The recovery disc rip-off
The days of finding Windows discs nestling at the bottom of a PC box are fast coming to an end.
Current practice does away with backup discs, with vendors instead taking the cheaper option of installing recovery software on a hard disk partition, leaving the buyer with no physical copy of the operating system they paid for.
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“Six years ago, you’d have got a proper copy of XP, then the manufacturers moved over to recovery CDs, and now you get no CD at all,” said Peter Snow, senior technical support director at PC Recovery. “Now it’s on a partition and there is no media if it goes wrong, unless you’ve created a disc yourself.”
System backups on a hard disk partition have one obvious and significant drawback – if the hard disk fails, so does the partition, and along with it goes the backup software supplied by the manufacturer.
“Hard disks can and do fail in the first year,” said Nabil Shabka, CEO of zuuMedia, which runs PC maintenance company Computer Repair UK. “And they will all fail eventually – it’s a matter of when, not if.”
Burn a disc
The PC firms rely on end users to burn a copy of the recovery partition on good-quality media, and store it somewhere safe for the day that disaster strikes. “We recommend to all our customers that they burn a recovery disc,” said a spokesperson for high-street retailer PC World. “Our own Advent systems remind the customer to burn the disc every few days.”
In the real world, however, consumers aren’t as diligent as they should be. “Lots of people ignore the warnings,” said David Smith, director of independent maintenance company Help With Your PC. “They don’t do it during setup and then it’s forgotten.”
In many cases, you can’t even pay extra to get physical recovery media when purchasing a new machine. Although manufacturers such as Dell will supply discs for free, if you ask, PC World told us flatly that “we don’t sell recovery media”.
The manufacturers’ line that partitions are adequate for consumers rather flies in the face of the alarmist advice on Acer Direct’s website. Beneath an offer to buy backup media for £15 the company says, “a recovery disc is the single most important accessory to have with your new laptop”.
“You may need to use it in the event of a virus, programme corruption… and without it your laptop could be rendered useless, leaving you with an expensive repair bill. With this product you can save yourself the hassle of having to create your own backup discs and restore data.”