Be careful where you buy a computer!

I thought I had seen everything, and then I came across a computer sold (to one of my clients) from the company IT Waterloo (

Here’s the problem – they sell you a computer with what they call “OS License Only”. This computer is shipped to you with a blank hard disk, no CD-ROM of Windows to install with and simply a sticker on the outside case of the system to install with. You are not given the option to have the CD shipped to you – nor are you given details on the history of the computer or that copy of Windows. In fact, one of the questions Microsoft asks when you try to re-activate Windows (by phone) relates to the history of the computer.

So, if you (1) don’t have the correct CD and (b) aren’t knowledgeable enough to install windows, you’ll be left with a paperweight when you receive it.

I called them questioning this sales tactic and the service department said this was “by design”. They said they “would not” ship a CD and that the customer was going to have to call Microsoft and get the CD shipped to them. I asked him: “You must sell computers to those that are not technically inclined – you must be fielding calls like this constantly?” – he says “we get one or two calls like this a year”. Right.

He was also quite adamant that the “website says license only”. When I checked:

The website did indeed list computers with “OS License Only” but they do not clearly and in an up-front way indicate what you would be required to do to get that license working correctly. Looking for more details, I found this hidden in the “Glossary” section of their site:

“NOT Installed… If the description says (License Only), then you may need to install the OS using the License provided. Units that include an (OS License) do not include the OS CD Media. If the OS becomes corrupt you may need to reinstall the OS using the license on the number on the license sticker. If Microsoft online verification is unsuccessful you can renew the license in your name by calling Microsoft Windows Support”

This computer required more than three hours of service just to get it working. That was three times the cost of the computer! If you were without professional help, I would expect that you’d have to waste and entire day plus a week of waiting for your CD to ship. Be careful where you buy, and read the fine print!