Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Microsoft Licensing: An Exercise in the Absurd

I understand that I might be just a little behind in this rant, but I feel, because of recent experiences, that I have a right to go off a little bit.  And I also feel that anyone who has had a similar experience will agree with me.  Working with Microsoft on licensing issues is a gigantic pain in the ass.

Recently, I was working with a coworker on his personal computer.  He was complaining that his computer was shutting down, acting strangely, and had started emitting an odd odor.  After a little digging around inside the computer’s case, I figured out that the odor was ozone, and the machine had fried it’s motherboard.  This being an older Compaq computer, the motherboard was no long available from the manufacturer as a new part, and rather than buy my coworker a pull from a “working” computer from eBay, I decided to find him a new motherboard that would support his current CPU and peripherals.

That was a mistake.

I had never had to deal with Microsoft’s Activation software before.  I got the new motherboard into the computer, connected everything, and turned the power on.  Everything was looking great until I tried to log the machine on.  It looked as if it were going to get to the desktop, and then it opened the Activation dialog box, just as you would expect from a brand new computer.  However, when I tried to actually activate Windows, it returned a message saying Windows had already been activated, and returned me to the login screen.  No matter which of the four available users I tried to log in, it sent me to the Activation dialog, just to be returned to the login screen.

I then tried calling Microsoft in an attempt to fix the situation.  Well, first of all, I found out that they aren’t very free with their phone numbers.  I searched high and low on their website, only to be directed in a circular fashion all over the site.  I then tried Google, and found around 7 different phone numbers, all of which were incorrect.  I finally found a site that listed 1-888-571-2048 as the activation hotline.  I spoke with a machine first, which hung up on me three times before I figured out that # would get me to a human being.  This human being then connected me to Microsoft’s customer support hotline (1-800-936-5700) who then connected me to HP’s customer support line when he found out that I’d swapped motherboards.  At that point I hung up, knowing that HP wouldn’t re-activate a computer that no longer had their motherboard in it.

I understand that Microsoft is trying to protect its interests by making it more difficult to pirate copies of their operating system from one hard drive to another.  I know that they have had problems with users “ghosting” images from one machine to another, bypassing registration.  I know that companies have a right to make money off of their hard work.  I just don’t understand why they can’t work a little more closely with users who just want to get their computers working again.

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