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 …

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  1. Richard Wharram

    Whoa !

    They can't have been that dumb surely ?

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      I don't know. I've had a fake Western Digital USB hard drive from them, though that may not have been their fault. The box looked like it should, but when I got inside, the drive was substantially less than the advertised capacity, I can't remember the numbers but it was something like 330GB instead of 2TB, and the general feel and finish of the product was clearly not Western Digital quality. To be fair, they did refund without any fuss.

      1. Microphage

        re: fake Western Digital USB hard drive

        What branch did this happen. Why open the box before returning when that would have voided the warrenty. What hapened when you reported this to fake Western Digital?

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge
          Meh

          I assume by 'box' Jonathanb meant the packaging which he said looked ok, rather than the drive's enclosure!

          It would be a pretty poor warranty if you voided it by getting the product out of its packaging to use it!

          1. Shades

            Shh, Mr Harris...

            ...don't give them any more bloody ideas!!

          2. jonathanb Silver badge

            I did indeed. The cardboard box and plastic packaging looked OK. The USB enclosure did not. I've no idea what the SATA drive inside the USB enclosure looked like because I didn't crack it open.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "It would be a pretty poor warranty if you voided it by getting the product out of its packaging to use it!"

            It would indeed, but that is the kind of warranty you get with most commercial software.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if it was pirating or just recovery media

    If it was recovery media then I cant see the problem, unless it was downgrade to XP for Windows 7, in which case MS would have a hissy fit.

    however I just spoke to a colleague who used to work at comet and he recalls Comet having to stop selling recovery media because MS had a hissy fit.

    1. Stuart 22

      I'm guessing the issue is Comet 'selling' Microsoft copyright product - ie making money and not sharing any with the owners.

      Good PC sellers provide a recovery disk for free/inclusive. Had Comet done the same, would it have been a problem? If they had just charged the media cost, would it have been a problem? Or just with a tiny admin cost? What were they selling it for and were they licensed to - as Dell etc are?

      Linux folks have been known to get a little hissy when other folk stuff their product on a CD and try and make money out of it.

      (Or even build the biggest corporation in the world on it - as SJ wouldn't say).

      1. ThomH Silver badge

        @Stuart 22

        I've never noticed Linux types get upset over companies making a profit from products that use Linux — such as Android — or from the vanilla sale of Linux-based OSes, as Redhat, Suse and many others have done. They get upset if companies use Linux and fail to respect the GPL by making their modifications available, but as that's a licence violation I think that's understandable.

        As for Comet, it sounds like a simple contractual dispute. Comet obviously thought they had the right to manufacture those discs. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

        1. Stuart 22

          Really?

          You obviously don't download much GPL software. The comment 'never pay for this software' does sometimes appear on author's website for a reason. Google will find sites supplying exactly the same product for a price. Parasites!

          1. Vic

            > You obviously don't download much GPL software.

            I do.

            > The comment 'never pay for this software' does sometimes appear on author's website

            Very rarely.

            What you will occasionally see is an author warning about others re-badging his software (sometimes legally, often not) and claiming it to be some sort of "authorised" version.

            > Google will find sites supplying exactly the same product for a price.

            Yes.

            > Parasites!

            Sometimes. Other times, they are bundling it with something else (e.g. support).

            But note that selling GPL software is *explicitly* permitted by the licence, so long as you conform to the other conditions.

            Vic.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              > > You obviously don't download much GPL software.

              > I do.

              So do I. I also write it in the first place.

              > > The comment 'never pay for this software' does sometimes appear on author's website

              Not on GPL licenced software it doesn't, as one of the things we explicitly give you along with the code is the right to profit from it. I am actually quite happy for people to sell my software, as it increases visibility.

              Apart from the GPL, the same holds true for any other free software licence, as defined by the FSF, who also have a list of free, quasi-free, and non-free licences on their website.

              You (not Vic, the other lad) really need to educate yourself before talking any more nonsense. I suggest you may start here: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

          2. Rob Beard
            Linux

            GPL 2

            Have you ever read the GPL 2 license?

            Term 1:

            "1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

            You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee."

            So "You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy", doesn't specify how much. That could be a penny or <Dr Evil> 100 hundred million dollars</Dr Evil>.

            What you can't do is stop anyone doing the same. So for instance, you may have really fast broadband, download some GPL software and then sell copies on CD for £5 a pop if you wish to other interested folks (maybe those still on dialup or something like that), and they can provide copies of the software for free or for a charge too.

            Rob

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Correct me if im wrong, but Android isnt "Sold" and Radhat is technically free but comes with support and added services, which is wat you pay for, course you cant get a "free" version, but none the less, the OS its self is technically free, in a odd technically incorrect way :)

          1. Vic

            > Correct me if im wrong

            OK.

            > but Android isnt "Sold"

            Yes it is.

            > and Radhat is technically free

            No it isn't.

            > the OS its self is technically free, in a odd technically incorrect way :)

            in a *very* incorrect way - i.e. that's wrong. RH OSes are Free, but not free.

            Vic.

      2. Microphage

        Comet 'selling' Microsoft copyright product

        > I'm guessing the issue is Comet 'selling' Microsoft copyright product - ie making money and not sharing any with the owners.

        It don't say they were selling the disks seperatly. If so, bump up the price of laptop and 'give away' the recovery CD.

        "The allegedly counterfeit recovery discs were then sold to customers who had bought desktops and laptops running Windows"

        I don't think this is the real issue. MS moved from full recovery disks some time ago. What you got was a reduced version that restored from a hidden partition on the harddrive. This presumably to reduce 'piracy'. If you replaced the HD the the restore CD didn't work. Tough luck on the enduser I guess. I figure Comet were providing full recovery CDs ...

        1. Steve Knox

          Umm... no.

          "MS moved from full recovery disks some time ago. What you got was a reduced version that restored from a hidden partition on the harddrive. This presumably to reduce 'piracy'. If you replaced the HD the the restore CD didn't work. Tough luck on the enduser I guess. I figure Comet were providing full recovery CDs ..."

          Microsoft provides several options for OEMs bundling Windows from including a full install disc to various forms of recovery discs. While some OEMs may make their recovery discs dependent upon the installed HDD, most of them don't.

          All of the systems I've reinstalled to recently (some Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, HP models) installed from the recovery disc to a completely blank HDD fine. If you have a specific example (Brand/model) where the recovery disc would not install to a blank HDD, please let me know, and I'll make sure to avoid that brand.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      BOTH

      Selling Recovery Media is the problem. Recovery is included, you are supposed to make your own disks. Comet Added a price to include a hard copy on disk. thereby adding a wedge of their own to something that was already included in the intended package.

      Microsoft are not happy about comet making a profit from their product.

      If you ask me Both companies deserve to loose the case. MS for choosing not to include the disks and comet should be slapped for charging for making a disk that the customer could make for free (included)...

      Comet were not giving anything the customer did not have rights to and MS should have given it in the first place.

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        It's the manufactures choice not Microsoft. Dell comes with recover discs will HP tends to make you order them on burn them your self .

        1. rototype
          Boffin

          Sometimes

          You mention that Dell come with full recovery discs - only the business models do in my experience, if you've cut corners and bought one of the cheaper home systems then you have to pay extra for the recovery media (I know this was the case a few years ago at lease, a friend was quoted £60 for the XP media alone by the Dell helpdesk!).

          1. Penti

            Obviously they where doing a service which they aren't allow to do. If you loose your self made recovery discs or find them not to work, you can ask the OEM for one and your not allowed to use another media with your license (serial). Only the OEM's media is valid. That's actually a problem many times. Here they were offering a copy of the recovery disc instead of saying call the OEM. Other stores obviously offer this service for free at request because they don't want to anger or deal with the customer in some war over it. It's just a fact of life that this type of copying happens.

            You can get media with some systems, if you specifically asks/specifies it when you order it before they deliver it. But not on all systems, where you then have to ask for the original media from the OEM if you got none when you need it or say sell the system. Which nobody does for that matter making it illegal to use any license on the chassi without requesting a legal disc any way.

      2. AdamWill

        two things

        It's not Microsoft who decide whether to include media in the box with a PC. It's the PC manufacturer.

        And I haven't seen any clear-cut indication that Comet were actually charging a specific fee for the recovery discs. Microsoft's PR claims Comet was 'selling' the discs, but they could easily justify such a claim even if Comet didn't actually charge any specific Recovery Disc Fee, just stuck some discs in with the PC. Unless you have personal knowledge / memory of this, I don't think you can assume Comet were actually charging people specifically for the discs. Comet's statement implies that they simply provided the discs along with the systems they sold as a service to customers, they didn't charge extra.

      3. Charles Manning

        Making disks for a user is not a problem

        There is nothing wrong with making recovery disks for a user and charging a fee. There is nothing wrong in charging a user for doing something that they could have done themselves for free.

        Starbucks does that all the time (ie. charging the punter a few $ to make coffee that they could have made themselves). Many computer shops will offer a service to install a computer for those that see the job (ie. take it out of the box, plug in cables and turn it on).

        The devil will be in the details.

        1. Vic

          > There is nothing wrong with making recovery disks for a user and charging a fee.

          That's pretty much the argument Psystar used.

          Trouble is - it's wrong.

          You may not copy copyrighted software without a licence from the copyright holder.

          Windows users who have a Windows licence have that licence to copy as necessary (including the CDPA section 50A exemptions). But no-one has the right to do that on their behalf, nor may they make copies for other people - that right is not transferable.

          > Starbucks does that all the time

          No they don't. Coffee is not copyrighted.

          Vic.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ouch !

    It's like someone *really* has it in for Comet.

  4. Peter 26

    This is a tricky one, the recovery CDs are only of use if you already purchased the software. I know Dell used to sell them for £5.

    But I guess only MS has the right to reproduce their software even if the customer has a license for it.

  5. SJRulez

    Microsoft should be sued for not providing recovery disk in the first place, if I have a license to use the software and its pre-installed then I should get a disk with it anyway and not have to rely on a stupid recovery partition which is useless the moment the hard drive dies.

    I currently have a Dell mini which is knackered, I cant rebuild it since it came with no disk, I cant get a recovery CD because its a cut down windows and whats even worse there's nothing that Dell or MS will do about it other than try and sell me their latest device....... Surely that's not fair on customers!!!

    1. Cliff

      "Microsoft should be sued for not providing recovery disk in the first place"

      It was your OEM that decided not to bundle a disc and rely on a stupid partition in order to save £1 or so on a commodity cheapest-wins system. Do you get physical media with everything you download/install?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes

      I had the same problem with my brother-in-law's laptop, and ended up having to resort to piracy to get Vista working (well, for a given definition of the word) in the end. The major downside to this is the Windows Genuine Advantage thingy failed a month or two after I "activated" Windows using the original CD key (not immediately, alas) so your mileage may vary.

      I know Microsoft don't want DVDs floating around to cut down on piracy, but since it took only about half an hour for me to find and download a pirate DVD anyway it's obviously not working. They should have some easier way of getting hold of a recovery disc.

      Incidentally as my brother-in-law's laptop was the only PC in the house with a DVD burner for the pirate Vista ISO file I had to first run Ubuntu on it to burn the disc. That took literally half a minute to boot up and work, making me wonder whether or not Windows was really worth it after all...

      1. andrew brown
        Linux

        why?

        Go to microsoft, I downloaded vista 32/64 and 7 32 and 64 restore cd's for when I fix other peoples PCs.

        No piracy required, the OS your restoring has to be installed already for the CDs to work.

        1. Semihere

          @andrew brown

          And if the hard drive is dead and needs replacing? What then? You bought a PC and paid for the pre-installed OS, so the least they can do is give you a copy of the installer CDs in case you need to perform a complete reinstall. 'Recovery' discs which rely on an existing install are just no good when you're facing hardware failure.

          1. Stevelane
            Holmes

            Recovery

            When my netbook bricked I reinstalled XP downloaded from a torrent site and used the key printed on the label on the body of the netbook (HP) Worked fine with no problem and still does after a year.

            My understanding is what MS sell is a license to use the software so if you have that you can use any disc you like. Likewise Comet were not selling a license they were providing a restore service not permission to use pirated software.

            1. Marcelo Rodrigues
              Happy

              That's a license, all right

              I Wanted to buy licenses for another 4 Windows 2K machines (that was sometime ago), but there was only XP around. At that time You could buy a Windows XP Pro and install a Windows 2K with the license of the XP. 100% koscher, backed by Microsoft itself.

              So i rang them, and asked:

              - "I want to install 4 Windows 2K, but i don't find anyone selling them. I know I can use a license of WXP Pro. Is it right?" (Me)

              - "Yes, it is" (Microsoft)

              - "I don't have the media. How can I get one?" (Me)

              - "You can make a copy of another W2K disc, no problem". (Microsoft)

              - "Let me get this straight. I can buy a pirated copy of Windows 2K Professional, throw away the fake serial and use the legit one?" (Me)

              - "Yes, that's right. You can." (Microsoft)

              Truth be told, this was around 2006? 2004? Was during the hard transition period, from W2K to WXP.

              Don't know how things are nowadays, in terms of copies of discs to use legit serial numbers. But at that time...

        2. Steve Renouf
          FAIL

          Huh?

          So how does that work on a blank HDD that has just been fitted to replace the one that bricked?!?

      2. countd

        Great...

        So now your brother-in-law has an OS with the malware baked in. :-\

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They changed teh rules

      Or rather the licence agreement.

      It would be very easy to just give you a disk that factory re-sets your windows box but they don't want to, quite simply.

      They want you to buy a new system with a new (pre-installed) copy of windows.

      Of course, they do often provide the ability to create recovery disks of your own and often include recovery partitions that enable you to recover windows but to your average user you might as well be asking them to make a jpeg of a smiley face using a hex editor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "you might as well be asking them to make a jpeg of a smiley face using a hex editor."

        I laughed so hard there I peed a little... :)

    4. simon 37
      Linux

      all jokes aside ...

      it was this problem that first got me to try linux. Maybe MS should consider this before throwing a hissy fit

    5. Alan 6

      I've just had to pay £35 for a Toshiba recovery CD.

      I did get one with the laptop, but I've moved house three times since buying it, so it's been lost.

      £35 stuck me as a lot of money, but seeing as the only alternative is paying £80+ for an OEM copy of Windows they've got me over a barrel.

      This is the only expense I've had with the laptop since I bought it 5 years ago, and the first time I've done a system restore, so that's not bad really...

      1. Captain Underpants

        @Alan 6

        After being stung in a similar fashion I've taken to having ISO images of recovery discs stored on an external drive. Technically redundant, yes, but useful if the disc itself gets scratched or damaged somehow...

      2. Turtle

        Well not really.

        "£35 stuck me as a lot of money, but seeing as the only alternative is paying £80+ for an OEM copy of Windows they've got me over a barrel."

        There is another alternative: Don't lose the recovery cd in the first place. That you did lose it is no one's fault but your own, in spite of how many times you've changed your digs. Any peripheral or accessory with a brand name on it is way overpriced, be it adapters, carrying bags, batteries, or, especially, replacement parts. There is no reason to expect a recovery cd to be an exception to this iron law.

        (I mean, I sympathize with you about the price-gouging but still, the problem in your case was avoidable.)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @SJRulez Why not un-brick it with a free Linux install?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yawn ...

        Bored now.

      2. SJRulez

        Bit of a late response but I've just stuck a copy of Backtrack on it.

    7. kissingthecarpet
      Linux

      No recovery partition

      I know its not a DVD, but they do work (if you have one). Dell should sell you a recovery DVD if you ring them I think

  6. Kevin Johnston

    Wording?

    What's the betting it is down to some such legal womery as the EULA wording which means that Comet were in breach as you can only create the recovery disc AFTER registration. Good enough to slam someone who is semi-conscious to keep the anti-piracy flag flying but would go nowhere against someone who had the werewithal and interest to put up a fight.

  7. Pete 2

    These are not the pirates you are looking for

    Although this hits the emotional buttons about fake software and piracy, it seems much more likely that it was merely an accounting error. If Comet were producing discs under licence, then I'd guess that all that happened was they failed to pay MS their cut of the Windows royalties for some of the discs they made and have, since, been a bit tardy in coughing up.

    1. Da Weezil

      Strange. 2 friends had laptops from Comet at xmas 2010 - neither came with a recover disc - or any kind of optical media for that matter, the book says "make it yourself"

    2. Ian 16
      Coat

      wait, what?

      A company in a dire financial situation 'been a bit tardy in coughing up' really?

      NEVER! Must be piracy! landlubbers!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Ian 16

        If you don't pay for the software you've copied, it's piracy. There is no "we were a bit hard up, so thought it'd be fine", if they were invoiced and didn't pay, or make arrangements to pay, they in effect pirated the software.

        1. Michael Jennings

          I am not sure.

          There doesn't seem to be any suggestion here that anyone has installed any software without valid licences for that software. Without that happening, I find it hard to say that it is software piracy. On occasions when I have needed to restore Windows on a PC, I have been known to download the correct Windows image on Bit Torrent, burn a disc, and then do a reinstall on a machine *with a valid licence*. Does that make me a pirate? I vote for no.

          It may be that Comet is in breach of their licence with Microsoft in other ways, or has charged customers for things it was not supposed to charge them for, and it may be that a company in financial trouble did some slightly dubious things to make payroll or some such. If so, they should be punished for it. (It is also good practice for the new owners to do a proper audit and make sure everything is above board and that anything bad that was done in the past is properly accounted for and not repeated, and this may be what is actually happening here). However, copyright industries have a habit of shouting "piracy" when opposing almost anything they don't like, and they should not be able to get away with this.

  8. Da Weezil
    Mushroom

    Deserving Customers

    "and our customers deserve better, too," he said"

    Yes we deserve a copy of the media to install in event of a hard drive failure.

    This is why I NEVER buy a machine with Windows pre installed now.

    Its about time the OFT looked at this con, and ensured that consumers get full access to the use they are licenced for, including forcing Microsoft to provide replacement media FOC in event of the drive failing - maybe that will stop this stupid hidden partition stuff.

    When I buy a machine with a 750Gb HDD I expect to have ALL of that available for the installed system and my files, not to have a chunk of it hidden away from me to save Redmond a few pence on a DVD..

    The "poor customer" comes a long way past Redmond squeezing every cent they can our of their "poor customers" with sharp practices like this, although Im not surprised by the blatant hypocrisy in that statement.

    1. David Neil
      FAIL

      Nice rant

      But it's the OEM who choose to use a recovery partition to save a few pence, not Microsoft.

      1. Steven Jones

        Missing the point

        @David Neil

        The OP was referring to the use of recovery images of any sort (whether partition of optical disk) rather than supplying a proper Windows Installation disk. As it is, if your PC dies and you can't get a like-for-like replacement or for certain upgrades (especially mother boards), your recovery disk is useless as it's tied into specifics about the hardware config. Of course, the OEM end-user licenses specifically tie licences into a particular PC (without defining what that means in detail), but for many, access to a proper install disk at least allows for the possibility (activation issues allowing) of installing a new motherboard or the like.

        1. Peter Kay

          No, because OEM is tied to the motherboard

          OEM licences are defined quite clearly if you read the Microsoft EULA - the only issue is that a variety of people don't like what it says.

          OEM licences can be bought by anyone, business or otherwise, they *should* (but no-one will know if you don't) be installed using a scripted install/re-sealed install over an existing image, are tied to the motherboard and are non transferable between users (I would have to re-read the EULA to be certain if this permits re-selling a second user system with an already installed copy of OEM Windows. No-one is going to know, but I don't think it's allowed)

          Therefore, even though I don't much like the practice of recovery disks, I can understand why because OEM licences are explicitly tied to the motherboard. If the motherboard dies, it should be replaced with the same model. The telephone based OEM license activators may decide to be kind/cant be arsed arguing if you swap it out for something different but it's definitely not on to change up to a higher spec motherboard.

          If you want a transferable licence (transferable once only), able to be moved between different hardware, buy the retail edition. That's the difference from OEM.

          It's also worth knowing that very large customers (Dell), get a copy of Windows that is BIOS locked, not motherboard locked. There's a special table in the version of Windows and the BIOS that allows it to be installed without activation. This makes life easier for the hardware vendor and Microsoft, and is also the reason it's possible to find BIOS hacks to make your system pretend to be a Dell/HP/etc.

          Of course pricing and most probably licensing in Dell etc levels of order quantity is a special deal. I don't know what conditions are attached to such deals. This is yet another reason why a standard Windows disk is not supplied. It's penny pinching not to provide a DVD, though.

          1. Michael Jennings

            Microsoft doesn't enforce this very hard though.

            Buy a PC from any OEM you like. Register the copy of Windows with Microsoft. Replace the motherboard. If Windows demands reactivation - it doesn't always - go through Microsoft's activation procedure, which might involve calling them. They will generally reactivate it fine. Although an OEM licence for Windows is theoretically tied to one PC, they don't really care how much hardware you change, as long as the licence is only used for one PC at a time.

        2. David Neil

          The main thrust of the post I replied to was about the use of recovery partitions and how the poster felt he/she was being cheated out of drive space.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      At least with dell* pre-installs there's relatively little cruft, and you get a recovery CD, that is actually a rebadged version of the full windows install disk (usually with the service pack slipstreamed in).

      *Dell business that is.

      1. Captain Underpants
        Meh

        @phuzz

        Dell have been getting a bit silly with this lately, offering the choice of *not* having the OS recovery media and saving a couple of quid off the order.

        Frankly, I don't see the point. Yes, some organisations have Volume Licence agreements. If they're stupid enough to still buy their machines with a preinstalled OS, GIVE THEM THE &%$*ING RECOVERY MEDIA ALONG WITH IT. Whatever you lose in cash you will more than make up for in customer goodwill.

        I don't understand why OEMs are so goddamn stupid about this. Hell, even Apple provided reinstall media for the MacBook Airs on a USB drive - or at least, they did before the advent of Lion and its combination of recovery partition and network-accessible (and slow as all hell) downloadable recovery tools...

        1. handle

          A bit silly

          Captain Underpants: "Dell have been getting a bit silly with this lately, offering the choice of *not* having the OS recovery media and saving a couple of quid off the order."

          It's a bit silly that they don't offer the choice of not having the OS at all and saving rather more than a couple of quid...

          1. Captain Underpants

            @handle

            Oh, don't get me started on that, they can be an absolute disaster when it comes to what OSs they offer machines with. "Yeah, you can have RHEL 6 on that one, but for some reason our amazingly nifty and not at all crap online interface won't let you generate a quote for it so you'll have to request bespoke quotes every time you need one of these workstations with it..."

            (I suspect that the relative paucity of vendors going along with the idea of refunding the Windows tax these days is down to Microsoft being more aggressive about allowing them to do so, but there's no way to prove this...)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              "no way to prove this..."

              What proof do you need?

              It is widely known that for volume vendors like Dell and HP to get best possible Windows prices for their volume desktop/laptop/etc product, they HAVE to commit to selling each one with Windows (and preferably the V.latest version of Windows that MS want them to sell), regardless of whether Windows V.latest is what the end customer wants.

              This is where the expression "Windows tax" comes from, it's not just a sarky remark, it's a reflection of MS business practices.

              I can't give you a link to a document which proves this, but anyone who says it isn't the way it works is lying.

        2. Michael Jennings

          The conversation

          Oh I don't know. Consider the following conversation.

          "My PC doesn't work? Can you fix it?"

          "Yes. However, your Windows installation is damaged / filled with crap / your hard drive has failed. Could you give me the box of CDs that came with your PC when you bought it?"

          "What box of CDs?"

          This conversation is no less common in cases where I know that the PC came with recovery discs as in cases where I know it didn't. (What I then do is scrounge for compatible disc images from somewhere else, download drivers from somewhere or other, and do a reinstall. Is that wrong? No).

          So possibly recovery discs have been left out because people who know how to use them don't actually need them, and people who don't never use them.

          1. Vic

            > Is that wrong? No

            Yes, actually, it probably is.

            If you're grabbing copies of OEM installations, you are breaching copyright.

            That you are incredibly unlikely to get caught is irrelevant; your actions are unlawful, even if they seem to make sense to you and me.

            Vic.

        3. Steve Knox
          Holmes

          @Captain Underpants

          'Dell have been getting a bit silly with this lately, offering the choice of *not* having the OS recovery media and saving a couple of quid off the order.

          Frankly, I don't see the point'

          The point is for organizations that DON'T have volume license agreements, but still buy lots of systems with the same config. For example, buy 50 of model A, get two with recovery media and save money on the other 48 (since it's the same disc.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sigh..

      "Yes we deserve a copy of the media to install in event of a hard drive failure."

      And you will get one if you make it, which is supported by 90% of OEMS ( i think its higher but theres bound to be some wierd OEM that does somethign stupid).

      In fact some computers pop up a box on first run saying "make your discs, click here to do it" (and the acer my dad got for xmas even came with blank discs so they could be made, so didn't even have to buy discs).

      So if this is really the reason you don't buy windows (I doubt it to be honest, i am sensing anti MS sentiments, reguardless of the fact that OEM's do this anyway) then you are basing it on factualyl inaccurate statements

  9. M7S

    "The deal is expected to close next month"

    As of this morning, perhaps, maybe not....

    Unless this matter has already come up in the due dilligence and been dealt with, I'd expect a re-negotiation of terms so that in effect the buyer is "held harmless" from legal action, which might take a bit of prising out of Kesa who must this morning be feeling very cheesed off.

    I have of course assumed that MS will do as the RIAA et al do when they sue for infringement and claim for the loss at full retail value for each copy.

  10. Rampant Spaniel

    That's seriously dumb if its just a recovery disk. I had an acer's primary drive (with useless recovery partition on it) die. Their utility to burn your own backups never worked. I took it as a reason to switch to win 7 which had just been released.

    Steam has a great system, just enter your serials for their games into your account and you can redownload games even after losing the disk. That's customer service. Screwing customers over who have paid for your product is poor business. I have two other machines with similar media issues, ones now running solaris, the other is running ubuntu (I know, sorry!). Ms makes some great software but they also make some huge errors. The whole just upgrade or pay a ridiculous amount for recovery media is one, that hideous ribbon interface is another. The competition is getting better year on year. It's more and more feasible to switch to nix or mac (nix in prettier panties) than it ever was. Ms might end up relegated to a rarely used vmware window and I won't need to upgrade that, just keep a copy of the image.

  11. jaycee331
    Stop

    CD != License

    I thought in software licensing, it's the license + key that has value, not the physical media.

    Isn’t the whole thing with an MS license that you don’t OWN the software, you don’t own the product, you are paying for and receiving a license to use that software under the terms given.

    So 94,000 copied install discs is one thing, but they are surely useless without hacks or pirate keys, and I think we'd know by now if that was the case.

    Presumably the discs were to accompany the license key stickers on the machines they were selling. I'm not for one second saying that counterfeit Microsoft branded discs on a commercial scale isn't seriously wrong, but I can't help but feel that a copy of an install CD that is useless without a paid for, legitimately owned license to use that product, isn't really software theft in the traditional sense? So what has actually been pirated here, a media CD and package worth say a pound?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Whilst what you say is logical

      Regardless of whatever licence you have to use the content of the DVD (i.e. the software), the content of the DVD is copyrighted, you can't lawfully duplicate it without prior consent.

      I think.

    2. vegister

      #

      yes, and frankly i find it bizarre that MS would discourage such practice.

      a user has purchased a licence to use the software, and in the event of system corruption or hard drive failure, the user has lost the mean to reinstall the software.

  12. colinm

    For my last two machines, I've taken a full image of the hard drive before I boot it for the first time.

    The only way to be sure.

    1. Heynonynonymous
      Mushroom

      You could try nuking it from orbit.

      1. kissingthecarpet
        Go

        I wonder

        how many people wanted to make that comment

        1. Vic

          > how many people wanted to make that comment

          You can probably infer that number from the number of people making the comment...

          I, for one, am enjoying this current season of non-moderation. Long may it continue!

          Vic.

          1. kissingthecarpet

            but saw it has already been made

            obviously

    2. Pseu Donyme
      Devil

      I looked into this a while back and it seems the Windows installation script 'tattoos' the HD restore image with some sort of a HW (copy) specific key. The restore CDs / DVDs created after installation probably get the same. This seems like a (half) measure against making a copy of Windows by HD cloning, but also, in practice, means 'encouraging' an upgrade in case of HD failure translating into a pretty penny in total.

  13. Craigo

    I'm thinking that MS may have been supplying Windows to these companies slightly cheaper because they weren't supplying recovery disks, as mentioned, probably to reduce "piracy" by having less full Windows discs around. Its a shady business, and I will probably find I cannot use a standard Windows 7 disc (which I also legally own) to restore my Sony laptop. It will probably install, but never activate. I will have to use the disc image on the drive / DVD. Thats been happening since the XP days.

    I think I may be the only one that reads the popup when I first switch on my shiny new laptop which clearly states "Insert x DVD('s) to burn your recovery media" I have recovered so many laptops now where people have ignored such a warning, and wondered which it takes 10 times longer to recover at 10 times the cost.

    I personally couldn't care whether I have a Windows disc, or a disc image, so long as I can reinstall Windows to my laptop somehow.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Recovery disks

      I made sure to create recovery disks when buying laptops for family members last year and this year (fortunately, they pay for their own stuff while I make sure it will work down the road). I'd rather just pay for a shiny stamped disk because it's just easier, much like the longer line cords to plug into the power supply. Most people, that I have to fix computers for, do not create these disks. It may be laziness, but I find it easier to use a pirated version to restore the computer to a functional state rather than trying to remove whatever virus(s) are on the machine (hdd failure is pretty rare). I've never had a problem with this, since the version matches the license on the sticker. Sure, they lose some bundled software (bloatware), but odds are it wasn't being used anyways.

  14. b166er

    'I know Microsoft don't want DVDs floating around to cut down on piracy'

    WTF? Are you really that dumb?

    Is this why Microsoft sell retail DVD's?

    http://emea.microsoftstore.com/UK/en-GB/Microsoft/Windows/Windows-7?tduid=7a36f9f109bb104106e9bb429de44aa9

    To cut down on piracy?

    The mind boggles.

  15. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    FAIL

    If its a *true* recovery disk

    then I dont see how M$ has a leg to stand on.

    True recovery disk are generally locked to the specific hardware manufacturer and so wont install on anything else.

    Even its a full install as long as Comet are not distributing a license key I can't see what the beef is.

    In both cases the disks have no intrinsict value. they are essentially useless without the correct key or hardware.

    This smacks of MS being arses and scoring cheap points under the pretext of fighting piracy.

    The only way I cannot see this being the case is if MS's and Comets wholesale licensing agreement includes an extra charge to produce recovery disks that Comet declined to pay.

    1. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Up

      @Gordon 10

      It's going to get interesting if it's media without licence keys or activation files, given that 10 seconds in google will lead you to sites like http://forum.notebookreview.com/windows-os-software/428068-legal-windows-7-download-links-just-like-vista-before.html which point out that you can quite easily download ISO images of Win7 media from DigitalRiver.

    2. Vic

      > I dont see how M$ has a leg to stand on.

      Oh, they do.

      The software on these disks is copyrighted. That means that it is unlawful to copy unless you have a licence from the copyright owner to do so.

      Whether or not the copied disk is of any use to you *makes no difference*. Copyright law doesn't care whether or not a copy is useful, just whether or not it is authorised.

      > This smacks of MS being arses

      That's probably the case. But that doesn't mean they don't have the full weight of the law behind them.

      Vic.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The software on these disks is copyrighted. That means that it is unlawful to copy unless you have a licence from the copyright owner to do so."

        Or the law allows you to because it is "fair use" or whatever your local equivalent is called.

        Bottom line: if you paid for a copy of Windows then you generally have the right to make a back up. Can you pay someone to make that backup for you (because you're the sort of computer user who shops at Comet)? Almost certainly, although the wonderful thing about judges is that they can make any decision they like without any reference to the law or justice so it's usually best to settle things out of court if you can.

        1. Vic

          > because it is "fair use"

          You assume that there is any such provision in the law.

          Note that this is a UK case; UK law does not have clear "fair use" exemption from copyright, just a number of instances where behaviour is not deemed to be a breach. This situation most certainly is not covered.

          > if you paid for a copy of Windows then you generally have the right to make a back up

          But Comet does not.

          > Can you pay someone to make that backup ... Almost certainly

          Section 50A of CDPA88 (which governs backup copies under UK law) makes no such provision.

          > judges ... can make any decision they like without any reference to the law or justice

          That is what generates appeals. It is comparatively rare to find a judge who simply ignores the law.

          The issue we have is that many of our laws are actually quite unjust. CDPA88 is one such law; we can't blame the judiciary for upholding it, we must blame the politicians for making it.

          Vic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "It is comparatively rare to find a judge who simply ignores the law."

            LOL

            1. Vic

              >> "It is comparatively rare to find a judge who simply ignores the law."

              > LOL

              Well, rather than just posting your assertions, why don't you go and find some evidence?

              If it's as commonplace an activity as you imply, that shouldn't be an imposition.

              The problem is that so many people believe they understand the law, without actually every having read it. Judges rarely flout the law because it is so easy for that flouting to be undone on appeal. Judges often make unpopular decisions because the law does not say what urban myth would have us believe it says.

              Vic.

              1. Peter Kay

                I think, Vic, Robert may have been laughing with you rather than at you..

  16. Joe Harrison

    Burn your own recovery media?

    The Asus laptop I bought last year nagged me endlessly to burn my own copies of the recovery media. On a machine with no optical drive! Did not fancy buying USB DVD writer so merely imaged the existing partitions.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nooooo!

    If you take down COMET, PC WORLD might go next and then where will the Far East sell all it's shitty sub-par notebooks and desktops? Staples? Toy'R'Us? Homebase?!?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      who cares? it's not as if any of el reg's readership actually buy anything from these hell-holes.

      i for one look forward to the death of pc world. it can't come soon enough.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My First PC

    My first PC had an application to make floppy disk backups of the DOS and Windows install.

    11 floppy disks later, and a newbie crash, I was informed by support to reinstall

    " You did make backups of the OS installers didn't you? "

    Thank goodness I did

  19. jason 7 Silver badge
    Stop

    More to this than meets the eye I reckon.

    It could be that Comet were charging for the disks rather than just including them with the PCs that caught MS's attention.

    I get very agitated when a customer asks me to repair or rebuild their old XP/Vista machines. The first question I have to ask is "Do you have the original OS CDs to hand?"

    There is the customary pause then they usually respond "Err no!"

    If its a Vista laptop/PC then usually there is a recovery partition but often these are so complicated I wonder how the average user is supposed to use them. Some even need the PC to be properly working to actually recover from! If its a Dell that's okay as I have a full selection of Dell recovery/OS disks to hand. If its an old XP Acer/Bizzaro brand then its pretty much tough luck as MS have tightened up the activation checking databases and unless you use the exact manufacturer OEM CD now you are screwed. They really don't want you re-using that XP now.

    It can be so frustrating especially when you are just trying to re-install a OS that the Machine has a licence stuck to it for. At the end of the day there is no change, the user carries on using XP/Vista just as they paid for a few years back but oh no.....

    I now have to spend around 90 minutes for every laptop I buy in for customers creating the damn recovery DVDs. If I leave it to them then chances are a year later I'm screwed.

  20. David Austin

    Love it when EULA's and common sense collide.

    The Valuable bit of the Windows Product - the bit you pay money for, and the bit Microsoft care about in a software audit - is the COA - Certificate Of Authenticity - slapped on the side of OEM Machines.

    As long as you have a (Non-Counterfeit) one of those, that's the license.

    You can take any standard XP/Vista/7 Media, install it, and throw that key in, needing a telephone software activation at best, and end up with a genuine and licensed windows instance.

    Without further details, it appears Comet did not include Microsoft Authorised Windows/Recovery media, which would need the legal COA to work (yes, ignoring BIOS Activation for the sake of clarity, here), A Pragmatic, but illegal solution to the problem of failed customer PC's, especially Hard Drive failures, which take the recovery partition.

    So Yeah, Comet may be technically breaking their Microsoft contract, but it probably resulted in minimum illegal installs, especially if they checked you were entitled to order it before by having an applicable PC before selling it to you

    This could all be avoided if Microsoft did the decent thing for consumers, and re-write it's OEM License to stipulate either Windows media or recovery media is included with each license, but I think we all know the chances of that happening, mainly because that would help End Users and IT Shops service their own systems, keeping them running for longer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The Valuable bit of the Windows Product - the bit you pay money for, and the bit Microsoft care about in a software audit - is the COA - Certificate Of Authenticity - slapped on the side of OEM Machines.

      As long as you have a (Non-Counterfeit) one of those, that's the license."

      Looks at bottom of less than a year old notebook and see vaguely green and white sticker with a bit of silver. No numbers or letters visible.

      Fortunately I have a photo of it....somewhere

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Was any operating system stolen - nope not seeing it

    Seriously I'm with Comet on this one. From what I can tell they were being forced by Microsoft to sell a product not fit for purpose -- ie selling a operating system in a state that it could not be recovered as you had no bloody media to do so!

    Copying and selling a operating system - yeah thats piracy go to em Microsoft BUT in this case I do believe Microsoft are not only acting like douche but with a good lawyer this could actualy come back to bite them.

    Go go Comet.

    PS anybody else who has had to fix a friends computer were they were not given any OS media but there PC has a valid OS liscense will fully apprecieate Comet on this matter. Indeed I recall a situation were I called Microsoft who were utterly usless saying yes the PC has a legal operating system and no they couldn;t send me recovery disc's as they never sold the PC. Too me Microsoft selling PC's directly or indirectly without the ability to service them and maintain them to a fully working state (IE the Operating system disc) is IMHO misselling or indeed selling a product not fit for purpose.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder if the legality of the EULA will get tested?

    That I would like to see...

    1. Vic

      No.

      The EULA is not up for discussion here - this is simple copyright infringement.

      Vic.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm just remembered what Comet is valued at :)

    Even if Comet loss and if common sence prevails then they wont, but if they do. Is Microsoft aware that they were sold a few months back for the pricely sum of £1.00, now the financial crisis has gone on since so that may of been devalued somewhat. So as Microsoft is being an ass then even if they win - could be interesting.

  24. mark l 2 Silver badge

    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.

    1. jason 7 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.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            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.

        2. Tubs
          Headmaster

          @ Alan Smithie

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

          1. kissingthecarpet
            Coat

            What not "boxen"?

            That is all

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  27. Mage 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.

    1. 45RPM
      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.

      1. h3

        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).

        1. Mick Sheppard
          Trollface

          You sir are a Troll

          ... and I claim my finders fee.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    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...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  29. billium
    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.

  30. Vince
    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?

    1. jason 7 Silver badge
      Happy

      Ahh but......

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

  31. Milkfloat

    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.

  32. Fuzz

    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.

    1. jason 7 Silver badge
      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?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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

  33. tirk
    Joke

    Twice more and they lose their internet connection??

  34. Reboot_IT
    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!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Vic

      > 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.

    2. jason 7 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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

  36. TheManCalledStan
    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.

  37. andy 55
    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.

  38. Stu_The_Jock

    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"

  39. 45RPM
    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.

  40. Tubs

    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.

  41. Hilibnist
    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.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Robin Bradshaw

      @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.

      1. 45RPM
        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.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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"

  44. Richard Lloyd
    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?).

  45. Mark Stewart
    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.

  46. FredScummer

    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.

  47. SJRulez
    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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