Thursday, November 15, 2007

A World Without Walls or Fences (Interlude) — Avoiding the "Windows Tax"

Here's an interesting passage from the Windows Vista EULA (End-User License Agreement):
By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, return it to the retailer for a refund or credit. If you cannot obtain a refund there, contact Microsoft or the Microsoft affiliate serving your country for information about Microsoft's refund policies. See In the United States and Canada, call (800) MICROSOFT or see

Some computer manufacturers like Dell are beginning to offer Linux or other free operating system installations on select computer systems. Even if you're planning on buying a new system that is only available with Windows, however, you still don't have to pay the so-called "Windows tax" if you plan on using one of the free operating systems like Linux or BSD instead.

Before you power up the computer for the first time, call your retailer and tell them you want decline the EULA and return your copy of Windows. They're legally bound by the EULA to give you a refund, though they still might try to either tell you it's not possible or else offer some sort of in-store credit or rebates.

If you stick to your guns, you should be able to get $100 or so back on your purchase, without sacrificing anything.

I recently purchased a new laptop, and decided to take my own advice. After a brief navigation of the Dell customer service phone system, I was placed on hold for half an hour (and subjected to a horribly distorted and static-filled version of the Dell theme song) until a customer service representative became available. After explaining the situation to the CSR (and quoting the pertinent bit of the EULA), I was placed on hold again for 10 minutes while the CSR entered the return into the system. I was told that the refund of $159 would be processed in four to seven business days (though it showed up on my statement in two).

All told, it was a much more pleasant experience than I'd been anticipating. All that was left for me to do was reformat the hard drive of my shiny new (and $159 cheaper) laptop and install Ubuntu.

Next Time: A Newbie's Guide to Installing Ubuntu

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