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I realize this question has been somewhat addressed in the following topics:
How to reinstall Vista without the installation disk
How do I reset my WinXP installation without having to reinstall the OS

However, neither of these fully answered the question as far as I'm concerned. People suggest using System Restore, which only affects the registry and NOT programs added after a restore point is created. Then someone says you need the DVD, which, as described in the question, is not available.

So I have the Vista OEM key, as provided on the bottom of my Gateway laptop. I just don't know where my Vista installation disc is, or whether I even received one.

So, some bonus questions:
Is my only option just to borrow a Vista CD from somebody else?
And if I do that, will the installation work with my Gateway-provided Vista OEM key?

Thank you.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I'm not sure how Gateway handles it, but many manufacturers now will actually partition a recovery disc on the drive. I'm not sure if they're all the same, but right click "My Computer", go to "Manage", and check on discs and storage to see if there is a recovery partition. If so... Reboot, and I think it's F11 to access it. Could be wrong about the key though.

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This is helpful and I'm going to follow your instructions as soon as I'm back on my home computer. However I'm still wondering if there's any way to get the Vista software without having the disc, but to do so in a legal manner (i.e. not downloading a torrent). I mean, I'm the legal owner of this copy of Vista so why can't I just download the software from Microsoft using my own key? I guess not everybody can be as cool and well-managed as Steam. – NoCatharsis Nov 12 '09 at 16:21
Actually, what your paying for from Microsoft is the license. The plastic is just that... Plastic. Feel free to download a disc, just make sure you use the correct one (i.e. OEM, Retail, Enterprise, etc.), and don't use any "Generated" keys that come with a torrent. So long as you own a key that you payed for, you own the product (for a single motherboard... License is per computer). – Sivvy Nov 12 '09 at 16:38
Just on a side note, I recently downloaded a 9-in-1 XP disc that allows me to have all forms of XP on a single disc, making it so I don't need to have a whole bundle of discs when I do work for my friends. So long as you use something like "Magical JellyBean Keyfinder" that tells you their current windows install type and their license key, I just write down the key, install that particular type, then re-use their key. Microsoft won't complain, because it's on the same motherboard, and using the correct license. – Sivvy Nov 12 '09 at 16:42

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