Legal Software

Over the years an issue that I constantly encounter is Personal Computers (PC’s) brought in for repair that do not have “legal” software installed on them. I am not the “software police” and although this is breaking software agreement laws, I am simply going to advise the system owner that they should have valid software installed on their system. Where this becomes a problem is when the operating system (O/S) (i.e. like MS-Windows XP) requires to be reinstalled when it has become damaged with corrupted files.Legal-software

In this case, once you reinstall the O/S, it is required to enter the “product key” for the software to function. The product key is the code issued by the software manufacturer, like a serial number, to prevent illegal copies (sometimes referred as “pirate copies”) of the software being installed. Without this key or with a “duplicate” key, I as a dealer am not permitted to install the software on your behalf. Now the dilemma starts. To repair your system should it require an O/S and without a valid key there is no way to repair the system. This also has a snowball effect. Once the O/S is reinstalled any other software that was previously installed on the system, also requires to be reinstalled. If product keys are pertinent for that software they also need to be entered. A common one would be for Microsoft Office. To circumvent this dilemma when the PC is brought in for repair I verify that is has the product key sticker applied on the PC Without the key I will refuse to fix it. Many clients will beg me to still fix their system. Sorry not possible. When a product key is entered, this information is sent to the software manufacture’s database that verifies it is a valid code as well as not a duplicate code. If it is, a warning is issued to your screen stating you are in breach of software regulations and your software will not function.


It is in most people’s nature and pocketbook to save money where they can and this is especially true with software. Software is not cheap to buy and can exceed the cost of your PC with just the O/S and a few applications. Why is it so expensive you ask? I was a software developer for many years. This is a skilled trade, requires years of training, and pays accordingly. As an example one piece of software I worked on would require multiple teams to develop, software designers, programmers, quality assurance testers, technical analysts, not to mention all the marketing and sales teams to promote and sell the software. With an average salary today of 40K and up for anyone of those positions and incurring a minimum of 1-3 years in development that is a huge financial outlay to produce this commodity. Now the company has to recoup its costs and still make a profit. This explains why software is a substantial expense. Although unlike making a car with many visible components you are paying for; software is simply a CD containing the code and sometimes a paper manual contained in a box. The labour is 1000’s of man-hours to create. I am aware of this large cost to the client and sympathize with you. Over my 25yrs in computing and owing often more than 1 PC I have personally spent easily over $50K in software, which I would rather have applied to my mortgage. If you wish to wear your “knock-off” clothing or jewelry items, be my guest, I don’t think many people will care. However without your product key you are in fact “breaking the law” and taking away from the funding and salaries for current and future potential students learning software development.

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