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Getting a “Restore” CD From a Vendor and Using Vista’s “Preserve My Data” Feature

March 19, 2009

in data storage and recovery,Vista

by David Hakala

Q: Reader John asks two questions: (1) I’m purchasing a new HP Pavilion Desktop with Vista OS. The supplier does not give the original Microsoft Program CD. Instead they include a Restore program on the hard drive. Am I entitled to the original CD? (2) Can the operating system be restored with the non-destructive installation method from the inbuilt “Restore Program”?

To answer the first question, unfortunately, no, you are not entitled to a full, retail copy of Microsoft Vista with the purchase of a new computer. That could be installed multiple times on different computers, depriving Microsoft of its hard-earned money.

What you buy with a physical computer is a license (permission) to use the Vista operating system as it is configured by the vendor at the factory on that particular piece of hardware. The function of the Restore program is to restore your computer to exactly the state it was in when you first opened its box. The Restore program cannot be used to install Vista on another computer because it contains many bits of identifying information about various physical parts of the specific machine you bought: serial numbers of graphics chips, for instance.

It would be very prudent to have the Restore program on a bootable CD in case your hard drive fails and you cannot access the Restore program in the usual way. Then you could boot from CD and either try to repair your hard drive’s installation of Vista or reformat the drive and install Vista again from scratch. But vendors don’t want to give you a CD, or their licensing agreement with Microsoft won’t permit them to do so.

As for restoring, Vista and earlier versions of Windows include a Recovery Center (“Console” in Windows XP) that can be used to try to repair a damaged installation while preserving user data. But Recovery will not install the entire Vista operating system from scratch. The Restore program will re-install Vista, but it will wipe all existing data and applications from the hard drive before doing so.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at