My friend gave me his laptop to salvage after being the victim of numerous viruses and malware. I asked him if there was anything important on the laptop that he wanted to keep. He said he wanted to keep his (legit) copy of Adobe Premiere/After Effects and a few videos he edited. He doesn't have the install CDs so I know the software he paid thousands for in 2007 is gone. I can still resurrect the original film (VOB). What is the best way to explain this?
Documents are digital files you have gotten from others or created yourself. Every document requires a type of 'reader' to access it.
You can compare it to real world documents like 18mm film, cassette tapes, CDs, and microfiche. Each of this real-world document requires a special device to play it; if you don't have that device then you still have the document, but it's kind of useless without a 'Program' that can open the document and make it available to you.
So he still has his Adobe Premiere documents, but he has lost the program needed to open them; the same as if he had a bunch of cassette tapes but no cassette player. He can go buy another copy of Adobe to open the documents, but until he does they will gather dust.
I will claim that there is no fundamental difference between "programs" and "documents", and what you really need to explain to your friend is the concept of DRM, as that is (primarily) what hinders you from extracting the installed software and implanting it on a different computer.
Arguably, some hinderance stems from the monstrous black box that is the Windows registry and your imperfect knowledge of where all the necessary parts are located, but the former is an ancient relic that has survived as it (accidentally) helps in DRM efforts, and the latter is highly circumstantial.
To help your friend out, I suggest you obtain an equivalent installation disk from a reputable third party and find his product key by starting the software and watching the splash screen (Adobe are famous for those) or the Help->About screen. The official instructions for retrieving the key are here. (Thanks!) Then you just reinstall it after wiping the infected OS.
Clarifying stance with edit
Some would like to divide software and documents as "software is used to create/read/use documents". This is a useful view for some cases. It is patently false in this example:
I use (let's call it A. It is software) to create a program (B). B is then a "document" as I create it and run it in A. Then I use B to modify some pictures I have taken (C). B is now software, and C is document.
This example is far simpler than many real life scenarios. Including VMs (like Java and Flash), operating systems, self hosting development software (A in the above example was possibly made in the previous version of A) and bits of text copied from Stack Overflow will make a lot of special cases for distinguishing between "software" and "document", unless you accept that they are all "documents" with different purposes.
if he still has his serial and/or activation code and registered his software, it might be best to contact Adobe. They might be able to help him if he has proof he has purchased the software in the past. Also since version CS2 Adobe has released trial versions that can be activated to full versions just like the box versions if you have your original serial number. If not, well theres nothing you can do but repurchase the software.
Programs create, modify, and allow viewing of documents. Documents without programs can't do anything.
Since a .vob file is a type of document (in a sense), it can't be of any use unless it is put through a program.
Analogy: movies need players, otherwise they are just patterns on a disc, tape, etc.
@Eroen is on right track, if you can get the key, you can likely download the proper version from the Adobe ftp site and reinstall it. If you can get access to the original system, deactivate it on that system first.