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Reinstalling Windows 8 on OEM machine without a factory image

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1) Most major OEM's (e.g. Dell, Toshiba, HP...) are not putting COA's on computers any more. This change started with Windows 8 (Not UEFI bios... just the no COA sticker). Now there will frequently be a sticker claiming the machine is running, or capable of running Windows 8. As I'm sure you are aware this is not even remotely the same as a COA (Certificate of Authenticity). Microsoft did this in conjunction with the major manufacturers primarily because of Laptops and the many real world situations where the key codes becomes unreadable. They could have all started placing them under the battery like the smarter vendors, but they came up with a different alternative. New PC's have the COA programmed into the bios. So you don't need to enter in the key code anymore. However, getting Windows 8 to install can still be tricky. Onward...

2) The key code may be in the bios, but it is only accessible in something called UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) mode. This mode can make it a problem to boot to other devices and by default may be on or off depending on brand, what you've done with the computer so far, and the price of tea in china. I'll get back to UEFI mode in a minute as it is the most important thing to you being able to re-install Windows 8 without a COA.

3) BIOS's are getting harder to enter. Conspiracy theory's aside (as a way for OEM's to get more people to pay for tech support) many manufacturers are making it much harder to figure out how to get into the BIOS. Take a recent Toshiba I worked on, one from the P558 line. I wanted to test the hard drive with a boot-able CD... normally a very simple process. Well no longer, UEFI mode won't let that happen. You need to know to: Enter the bios, turn off secure mode, change UEFI mode to CSM mode, then access the boot menu. Finally. So.. how to you get into the bios? If it's not displayed hit Google. It's starting to get a bit crazy and may even vary from line to line at the same manufacturer. The laptop in this example... you have to hold down F12 while the laptop is OFF. Seriously, even if u hit F12 the second you hit power it will not work. It must be depressed, and held, before the power is turned on.

4) So continuing with this Toshiba laptop... I did my testing, proved the hard drive was bad and replaced it, put the laptop back into UEFI mode, loaded off a Windows 8 CD, and now it's good to go.

-Get in the BIOS, make sure the PC is in UEFI mode. Usually found in the Advanced Menu or System Config sub-menu.

-The computer WILL boot off of a Windows 8 DVD. This has been designed to interact with UEFI mode. However, you frequently have to figure out how to change the boot order. I mean the on the fly boot order, not the permanent one in the bios. The problem is even if your optical drive is listed first in the boot order UEFI mode will often still default to the hard drive. A nice little quirk. So you need to hit whatever key lets you choose boot devices and select the optical.

-Have some patience. When you first boot off a Windows 8 DVD you will usually get the prompt to "Hit any key" but after that the computer restarts and looks like it's sitting at the company logo. This is normal. It IS doing stuff, have faith.

-Eventually a relatively normal Windows install process will load and you should be good to go from there. Some pointers:

-Make sure you choose the proper Windows 8 disk in regards to 32 bit or 64 bit. Different versions of Windows 8 (eg. Home, Pro) are contained on the same DVD but not 32 versus 64. Your UEFI may or may not be programmed work with both versions. Usually they are interchangeable, but I have run into a couple odd situations where 32 worked but 64 wouldn't. Most PC's are 64 bit now anyway and if you have an OEM machine with over 3gb of memory it's ALMOST guaranteed to be 64-bit.

-Done properly you will NOT need to enter in a key code, the UEFI bios will do that for you. Then the first time you get on the net the PC will automatically activate.

-So... if the PC came with no disks, you didn't make a recovery image, and you don't own any other copies of Windows 8 what then? Well frequently Windows 8 installs from the same manufacturer will work. NOT system images... not unless it is the same brand AND exact same model. But if you have a buddy who still believes in physical media and they had the option to, and did, shell out the extra $10 to get media that will probably work. Generic install disks will also work. For example, when Windows 8 first came out Microsoft had a great introductory price and I bought a few copies. I shelled out the extra $10... yup I'm one of those... and I've successfully used those DVDs on every brand I've tried so far. If you don't have access to either one of those you can always order recovery media from the brand manufacturer. Just call em up, tell em the model, tell em you replaced the hard drive, provide credit card, and you're good to go.

Original post provided by "homepcrep"
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