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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 10:35 GMT
User refund for no Windows option
By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, BBC News website

Windows XP Home, PA
Mr Mitchell had no plans to use Windows XP on his new laptop
A Sheffield man has won a refund from Dell for not installing Microsoft's Windows XP on a laptop he bought from the PC giant.

Freelance programmer Dave Mitchell ordered a Dell laptop on 21 October, and the machine was delivered a few days later.

As Mr Mitchell was planning to run the Linux open source operating system on the machine, he had no need for the copy of Windows XP Home that had been pre-installed.

When he started it for the first time, he clicked the box that said "no" on the Windows licence agreement that asked him to agree to its terms. The text of this agreement states users can get a refund for the "unused products" on their new computer if they get in touch with the machine's manufacturer.

Cash back

Mr Mitchell, who is an active member of the open source community, said he knew that other Linux fans had tried to get refunds in a similar fashion with varying degrees of success.

The origins of this campaign date from 1999 when open source activists in the San Francisco area started campaigning to get refunds for software they had no intention of using.

I was pretty gob-smacked that it was so easy
Dave Mitchell
Every time a computer-maker, such as Dell, sells a PC or laptop they must pay Microsoft for the copy of the Windows operating system installed on it. While many PCs are now sold with a customer's choice of operating system installed, no laptop-makers yet offer the option of anything but Windows, said Mr Mitchell.

To bolster his case, Mr Mitchell shot photographs of every stage of the process that ended with him declining Microsoft's licence terms.

"I had a clear record of what the licence did or did not say," he said.

"I fully intended to take it as far as the small claims court," he said, "just to be bloody-minded."

He then wrote a letter, outlining what he had done, to Dell's Bracknell office and waited for a response. In the letter he did not mention his digital document of the process with photographs.

Dell laptop, Getty
Dell only offers Windows software on its laptops
"I assumed that would come out when it came to the small claims court," he told the BBC News website.

However, two days later, Dell rang him and told him to expect a refund to his credit card soon after.

"They only took two days to respond," he said. "I was pretty gob-smacked that it was so easy."

The total refund was for 55.23, which Mr Mitchell took to be the value of a pre-installed version of Windows XP Home.

A couple of days after the refund was agreed, an invoice from Dell arrived through the post, which described the refund as "goodwill unspecified".

Although Mr Mitchell has now waived the right to use the copy of Windows XP Home on his laptop, Dell has not asked for the installation disc to be returned.

"I've cost Dell 50, not Microsoft, which is a slightly annoying," said Mr Mitchell. He encouraged other people to try to get a refund and wondered if Dell's policy on which operating systems it offered on laptops would change if enough people tried.

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