Microsoft Licensing and OEM Product Sticker Failure
My apologies in advance if this article is a little harder to follow then others. I will summarize the main points at the end, but just wanted to explain my rationale for making the following recommendations.
If ever there was anything more complicated and convoluted as it relates to computer stuff, it’s microsoft windows licensing. There are several different types of licenses for windows but the most common from a consumer standpoint is the OEM license. *OEM stands for “Original Equipment Manufacturer.” If you’ve just purchased a new computer that came preloaded with any product from Microsoft, chances are, there’s a Certificate of Authenticity on the bottom, (referred to by Microsoft as a COA.) This badge on the bottom of the machine is basically your license to use your operating system on that machine, and theoretically, the license is permanently bound to that system. This license key can come in handy if, say you wanted to reinstall the operating system on your computer. There are, however, some little known facts that most buyers at large would never know about, so here’s your free info.
For one, newer COA stickers for Vista or Windows 7 have some seriously poor quality ink, that within a few months of use, can wear and make your product key completely illegible, which in turn, makes it impossible to reinstall your OS with a standard OEM disk. *Please note, you cannot use your OEM COA key to reinstall using a retail disk.
To protect yourself from this problem down the line, one of the first things you should do with new laptops after you unpack them from the box is flip them over, and apply some clear tape or a clear label over the Product Key sticker. This will prevent the printing on the label from wearing off.
You should also make sure that you never share this key publicly. (It sounds kinda crazy, but people have taken photos of their machines and put on ebay when trying to sell them.) Your product key, is unique to your machine, but only after you have used it, so if someone is given the opportunity to use it before you, it becomes bound to their machine instead. The reason for this is because over at “X-Computers” where they manufacture thousands of laptops, they stick the COA on your machine, but then use a “Volume License” key when they install on your machine. What this means, is the product key that was actually used to install your preload build, is not the same as the one on your COA sticker. What this means is, even though there are programs for recovering your key, If you don’t protect your sticker, there is no software means available to recover the key from your sticker.
So bottom line:
- if you buy a new computer, either record and file your product key from your COA sticker, and/or protect it with some kind of clear protective cover like clear tape or a clear label.
- Don’t share the key with the public at large because it’s likely someone can steal it.
- If possible, skip the problem entirely by making your own orig factory image and a regularly scheduled backup image. (I will post a blog about this at a later date.
Sidenote: Sys recovery can be an ugly process, so again, only use it as a last resort as a means of repairing a machine. I only use it if I have a hard drive that mechanically does not operate. in most other cases, computer problems can just be repaired. You can always call The Computer Caretaker if you have questions!