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My laptop came pre-installed with Windows Vista and naturally no Windows disc. Is it legal to borrow a friend's retail Vista disc and install Windows using the serial number from the sticker on my laptop? Will this even work?

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It depends on if you still have a registration available for the license, and if the install media type matches your serial type. You can't use an OEM key on a Retail install for example, but if they match, using someone else's media is fine if you're using your purchased key to install. Microsoft even allows you to purchase their alternate or replacement media, if you provide a product key.

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What does the word, registration, mean in this context and how do I know if I have it available? –  May Feb 13 '10 at 23:11
    
If you bought your own windows disk say from Best Buy, and now want to reinstall because your disk is trashed. You could not use a a Vista disk that say I got with my pc. –  MrStatic Feb 13 '10 at 23:15
    
@May, if you haven't used your serial before, you should still have 10 registrations available I believe as stated in the EULA. This also depends on if your friend has a retail install CD or not. The key on your machine is likely OEM. –  John T Feb 13 '10 at 23:23

Before you reinstall Vista with a OEM DVD (the license key from your COA sticker will not work with a reatail disk), you should backup the activation files and product key of your Windows installation.

Here's a tutorial for you:

Backup and restore Vista activation and product key

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