Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Getting rid of Alienware

4 years ago I bought a computer from Alienware. Not a bad machine, but it was the last "pre-made" computer I ever bought because I realized something: Companies like Dell / Alienware turn PCs from an open architecture into a closed proprietary one. You can't just do anything you like with such a system, just like you can't do anything you like with an Apple computer.

Well, I'm buying a new computer every 2 years, give the 2-year old computer to the wife, and kick out the 4-year old one. So, just having bought a new PC, it was time for the Alienware PC to be given away. Obviously I didn't want my programs and data to remain on it. After some attempts to "clean" the hard drive from all information relating to me, I quickly realized that this wouldn't work without a clean format and re-install. Which I then proceeded to do.

At that point the Alienware PC decided to give me one last smack on the head for having bought a closed system. I had formatted the hard drive and re-installed Windows XP. But Windows XP refused to run without activation, and the Alienware PC refused to let itself be activated. Via internet he refused to communicate with Microsoft activation service. And when choosing the activate via telephone option he refused to give me the identification number required for that phone activation. Searching for the problem on Google turned up the information that this was actually not uncommon for pre-made PCs.

In the end I had to use the re-install disc that had come with the Alienware PC, even if that was Windows Vista. 4 years ago I had installed Windows XP over the pre-installed Vista (the first version of Vista was rather horrible, although it improved slightly with the service packs). That somehow overcame that Windows XP activation problem. But a clean install of Windows XP wasn't possible on this machine. Well, the nephew of my wife who is going to inherit the computer is going to have to live with Vista. I already spent all evening getting the machine up and running again, and I wasn't in a mood to retry my feat from 4 years ago to install XP over Vista. And now the only desktop computers left in the house have been assembled by the local computer shop from separate components. No more being locked into a Dell / Alienware system. Good riddance!

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