What must I save with my computer?

Some weeks the article I write comes easily and some weeks I have to mull it over for a few days, start and restart a few times and so forth. This week’s article is of the latter; my aim is clear but how to deliver that aim in a fashion most people will understand is not. At issue is what should we save when we buy computer software, apps, operating systems, etc. Should you be concerned when the “things” I recommend aren’t included with your purchase?

Why do I suggest being so careful with these licenses? Without proof of ownership, you will be put in the position of having to buy it again; very much like paying a second time for something you already have.

Any purchase that includes software should include license information; this may be a number, or code, or a sticker, or certificate that embodies proof of license to use. This is usually the only “thing” that is important to keep (I’ll discuss an exception later) and it is extremely important that this proof be kept. In most cases the media needed to reinstall can be obtained if and when that becomes necessary; but you will need to have that proof of purchase, or license information for the install to succeed.

Fortunately, the license information (whether it is a sticker or a sheet of paper, or a small card) is usually quite small and easily stored (also easily lost); however, this is where many computer owners get in trouble. You really do need to identify and save that original item, or information. If you buy online, it may come in an email (yes print that and save it, yes create a PDF of it and put it with other important documents); such emails really (in my opinion) should be saved as a file on your computer and included in your backups (shove it up to the cloud too). I have also taken the step in some cases of photographing the license certificate and sticking that up in the cloud.
(Important note: just keeping the email is not good enough; it is real common to lose emails over time. Almost guaranteed you will lose the necessary email in the event that you have to reinstall something)

Please note, you don’t own software; at best you own the privilege of limited use of the software you purchase. It is this distinction that leads to what I see as a serious problem currently infecting the computer Industry. What if my purchase did not include any such materials? You buy a computer and there is no sticker attached to it with the license information for Windows or OSX; there is no license information for the productivity suite that came with it (microsoft office for instance), and there are no installation disks included either. Two things; either the software you have acquired is not legitimate or the license information is embedded in the product. Let us assume the latter; in this case you need to immediately make installation or recovery disks (very much like a backup) before there is any opportunity for something to go wrong (if you are lucky, there is a routine for doing this all prepared for you).

One of the ways I choose between computer manufacturers is to look and see if the product comes with restoration media (or original install media) AND license materials; if it doesn’t, I am highly unlikely to make the purchase. In my mind, my having to make the media will cost 3-4 DVD’s and a few hours of my time; a machine that costs $100 more but includes these things is the better buy.

Even at today’s prices the purchase of a computer or laptop involves a significant amount of money; please make an informed choice when buying. If in doubt, let us help. It just takes a phone call.