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Rude Windows Vista Activation Rep Pisses Me Off

20 -unactivated

Last night, after I fixed a hard drive problem by moving my entire PC to a new hard drive, Windows Vista demanded to be re-activated; otherwise I would face a firing squad (or Reduced Functionality Mode, something like that). Now that’s annoying and unnecessary, since a new hard drive isn’t such a significant hardware change that Windows should want re-activation, but I figured, whatever, you gotta deal with it.

21 - what to do

So, I click to activate and it fails, which again, after a system check, it shouldn’t. The computer gives me some options: Buy a new copy of Windows (sure, throw away $280!), find another copy of Windows just sitting around (actually, I could have done that, but it would have been another waste of $280), or contact Microsoft.

Naturally, I’m not sitting on a pile of money, so I take option 3.

22 - enter 54 digit id

Now, in contacting the automated support line, they give you a toll-free number to call and a 54-digit ID number which you must read to a computer. Surprisingly, the voice recognition worked great, failing only once out of the nine groups of six-digit numbers I had to read, but activation still failed after going through all that!

I’m annoyed at this point, having tried to activate several different ways, with no luck, when it shouldn’t have even been necessary. But I push on, knowing they are sending me to a phone representative who will be forced to make this work, since I haven’t been doing anything wrong.

The phone rep comes on and asks me to repeat the first set of numbers, and if I’ve installed this on more than one computer. He keeps dissapearing and re-appearing, leaving me on hold with no music several times, with no way to know if he’s just hung up on me or the call has been dropped. Finally, he reads me a 54-digit ID number to enter into my computer so I can re-activate.


Except, here’s how the conversation goes:

Him: ….981. Windows is now activated thank you and good day.

Me: Wait, lets make sure this worked.

Him: We are done. Windows has now been activated. Goodbye.

Me: No, don’t hang up. The software is still working, and it hasn’t said Windows is activated.

All this time, I’m getting the rotating circle that indicates the software is at work, but this idiot wants so badly to hang up on me.

Him: We are finished.

Me: No, we are not. It isn’t done, and if it doesn’t work, you have to stay on the phone to figure out what went wrong.

Him: We have entered the code to activate Windows.

Me: No, the software is still going, it has not said we are finished. You have to wait.

Finally the slow software says “Activation was successful”.

Me: Okay, its finished.

Him: That is all. Goodbye.

*Hangs up*

23 -Success

I don’t understand what his big rush was. The process wasn’t complete, but I had to beg him to not hang up on me. Where was he headed that he was in such a hurry? Aren’t these people supposed to be trained on some sort of interpersonal skills? I’ve never spoken to a phone representative I actually wanted to strangle before I spoke to this guy.

24 - success 2

All things considered, once you call the phone line, Microsoft has already failed the customer. That means that whoever works the line should be working from an apologetic frame of mind, trying to make this mistake a little easier to deal with. Microsoft should be stocking this line with higher quality phone reps, or at least instruct them to deal a little differently with the dissatisfied customers than they would a normal tech support call.

This was the first time I ever had to call a Microsoft support phone number, and for most customers, this will be the most common number they call. This is the only person-to-person experience many customers will ever have with Microsoft, and they’re really screwing it up.

September 2nd, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Corporate, Windows, General | 14 comments

Using Windows Vista’s Complete PC Backup - A Guide

A week ago, my hard drive started making an odd clicking noise, and, after a call to Dell support, it was clear the damn thing was going to die on me, fast. Dell sent me a new drive, free under my warranty, lickety-split, and last night my job was to move everything over to the new hard drive.

Since I run Windows Vista Ultimate, I can use the very nice Complete PC Backup feature to move my files over to the new hard drive, and I did. Overall, it worked out nicely. You can also use this feature if you bought a new bigger hard drive and want to move everything over to it.

Here’s how it goes:

1 - Complete PC Backup

First, you need to find the software. Typing “Complete PC Backup” into the Start Menu gets you nowhere, so you’ll have to hunt. You’ll either find what you want under Accessories > System Tools > Backup Status and Configuration or under Control Panel > Backup and Restore Center. However you do it, you’ll find a section for Complete PC Backup and a button to back up your PC now.

2 - Backing up PC

Do it. Select the right drive or drives, make sure you have free space on another hard drive or the patience to record a lot of DVDs, and get it going.

When you’re done, Turn off your computer and replace your hard drive however it is you do that. I’m not getting into it, but suffice to say, it’ll probably involve a screwdriver.

3 - Windows Vista setup

When you’ve installed the new hard drive, insert your Windows Vista Ultimate DVD and boot from it. You may need to hit a key during boot to boot from the DVD drive, but probably not. Since your hard drive is usually empty at this point, your PC will see nothing there and move on, choosing the DVD. Hit any key quickly to run setup, and you’re back in Windows Vista setup. Do not click to install Windows Vista.

Instead, click Repair Your Computer.

4 - System Recovery Center

Then, on the System Recovery Options screen, click Next. Yeah, I don’t understand why it’s blank, either. Maybe it has something to do with using a different hard drive.

5 - System Recovery Options

On the System Recovery Options screen, click Windows Complete PC Restore.

6 -Choose your backup

Now, magically, Vista setup has probably found your complete backup on the external or other hard drive you backed it up to. No, it didn’t bother checking before, but it should list it now. Make sure it’s the right backup (it’s got a timestamp that will be only a few hours old) and click Next.

7 - Confirmation screen

Click Finish on the confirmation screen.

8 - You sure, dude

Then click OK on the “Are you sure” box. Doing this does re-format your hard drive, but that is kind of the point, right?

9 - copying files

That’s really all you have to do. Wait around while it copies files.

10 - reboot

Reboot when finished and remove your Windows Vista DVD.

When your computer starts back up, if you followed the instructions right, you won’t be able to tell that anything has changed. Your computer will have the same desktop, same settings, same software installed, same everything. It’s seamless and almost perfect.


You may have to re-activate Windows Vista, and possibly other software (like Adobe’s Creative Suite) that gets freaked out by the new hard drive, thinking you are trying to pull some crap. I’ll cover the “fun” of Windows Vista re-activation in my next article.

11 - VHD

Another really, really cool thing: When you create the Complete PC Backup, Windows actually creates a Virtual HD file and restores from that. In theory, you should be able to load that Virtual HD in Virtual PC or VMWare and run your PC as a virtual machine. In fact, you may be able to do some cool Windows-inside-of-a-Mac stuff, but I’m no expert on that. Hang on to that file for as long as you can afford to (it’s a safety if anything goes wrong in the future, and play around with it.

Hope this was helpful. Happy backuping!

September 2nd, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Windows | 6 comments