I have an install disc for Windows XP, and an upgrade license. I actually have all of the original discs for the upgrade path still. I have even been diligent enough to remove it from previous PCs when I have done a major platform upgrade.

In other words, I have been very careful to jump through all of Microsoft’s little hoops to legally use their software. During my recent adventures in Linux I accidentally turfed my NTFS partition – it was readable from Linux but no longer recognized by Windows even in safe mode or from the recovery console.

This past weekend I set aside some time to clean up that mess, and reinstall everything. I loathe doing it because my XP disc is an original release so I have to download many gigabytes of updates to get current. Big snag – likely due to all of my hardware changes over the years, my license key appears to have been flagged as invalid.

This is quite annoying since as I have previously stated – to the best of my knowledge I have done everything Microsoft asks of me in the license. I have been putting off calling their tech support out of fear of being on the phone for a long time and (since their servers seem to think I’m a software pirate) being told I am out of luck.

Here is the shocking part: This was one of the fastest, easiest and most pleasant support experiences I have ever had! After going through their voice activated phone system, I was promptly transferred to a human being – I had to wait at most 30 seconds for this to occur. I have made some overseas calls before, and the time it took to connect was comparable.

I have no doubt that I was speaking to someone over in India or the surrounding area since that’s the support trend, and the representative had an Eastern accent. She asked me a few basic questions – what is the first group of numbers on the screen, did the software come with my PC, is it installed on any other PCs and is this the first time I have tried to activate it. (######, no, no but it has been and since removed and of course no again)
She then had me enter a sequence of numbers into the boxes on the screen, which she relayed very clearly and voila! Everything is up and running.

On the whole, I do not like Microsoft’s registration system – but I give them grudging kudos for making the telephone activation painless and efficient. Then again, maybe I just got an experienced agent – I wish I had recorded her name so I could sing her praise via an email to Microsoft.

Now, if only they could make their operating systems as efficient…