If you’re working in a Microsoft Windows or Office environment, stop and think how often you’ve been forced to reinstall software to fix a problem or upgrade a user’s machine. Now, consider the labor costs that your organization would incur if Microsoft required you to call and get an activation code for reinstallation. You should know that Microsoft is currently preparing new antipiracy technology called Microsoft Product Activation that will restrict certain reinstallations as well as moving licenses from one machine to another. Although Microsoft’s official statements downplay the effect of this new policy on corporate environments, many IT professionals are very apprehensive about the possibilities of this new policy.

Not surprisingly, a current TechRepublic discussion center is packed with member opinions about Microsoft’s plans. While the degree of discontent varies, no one is happy about having to ask permission to reinstall software they’ve already purchased. Here are the highlights of members’ reactions—including a few thoughts about switching products if Microsoft carries through with this feature.

Reinstallation is standard
Who hasn’t had to reinstall one of Microsoft’s products for one reason or another? Many members believe that Microsoft doesn’t realize the frequency of reinstalls. Cindy Psych claimed that she reinstalls Windows four or five times per computer because of “the stupid things that happen” and said, “Any time anyone adds something annoying from the Web that causes conflicts, our solution is to wipe and reinstall. How am I supposed to do this if I call Microsoft every time it happens?”

Member rromo supports 250 users and reinstalls at least two machines a week. In addition, reinstalls are required for the new machines that are bought to replace old desktops. “Now my staff is going to spend more time on the phone than actually supporting the desktops.”

Administrating 250 users is no small task, but the problem intensifies as the number of machines increases. According to CIO Eric Whiteman, when you have 1,100 users in one building with one full-time person doing new installs and another conducting re-images, dealing with this “licensing nightmare” will easily require two more people on board.

“Goodbye, Windows; hello, Linux”
If Microsoft carries through with requiring permission for reinstalls, some members vow to sever ties with the company’s products. Many said that Linux is an attractive alternative, along with Star Office, a freeware rival of Microsoft’s popular Office software. Combining the two could cut Microsoft’s presence out of many desktops set up for common office tasks.

Technical systems specialist Gary Cota has reinstalled and reconfigured countless machines on his network over the past years. Because of the instability of the environment, he doesn’t expect the need for these tasks to end anytime soon. “If MS thinks I’m going to call them every time their operating system trashes its own configuration and forces a reinstall, I’ve got just one thing to say: ‘Goodbye, Windows; hello, Linux.’”

According to s0meb0dy_else, the transition from Microsoft to Linux can’t be accomplished quickly, so it’s important to get started right away. “If you get up-to-date on Linux now, you might be able to switch to a Linux-only environment by the end of the year.”

However, LAN administrator Rich McKinney doesn’t see widespread Linux migration as a solution for everyone: “We can migrate to Linux because we’re tech-enough to do it. But for the other 98 percent out there, Linux is not an option.”

The “98 percent” Rich referred to are organizations whose average desktop users rely on Windows’ simplicity. If an organization chooses to switch its operating system to Linux, it could mean serious headaches for administrators. Member coryh wrote, “There is no way in hell I would throw Linux in my building full of people who were introduced and weaned into the computer world using Windows. I will not support these average users trying to run Linux. What a nightmare.”
How do you feel about Microsoft’s plans to require reinstallation approvals? Are your users ready for a Linux migration? Start a discussion and sound off on the issue.