to Microsoft Piracy Dept. Never knew what happened there, but I assume it is a similar issue to this Comet one.

This is where it is a con that will upset Microsoft. That is blatently taking cash out of their pockets. A version of the OS or Office (or in fact any software product) always costs more if the media is included.

It is also being unfair to any other company trying to compete on price.

Meanwhile - I agree with the "common sense" posts above. It is pretty daft that you can't just use any DVD Install Media to reinstall windows with. Don't you just love T's and C's written by lawyers without technical knowledge...

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Anonymous Coward

Possibiities

"He had bought a copy of Office 2007 without the DVD at the same time. The one that is just a licence card to enable the copy that came prebundled with the laptop.

PC World had included a DVD-R in the box with a COPY of office on it. This one I send to Microsoft Piracy Dept. "

If its the home and student edition you are able to install it on up to 3 machines (I think its 3, might be 4) per household :P

I think this might be a different issue, from the sound of it they supplyed him with a valid licence (the card to enable the one on the laptop is fine), the dvdr with office on it is a bit odd but is basically recovery media, they have not charged for said media, they have charged for the card which is supplied by ms (and i beleive as of office 2010, the discs are all the same and its the key you put in that defines what gets installed)

From what i am reading from what peopel are saying (as the article doesn't go into much detail), theres an accusation of comet selling the discs when people buy the laptops , reguardless of the fact that the contents are already on the HD ready to be made, your meant to only be able to make one set (most disc makers disable themselves once the discs have been made)

". A version of the OS or Office (or in fact any software product) always costs more if the media is included."

Not true, you can buy brown box OEM that is cheaper (and comes with media), its meant to be sold with something else i believe, its not the including of the media, its the difference in licience type, one is limited to the machine, one is to the person basically.

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Devil

M$ saying another vendor is unfair to customers :)

Another M$ rip off has been to change the COA from plastic to paper, so that it wears so that users have to pay for the OS again.

I advise people to cover the COA with tape, or note the number down on the inside of theRAM cover plate.

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Bronze badge
Facepalm

License is not the same as Copyright.

I'm not sure people quite get this...

The issue isn't about license keys, entitlement to use a license etc.

It's about the code that is on the copies being made. The code is copyrighted, and Microsoft property. Comet were making copies of copyright code without permission from the legit, legal copyright holder.

License to use software is not the same as copyright of the item itself.

Got it?

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Happy

Ahh but......

...that doesnt stop us having a good moan about another topic in a similar vein that bugs us.

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Can you read?

The problem here is that Comet were selling recovery media at a profit without paying Microsoft. It is not a case that they were helping users by supplying free media to save them burning their own, they were selling it at a handsome profit (£25 IIRC). Naturally Microsoft would want a piece of that action.

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This kind of thing is easy for MS to solve

All Microsoft need to do is provide downloads of the correct DVD. You just go on the website, enter your product key from the sticker on your machine and download the ISO. Anyone who manages volume licensing will know that most of this is already in place for VLK customers.

If I need a copy of Windows or any other Microsoft product at work I just go to the website and download.

The thing is you can't win, I have a Toshiba laptop, it came with Vista preinstalled and recovery CDs to reinstall XP or Vista. Do I know where those CDs are? Hell no.

My Acer Revo had a recovery partition but I wanted the space back it was taking up and the Revo doesn't have a DVD burner to produce the discs so that recovery media is gone.

If both these copies of windows were available in the cloud we'd be fine. Microsoft could limit the number of downloads per key to stop abuse. If you need to download the CD more than 5 times you're probably doing something wrong.

If Microsoft don't want to do this themselves maybe they should provide it as a service to the OEMs. Then the OEM can advertise that as part of their product. I for one would make sure I only bought computers from an OEM that offered the service.

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Thumb Up

On the right lines....

But the problem isn't really with MS when it comes to the actual media.

It's Acer/Asus/HP/Compaq/MSI/Fujitsu et al that actually make the decision to not include the media.

Now if these companies as you say had a download section that allowed you to type in your serial number or license key and download the appropriate ISO then that would be superb.

Would cut their support overheads I would have thought?

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Anonymous Coward

Also the OEMS install there own software packages etc, its not just windows, its all the software and drivers the the OEM installs.

Basically MS provide a bare bones install and everyone adds to it, MS could very well provide peopel with the bare bones, then people would moan that the reinstall didn't come with X and Y :p

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Joke

Twice more and they lose their internet connection??

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Unhappy

In a fair World...

... the recovery disk would be downloadable under the support section of the manufacturers website as an ISO.

There is no reason not to do this anymore, people have fast enough download speeds.

It's all a con, and as someone said above OFT should really be looking into this.

I don't think ANY amount of signage is going to get the customer to burn/keep their recovery disks.

I'm suspecting this is going to be a major issue in the next few months with all the hard drive failures due to post-flood production in Thailand!

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Anonymous Coward

Good god whats wrong with you!

This is supposed to be a technical news site and you lot are acting as thought you dont know how to rob a copy of the install media for XP/Vista/Win7 off your favourite torrent/fileshare/usenet site then just install with that.

And yes you can convert an XP OEM install disc from one OEM to another, or a retail XP disc into an OEM one, you just need to identify the OEM strings in the bois and then place the appropriate oembios.bin files in the CD image.

Vista and win7 are easier, at least for win 7, vista should be the same just install from a retail disc, dont enter a key or activate, then once your up and running either guess at the manufacturers SLIC (its the licensing table in bios) or examine the SLIC directly with a program that will display the ACPI tables then install the appropriate OEM digital certificate and OEM activation key for the appropriate licensed version of windows (home, premium etc)

Then once this is done dont forget which company made the whole process of getting your licensed software back up and running such a colossal pain in the arse by not stipulating the recovery media must accompany the computer at point of sale.

Honestly your better off just pirating it its easier.

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Vic
Silver badge

> Honestly your better off just pirating it its easier.

Ballmer presented a slide some while back containing Microsoft's view of the OS carve-up.

The biggest competitor to genuine Windows installations was - unlicenced Windows installations. The blurb that accompanied the slide indicated that MS was planning to do something to convert those unlicenced versions into fully-licenced ones.

It is my belief that :-

1) They have failed miserably in so doing

2) And real effect they might have in the future will minimise the number of unlicenced installations, but they will not convert them to licenced ones; other OSes will gain ground as a direct result of Microsoft trying to improve its bottom line.

Vic.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Ermmmm....

..just what the hell are you on about? Run that past us again?

So folks need to go rummaging into the BIOS code? Plus use torrent sites?

Well that's a step forward for the common man.

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Anonymous Coward

So folks need to go rummaging into the BIOS code

Not necessarily,

it's possible to get SLIC certs from a number of sources. Hopefully anyone using a (somewhat) techie site like the register or working in IT won't find that too much of a challenge.

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Stop

making money

The problem may be that Comet was charging above cost for the discs.

If the discs provided were at cost then there would likely be no issue.

However, by making a profit on the discs they would be in breach of any license agreement they had with MS.

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FAIL

A repeat of history ?

This sounds very much like the court case Microsoft won against now failed PC manufacturer Electro-wide / Atlantic Computers in the mid-90's.

Electro-wide pre-loaded Windows 95/98 on systems without giving the backup disks or licence, claiming Microsoft don't own the copyright of the software.

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Never mind the media . . feel the licence restrictions

Last year I needed to reinstall XP on the wifes old laptop, so it could be reused for other purposes, as windows over time had become totally unstable. used the ORIGINAL supplied restore CD, problem the licence key fails to work, call Microshaft and got told by their own staff that as they "no longer issue keys for XP I should install a corporate edition and find/borrow a key" (Wasn't aware that XP had an expiry date after whice it cannot be reinstalled, surely the key it comes with should always work.

When I asked if he meant I should "pirate a copy of XP corporate" he said "YES"

I wasw under the impression we "bought a licence" to use the software and didn't "rent it until M$ sees fit to change it's mind"

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Flame

No Recovery Media?

If your computer comes with no recovery media, and especially if the recovery media is an extra cost option, then you bought the wrong computer. Apple tried this stunt in the past - you had to provide your own floppy disks and write your own recovery set. It was a crap idea then, not helped by the fact that (in Apple's case) Mac OS 7.5.x was less pleasant than treading in dog shit. With bare feet.

It's not as if it's all that difficult to get a computer with free recovery media either - Recovery media that's unencumbered with license number or activation rubbish. The answer, people, is Linux. Or Mac OS X - take your pick. Macs come with recovery media. Linux makes it even easier by providing any number of flavours, gratis, from any number of providers.

Your 2012 resolution should be to place Windows where it belongs. In the bin.

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Anonymous Coward

You can't sue a dead person and you can't sue a non-existent company, by the time this gets anywhere near a court Comet will be a distant memory and MS will be out some legal fees.

As for recovery discs, I broke my copy of Win2000 (moral - don't fiddle with stuff if you don't know what you are doing), I figured I could just boot from another drive with win98 and fix it. Doh! different FAT.

Downloaded Linux onto yet another drive as penguin people claimed Linux could do anything and I figured I could fix it with that. By the time I had worked out how to fix it I was happy sticking with Linux, been there ever since.

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Stop

Close, but no cigar

The article states that Microsoft is taking action against Comet for manufacturing counterfeit recovery discs. Unless Comet is an authorised replicator for Microsoft software, that would be a fair cop.

Microsoft OEM partners (e.g. Dell, Toshiba, Asus etc.) are permitted by their OEM agreement with Microsoft to create recovery discs for their customers. They’re not obliged to and they can charge what they like for them, but they can’t burn their own. They create a master (to meet MS guidelines which make the discs specific to each OEM) which is duplicated by an authorised Microsoft replicator.

Comet sells other brands of computers, they don't make their own. They can’t have an OEM agreement with Microsoft to replicate recovery media because they aren’t the Original Equipment Manufacturer.

Comet might have replicated the discs with the best of intentions (let’s face it, it’s probably to reduce after sales cost/hassle) but if they’re not licenced to replicate the software it’s illegal whether they charge for them or not.

@Steve Knox: you’re right – many large organisations buy lots of systems with the same config and don’t need an OEM recovery DVD with each PC. That’s actually even truer of organisations with volume licence agreements: they can purchase their volume licence DVDs from any MS volume licence reseller.

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Off-topic, but...

I'm a little concerned about the posters here that admit to downloading a copy of Windows off the web to install on their friends/customers machines, even with a valid licence key.

How do you know there's no rootkit/malware embedded on those disks? They could easily be encoded so as not to be spotted by any AV, etc. added after the install.

...and you're giving them to folk who can't even make a recovery disk by themselves?

No wonder 'sploits are rife.

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@Tubs

"How do you know there's no rootkit/malware embedded on those disks?"

MD5 and SHA1, microsoft even publish the hashes for the legitimate discs, very helpfull of them.

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Boffin

Not guaranteed

It's theoretically possible, although admittedly bloody difficult, to create a malware infested disk image with the same checksum as the uninfested image. I don't know if anyone has been clever enough to pull off the stunt though.

Perhaps I'm paranoid, but the only use I can see for the checksum is to show me that something has definitely gone wrong - not to guarantee that it's gone right.

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Anonymous Coward

"an XP OEM install disc " (AC 15:36)

Careful with your use of the "OEM" description.

XP OEM install discs don't have BIOS strings embedded in them. I know this, having bought and used several over the years, on behalf of friends and neighbours whose PCs I have (re)built and supported. Including one where a neighbour bought a PC at a computer fair, only to find out later via WGA that (1) the Windows it had was dodgy (a *volume* licence with a stolen and inappropriate key) (2) the paperwork claimed that the PC was sold without Windows (3) the trader had gone bust anyway so no chance of redress. MS telesupport sold that neighbour a "repair" disk which was a re-install disk, and was twice the price of the OEM package I'd have recommended.

XP *volume* install discs may not have BIOS strings in them either, depending on the specifics (I've heard this tale told, but only ever seen MS Select OS disks, unkeyed). But there is a significant risk that if you buy a dodgy volume install disk with a dodgy key, Microsoft will magically turn it off via WGA. See above.

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Anonymous Coward

By OEM i mean systems that have "an existing installation of Windows that has been pre-activated by a Royalty OEM. (If your computer was manufactured by a royalty OEM the COA sticker will have the manufacturer's name or logo.)"

The oembios.bin files allow you to install XP without the activation faff and just use your OEM's SLP key (or the one microsoft publish on their website) , essentially replicating the process by which the machine is installed at the factory.

And no they wont magically turn it off as all you are doing is replicating they way it was all done at the factory, now if you are pirating maybe if your SLP key and oembios files arent matched, but if you are merely putting everything back as it was when you bought it no.

I was deliberately short on the details as im sure the moderator would prefer the thread didnt descend into bypassing activation nonsense tutorials but i little time on google would fill in the blanks if you were so inclined, inclination usually being proportionate to cost and hassle of doing it "properly"

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Thumb Up

Dell business desktops did it right

I bought a Dell Vostro desktop years ago that I was actually quite impressed with the installation and recovery media. It was Vista Business and came with *no* crudware pre-installed, plus the Vista DVD was actually a full OEM install DVD (not just a piddling recovery disc) that you could actually use on any of your Dell machines!

Of course, they did have to screw up a near perfect situation by only shipping 32-bit Vista on a 64-bit capable machine. Many e-mails and phone calls later, I actually persuaded Dell UK to ship me the 64-bit Vista DVD at no charge (they did say I could only install it on one machine and had to remove the 32-bit version, which is fair enough).

I'm not a fan of recovery partitions at all - what you need is something that will burn a recovery (or preferably full OEM install) ISO and will nag you at every boot up until you do (with the option to run at it any time in the future to burn additional personal copies). If they did that, you could indeed dispense with having to ship optical media.

I think the issue here is that the contents of any Windows DVD is copyrighted and if you burn copies of it - even if they're useless withtout an activation key - you are infringing that copyright, so technically Microsoft is (for once) right here.

Personally, I usually just end up wiping off Windows and putting Linux on - and, yes, I object that no major OEM will ship an OS-less machine (white box shifters do, so why can't the big brand names do the same?).

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Windows

I think most of the posts are almost right

Haven't read all the posts to this but this is how it should be...

If you look at the shiny original Microsoft Windows disc it states to not make copies of its software. I believe Comet probably just ignored this thinking that they were doing a service to their customers in good faith whilst thinking they could just side step this teeny weenie little copyright since they were doing it on behalf of the customer.

Comet could have avoided this legal wrangle if they bothered to contact Microsoft in the first place and requested to have the right to make such copies for their customers as a service. Charging a fee for this service is not the argument in this case. Dell and other companies charge a fee to create discs for their customers so to cover things like manufacturing, power, labour costs etc.

Microsoft is probably not concerned about getting a kick back or anything due to these discs being made but because Comet didn't seek an exemption to start with. This is where the legal wrangle centres around.

So to summarise:

Comet made discs illegally because they didn't seek Microsoft's approval to start with. Therefore Microsoft sued them because of it. Comet could have avoided this by asking for approval to start with.

End result: Comet will settle out of court as they know Microsoft will ultimate win this argument.

This is not petty on Microsoft's behalf. This is simply doing business and in business, you do things properly.

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Shame Really

Many (most?) non-techy PC users would struggle to recover a PC from a partition-based backup, and it's those people that need the extra help using a "pop in this CD and sit back" option.

It's a shame really if the option provided by Comet could not install a working copy of Windows, but I guess that's where the lawsuit will justify itself.

I hope that both Comet and Microsoft come out of this with positive results. Comet as a company are in dire straits and they employ lots of people who depend on them. Would be a real shame if at least some of those had to join the dole queue because Microsoft couldn't work out a satisfactory solution which could keep everyone happy.

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IT Angle

Bottom line

As per my original post is.......

Bottom line you should get the disk, everyone saying you download this you dont get the disk etc etc.... fair enough but other downloads we arent talking an OS were talking software.

For nearly every other software package you cant obtain a disk for free!!!!! Linux, unix, mac..... there is always a recovery disk or some media. Microsoft are kicking off over lost revenue, lets face it their lost revenue is 10-15 pound for purely a disk (less than 1pence and production cost few pence).

Some will blame the OEM for not supplying it..... So the OEM have the media to install it and repair it but no doubt when the OEM says to MS how much to send a disk as well MS probably say £10 plus the fee for the user license.

As far as im concerned if i purchase the software i should have the ability to download the install package when i choose and in a media format i choose, and as a further option if i want to purchase the media i should be able to...... thats standard for almost any software provider so why not for an OS provider.

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