/ Technology

Microsoft sues Comet for fake software: whose side are you on?

Comet store

This week, Microsoft accused retailer Comet of deliberately pirating and selling 94,000 copies of Windows back-up discs. Comet says it was acting on behalf of its customers – do you agree?

With a lawsuit now pending, Comet’s image could be seriously tarnished over this issue. Microsoft is alleging that Comet itself produced thousands of counterfeit recovery discs for Windows XP and Vista, which were then sold to UK customers.

We contacted a Comet spokesperson who confirmed that this counterfeit software wasn’t simply bundled with new computers, but actually sold in stores as a separate purchase between March 2008 and December 2009.

The risk for customers

So what’s the problem if a back-up disc turns out to be pirated? For Microsoft, of course, this is a case of intellectual property rights and combating piracy of its products. But what happens to a customer who attempts to use a counterfeit disc?

A recovery disc isn’t used to install your original software, but rather to recover your computer to an original state in case you have serious operating system problems. If you were to perform this recovery with an unofficial disc, the risk remains that you’d then be unable to download future software updates, since Microsoft could detect that your operating system isn’t licensed.

If you’re worried that you might have an unofficial disc, check out Microsoft’s site to detect whether your software is an officially-licensed original product or not.

In the best interests of customers?

Comet has defended its actions by insisting it was actually acting in the best interests of consumers.

For the last few years, Microsoft has stopped providing recovery discs with new computer purchases, and instead has encouraged customers to create their own discs using blank CDs. The obvious problem here is that a huge number of people wouldn’t know how to go about doing this, or even if they should be doing it at all.

According to a spokesperson for Comet:

‘Comet firmly believes that it acted in the very best interests of its customers. It believes its customers had been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery discs with each new Microsoft Operating System based computer.’

However, Microsoft has firmly refuted this suggestion, saying:

‘Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products — and customers deserve better, too.’

So who do you side with here? Is it too much for Microsoft to expect customers to create their own recovery discs, and were Comet trying to provide a helping hand? Or is this a case of Comet cynically profiting from pirated discs that would have cost them next to nothing to produce?

We’re also interested to hear from anyone who may have purchased one of these recovery discs from Comet – have you had problems updating your software and will you be contacting Comet at all?

Scott Humphrey says:
5 January 2012

Interesting case, I would say if Comet charged for a service in creating recovery discs that was non-profit in that they covered their costs and the customer proved they had a legit copy then I’m on Comet’s side. Most people only think to create a recovery disc once their machine has crashed, by then it’s too late, so offering a disc recovery creation service is very useful. However, if they sold them for profit to anyone then MS rightly have an argument.

I’d also like to know what difference there is between Comet creating and supplying recovery discs against the customer creating their own in terms of it functioning correctly?


As I understand it, Comet ‘sold’ these disks in stores for £14.99. I guess only Comet know if they were making a profit at that price, but I assume they wouldn’t have done it if they were making a loss.


I’m with Comet on this one. I think it’s ridiculous that we don’t get a physical copy of the software which we’ve actually paid for.

I’m not sure if it’s any different now, but I used to find that these discs often didn’t work anyway. Oh, and why should I have to pay for the discs to get a copy of the software?


Why does Microsoft not provide a recovery disc with each computer with a Windows OS?

Of course it is not essential to use Windows.


What is the difference between Comet saying: “you can make your own recovery CD following the MS instructions or we will do it for you for £14.99 – here is one we prepared earlier !”


I blame Microsoft without question. I hate Microsoft.


We took advantage of this service when we bought an Acer desktop from Comet, as it seemed a lot easier than making our own recovery disks. Fortunately we haven’t had to make use of the recovery disks. I’ve looked at the Microsoft site, and they really don’t provide any help with the issue aside from helping you identify whether your version of Windows is licensed or unlicensed.


It’s just M$ blowing it’s horn again, shouting about piracy trying to make Comet out to be the bad guy.
Actually the discs are worthless. All PC repair engineers have these discs and use them regularly to recover damaged PCs. I could download a copy from the net just now.
The important part of the process is the activation key which is unique to your machine. Comet is not giving away activation keys just the discs.
M$ are just annoyed Comet are making a few quid and they aren’t getting a share.

Marek Wiacek says:
5 January 2012

Microsoft should continue to provide recovery discs, however if Comet were acting in the interest of customers then they should provide the discs free with new systems and offer guidance where a customer needs to create their own. Selling these discs for profit is a disservice to both the customer and to Microsoft.