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I am looking to buy a laptop, which presumably will come with Windows. I would like to be able to run Windows in a VM if needed. The last few laptops I've set up for friends and family all came with restore discs, or worse, restore partitions with no media at all, none of which let you install into a VM. I've been unsuccessful in researching which laptop to buy in finding out whether an actual install disc is provided that would let me do this. Are there perhaps some code words I should be looking for? Or perhaps a website out there that tracks whether particular laptops include restore discs vs. actual media?

I know I can just by a laptop without an OS and get an off the shelf version of windows, but for the level of laptop I'm looking for, it is generally cheaper get get it bundled, and I mostly only use Windows to do family/friend tech support, so it isn't worth paying full retail for that.

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closed as off-topic by Journeyman Geek May 19 '14 at 11:51

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10 Answers 10

up vote 3 down vote accepted

i deal quite a lot with Dell and there was a time when they did not provide a proper OS installation disk and system restore disks simply don't cut it for me. since then i'm always dealing with them over the phone, if the sales rep refuse to throw in this disk, they'll lose the sale which would be a rather silly thing to do over a disk that cost them next to nothing. maybe a bit harsh, but it always worked for me.

mind you, in recent years Dell always has been shipping with an installation disk (at least where i live) but i still ask this particular question. no disk, no deal, as simple as that, old habits die hard. :)

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Even if the laptop came with a restore disk, you wouldn't be able to install that version in a VM, as you are only licensed to run a single copy of that OS at a time. The copy which would be installed and running as a VM would be a second copy, and would violate your license agreement.

In order to legally run another OS as a VM, you would need to purchase a second copy of Windows to run within the VM.

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Good catch - my question was unclear on this point - I wouldn't be running Windows as the host, I'd just like it to be available as a VM if I needed it - so just the one instance installed. – user7866 Aug 23 '09 at 21:01
Or run it in a VM under linux. But then again, that is so marginal violation of a licence agreement, I don't think anybody will mind it (unless somebody really has an eye on you). Practically, it comes down to whether you have a licenced copy or not. – Rook Aug 23 '09 at 22:30
From a technical perspective the Windows that comes with the computer is licensed to run on the mettle. For a practical perspective, unless you really anger someone at Microsoft they really won't care. You should be able to call any hardware vendor and request (for S&H + media costs) a copy of the OS on DVD so that you can replace the HD and reinstall. Give them that line and see how it goes. – mrdenny Aug 24 '09 at 1:01

use vmware converter to convert physical machine to virtual and then run that machine in vm. (you are just backing up your machine no?)


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If you don't use the VM that much, just make sure that the clock isn't synchronised in the virtual windows. This will mean that the 30 days you can use it will go on for ages.

If you used 1 hour a day, it would be 24 times as long, so the VM copy will work without activation for 720 days, or almost 2 years.

For Windows, you need to reinstall it ever couple of years anyway.

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When I ordered my Latitude laptop from Dell, getting the O/S CD's was an option you could add to the order.

I learned my lesson when my hard drive failed on my previous Dell laptop (an Inspiron), and they just sent me an unformatted hard drive to replace it. I had to have them send me the install CD for that.

I also request the CD with the special drivers for the laptop.

My conclusion is that you may have to search for this option when placing your order, and you surely will be charged extra for the CD's, but they may be available.

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As an aside: why should we pay extra for it? If I'm paying for Windows in the first place, why does it cost more to supply a CD costing pence to produce? – Umber Ferrule Aug 23 '09 at 21:23
Because the OEM is requested to provide you will install media, which they have done. It's on the extra partition on the disk. If you want more than that, they'll charge you. It's crap, but that's the reality. They want your money, and this is another way to get it from you. – mrdenny Aug 24 '09 at 1:03
Are you paying extra for it, or are they pricing it without the CD's? Yes, it's cheap to create the CD but there's a couple of steps required for somebody to stick the CD in the shipping box. It's kind of like they charge extra for luggage on airplanes, which is a way to make the ticket price appear cheaper than it actually is. Ditto for the CD. They quote a price without a CD to make it look cheaper. I think you'll agree that it is definitely worth a few bucks to have that CD backup. It's just a pricing strategy. – DOK Aug 28 '09 at 23:18

For 20$ you can ask one from acer, they will deliver it.

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You would need to purchase the Fully Packaged Product (FPP) version of Windows in order to install it into the virtual machine and comply with Microsoft's licensing agreement. It's a bit rubbish if you ask me, but hey.

+1 for Dell, in answer to your initial question.

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I had a very old Dell that was long past its warranty and I was still able to order install disks for it when I wanted to install a VM version.

Another option to consider is that VMWare lets you run the existing hard-disk Windows as a VM, without installing a new one at all.

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You can buy media without a license at a small cost, usually thorough corporate suppliers, you a just not legally allowed to run it without purchasing a license.

The license to run the software is where all the cost is, not the physical media.

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I had a similar requirement. I called up Dell Customer Service and they shipped OS installation disk in express mail. No questions asked. My computer was 4 years old, and it was out of warranty. So, the answer to your question would be Dell. Even if you don't get the installation disk at the time of purchase, it's not too hard to get the disk shipped, IMO.

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