One step closer to saying "Goodbye" to Microsoft

This morning, I turned on my laptop and heard an unpleasant grinding sound. I knew it wasn’t good; I’ve heard this sound before.

It was a hard drive failure.

The hard drive wouldn’t boot up at all. Fortunately, I do routine backups (to a server and to a 1GB USB flash drive), so I wasn’t overly concerned. I ran out to the local BestBuy, picked up a new 100GB notebook hard drive, and installed it in the laptop.

In my CD collection, I pulled out my trusty bootable Windows XP Professional CD, and proceeded to start the install…

  • Boot from CD… check
  • Create new partition… check
  • Quick format… check
  • Command install mode file copy… check
  • Reboot to GUI install mode… check
  • Type name and company… check…
  • Enter Windows XP Professional product key… PRODUCT ID INVALID.

Wait a minute… This is the Windows XP Professional product key on the laptop itself, that stupid Microsoft sticker usually placed in the most inconvenient spot for reading! I double-checked to make sure there were no typos.

PRODUCT ID INVALID.

Let’s not give up. I’ll look at the same inconveniently-placed sticker on my desktop PC and try that one. This should work.

PRODUCT ID INVALID.

@%!&#! I’m cursing now, and I’m very close to start throwing things.

I dig through my CD collection for another bootable CD. This one came with my Dell desktop, so I’ll give this a shot. (The laptop is a Toshiba, not a Dell, but it shouldn’t matter.) I start from absolute scratch — reformatting the hard drive, taking no chances. I wait to enter the product key…

No prompt. Huh? Does Dell have some magical detection scheme? I hope so… Either they know how to read the product key off the sticker, or somehow it has magically transfered itself despite the reformatting of the hard drive. Or, I’ll be asked later during the install, just to tease me by making me think I’ve survived the torture.

Time will tell, but one thing is now absolutely certain: If it wasn’t for SQL Server and Visual Studio .Net, I’d have moved beyond Microsoft by now.

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