Solutions

Recovering a Windows 8 laptop without DVD & Product Key

Disaster! My Laptop Harddisk has crashed! How many of you had this happened to your laptop or your child’s laptop?

This is a very nice looking laptop!
This is a very nice looking laptop!

You were happily using your new Core i7 laptop which you got it cheap during Black Friday or Cyber-Monday, or during one of the 4 IT shows in Singapore. But after using for a year, the harddisk crashed right after the warranty expires? Sounds familiar?

That's what I thought. A cheap, slow & not so shock resistant harddisk.
That’s what I thought. A cheap, slow & not so shock resistant harddisk.

No problem, you tell yourself, Windows 8/8.1 has a “Recovery” function that will restore the laptop to factory condition! So you booted to the Recovery section of Windows 8 where you can “Refresh” or “Remove everything & Reinstall Windows”. Neat!

Windows 8 Recovery Page. Great for software rescue!
Windows 8 Recovery Page. Great for software rescue!

Except it takes forever to do the “Automatic Repair” or “Remove everything” fails at some point due to a head crash or media degradation and all because the laptop was moved around while in use! Or worse, the laptop simply don’t recognise the harddisk anymore!

Behold the inside of an Asus laptop.
Behold the inside of an Asus laptop.

OK, never mind! You (hopefully) have a backup of the important data, let’s just change the harddisk to something more resilient, like a Solid-State Disk (SSD)! You can get a Samsung EVO 850 256GB at $220+ these days and reviews are great for these SSDs, 10x faster than harddisk, no moving parts to crash, useful lifespan of more than 10 years & uses half the power! Why didn’t you buy a laptop with an SSD in the first place? Oh, that’s right. Cheaper models don’t come with an SSD option.

This is the battery resting on the Aluminium shell.
This is the battery resting on the Aluminium shell. The 2 silver oval you see either sides are the B & O speakers in their bass chambers!

The Recovery nightmare continues!

Alrighty! You bought your SSD, replace the failed harddisk yourself, which was easy enough, let’s open the laptop box for the recovery DVD & Windows 8 Product Key. Except your new Ultrabook doesn’t come with a DVD-ROM or Recovery DVD & maybe even without a Windows 8 Product Key! Faintz!

OK, don’t panic, let’s go to the maker’s website for support! What? You have to pay extra for a Recovery Disc to create a special thumbdrive because you didn’t do it the FIRST time you switched on your laptop? What is this daylight robbery?!?!

Now what? Try cloning from the old harddisk? Can’t do that. It’s bigger than the SSD & it’s full of bad sectors!
Get someone to do it? Will they do a good job & what are the charges?
Download the Recovery disc from Torrent? Is it infected with virus?
Search Forums? Most of them don’t have a clue.
Ask Microsoft for help in their forums? Moderators ask you to look for your OEM/laptop maker…

The solution for new laptops with UEFI BIOS

Lucky you! You’ve come to the right website! The solution with many recent (last 3 years) laptops is so simple that I’m amazed no one’s got it! Or at least publish it widely enough that a simple Google or Bing search will find it. There’s no need to extract the encrypted product key from UEFI, no need to create Bootable thumbdrive & mount the Windows 8 Rescue ISO. No need to mess with Linux Bootloader like Grub or syslinux. I’ve tried so many different methods and they don’t work due to some incompatibility here or there. It was a massive waste of time! Argh!

Microsoft has published the solution starting from Windows 8.1! Why they don’t publicise is a great mystery! Anyway, many newer laptop have the new UEFI BIOS instead of the old IBM-PC BIOS. Without going into details about how great UEFI BIOS are, one of the features these new BIOS allows is for laptop makers to embed a Windows 8 Product Key into the BIOS itself! This is why there is no DVD or Product key or License sticker included in the laptop box!

So the next question is, how do you install Windows 8.1 onto your new SSD? Just get a fast 8GB thumbdrive or SD card, go to this Microsoft website and follow the instructions!

* For your convenience, I’ve included the steps & things to watch out for below.

Windows Installation Media Creation Tool

Why do Microsoft like to use such LONG names for their stuff?

Are you at the Create installation media for Windows 8.1 page?

Windows 8 Installation Media Creation Tool
Windows 8 Installation Media Creation Tool
  1. Click the “Create Media” button & run the downloaded file
  2. Select your Language
  3. Select the Edition. Most consumer laptops are running “Windows 8.1”. Business laptops will likely be “Windows 8.1 Pro”.
  4. Select the Architecture. If your laptop will NEVER EVER be installed with more than 4GB of RAM, chose “32-bit (x86)”. If you have more than 4GB of RAM or you’re planning to install more in the future, you MUST choose “64-bit (x64).
  5. Click Next and you’ll see this.
  6. Choose USB flash drive
  7. Select USB flash drive and click Next.
  8. Make sure to select the correct drive!
    Make sure to select the correct drive!

    Select the correct drive before clicking Next!

  9. Click OK if you're sure.
    Click OK if you’re sure.
  10. Click “OK” at the dialog box if you’re sure you have the right drive.
  11. Download starts...
    Download starts…
  12. Wait for download to complete & for it to check the files & getting the files ready & creating the USB…
  13. Once it’s completed. You should click “What’s next?” which will take you to a Microsoft website that guide you on using this Thumbdrive to install Windows 8.1. Print it or open it on your phone or something! This is the link for Boot from the media you created to install on a partition.
  14. Insert the thumbdrive into your laptop & boot from the thumbdrive instead of the SSD. Different laptops has different keys to enter the Boot Manager. Search for your brand online. It’s usually ESC or DEL or ENTER key.
  15. Install Windows 8.1 even though your laptop came with Windows 8! It’ll even auto-activate if you’re online! There’s no need to key in any Product Key! This thumbdrive has now become your Rescue/Recovery drive as well! Keep it safe!

Well I hope this help you. Leave comments, subscribe and like my posts!!! 🙂

Opinions

How Microsoft should market Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 looks like it’s good enough to take on iPhone 5 & Android Phones running Jelly Bean but it means nothing if Microsoft is not able to get it into people’s hands. In order to do that, they need to market, market, market WP8 phones with all their money! Here’s my opinion on how they can approach the market.

MS should do what Apple always does. Emphasize on the strong benefits of the OS. This kind of marketing CAN change people’s perspective. The important thing is not to belittle the competitors, just say we’re better. Emphasize on the BENEFITS (user scenario) as much as possible.

As an example. The #smokebywindowsphone strategy has work to a certain extend but MS should have made a big TV campaign that say that WP7 is single-core, so what? We’re still faster than a Quad-core smartphone (cue Nokia Lumia 800 overshadowing Samsung Galaxy S3 in capturing a FUN or embarrassing moment, then Tag the victim & upload it to Facebook). All done in 10 seconds before the victim even have a chance to stop you.

Then do another Ad that say WP8 has 100,000 apps while others have more than 600,000. So what? Our apps are actually useful & beautiful in bold “Windows 8” style that’s easy on your eyes, (cue HTC 8X’s camera app + CNN + Weave, in app & on Live Tiles, etc. then show Motorola RAZR HD succumb to a virus.)

And most importantly, something like WP7/8 connects you to your most important (anything), then show HTC 8S showing Me Hub, People Hub, Group updates, Picture Hub, Notification & What’s New filtered according to Facebook, Twitter or All. Ends with a tagline with the effect that WP8 helps you run your life, not be overrun by it. Then show Apple rows & columns of icons scrolling aimlessly.

These Ads should be designed to invoke desire & emotion. Make it look fun & easy. Show off the integration & speed, show people are able to get BACK to their important, their lives, their friends & family or their work made easier. No talking in these ad please! The “Really” campaign didn’t work because people don’t get it.

Getting celebrities to show off these phones is another great way to promote the platform. Jessica Alba was recently spotted with a Cyan Nokia Lumia 900. Why not get her to spearhead a North American or even Worldwide campaign? Do it with blitz & glamour like how they sell fashion or cars. It’s about the concept & association, not the product. You want WP8 to look cool when engaging Star power.

Nokia Lumia ads circa 2011-2012 are going in the right direction with everyday people using their phones for important parts of their everyday lives but it’s time to actually show how these features will benefit the average person, which will reduce the comparison with Android & iOS. Currently, most people still don’t “get” Live Tiles & Hubs.

Do mini-ads that emphasis on a particular hub like how Apple like to showcase their improvements in lovely ads even if it’s so minor, like a fifth row on their screen due to the longer form factor. Not a big deal you say? But it means more screen to show stuff & being able to watch movies in letterbox format.

For example, the Me Hub, introduce the individual function like FB Check-in, a central Notification for ALL communications associated with Me, the What’s New page showing what I’ve post on all the different social medias.

Or the People Hub that show all the things you could do with other People’s posts on all the different social medias including traditional calling/VoIP & SMS/IM + a integrated History page that shows you how you’ve interacted with this person all in 1 page.

There’s also the oft-overlooked Picture Hub & for businessmen & students, the Office Hub.

As for OEM specific stuff, things like the OIS camera on the Lumia 920, they should totally reshoot that girl on the bicycle with a Lumia 920 to shut all the critics up & put boldly in the Ad “Shot with Lumia 920” like those Canon DSLR ads. Nevermind if they have to NG 200 times… Then purposely zoom in when they pass by a mirror to show the guy holding the Lumia 920… sorta like giving the middle finger to all doubters. But I recommend a change of venue to one a couple will actually go to for a date, like a park or the beach. Not some dock…

The NFC? Samsung ad showing the SGS3 with the guy proposing to a girl thru glass using NFC to transfer his video proposal. Fantastic idea! MS or Nokia should totally ripoff this idea! Maybe get Samsung to do that with their ATIV S as well but maybe at a fancy restaurant to avoid confusion with the Galaxy S3. After the girl saw the vid, get the guy to flash the ring & the restaurant comes alive with confetti or something. Some good old fashion feel good vibe for the shy guys among us.

Wireless charging? Show a guy playing Angry Bird or a sports game at an Airport lounge with wireless charging built into the table until he misses his flight because his battery never dies. Make it funny, make him grow a beard & long hair with the clock racing in the back… When he finally finishes the game or when someone demolishes the lounge, he’s now in a space-port with spaceships rocketing by…

Make sure these ads are targetted at the correct audience in the correct media. This part, MS got it but they need to do more in each demography they’re targetting.

I could go on & on but end of the day, the ads that people remember are those that emote them & buyers buy based on emotion (with the saleperson being the final push). Or for the Japanese market, something so absurd, people will it remember as well.

I’m getting a sense that people are starting to notice WP, now we just need to swing them to our side of the pendulum.

Lastly, MS & their distribution channels must train the sales-force well enough so they can genuinely excited by the possibilities with WP8. And I’m talking worldwide here.

After Oct 26 2012, if there’re new integration of Windows 8, Windows RT & Xbox 360 with WP8, they should totally emphasize on that integration as well come Oct 29 2012 WP8 launch.

Opinions

Samsung losing patent case is Good for consumers!

So the jury has ruled that Samsung has lost the patent case against Apple.

Apple, as expected, is on the victory march & Samsung has come out with a sourpuss respond that “consumers will be hurt.” Samsung lawyers are obviously misguided.

Firstly, I’m for innovation & being paid for my ideas. I used to develop software with GUI meant for people with zero computer experience. Thus, I do admire iOS simplicity despite the fact that I wouldn’t develop for it. (That’s another story).

I remember a time when Linux advocates are criticising MS OS/software as bloated. Many of these developers probably aren’t programming for ease-of-use. It was extremely tedious to develop a software that is intelligent enough to accept inconsistent user input or to accept errors & NOT crash. It takes a lot of error checking & data shaping at the point of user input & MS software does this very well. It also takes a lot of thought into how the user will interact with the GUI to ensure it’s not annoying to use due to constant error prompts ruining the experience. Having lots of graphics also make software bigger & somewhat slower.

Of course, these days, all these checking are abstracted into the background & developers don’t have to spend time doing human input checking anymore. It’s all automatic in MS & Apple software. Smartphones are also more powerful & have more memory than PCs 15-20 years ago so program size is no longer any issue. But for Google’s software, the GUI is less mature due to its reliant on Open Source Software, where developers are still not as concern about writing software for end-users.

Secondly, the Koreans are very good at copying others’ success stories & make themselves successful. They are also very aggressive when their neck is at stake. Just look at Korean car makers. They are out-competing Japanese car-makers by making cheaper cars with more features which also happen to look nicer (or at least unique.) Granted, the designers of these cars are usually Germans but consumers gain by having cars with near Japanese quality with more features at a lower price!

This will be the likely scenario now that Samsung & other Android phones are found to infringe on the patents that makes iOS unique. Google will have to make Android more unique & eventually, consumers win. Android makers like Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola will have to improve their customizations, which only means better user experiences for those phone.

Nokia has shown that it’s possible to create a smartphone with a compelling user experience without copying iOS. Apple lawyer even showed a Nokia Lumia at one point as proof, there are good smartphone OS GUI that don’t infringe on any Apple patents.

Let this be a wake-up call to Google to stop ripping off other people’s ideas. It’s ok to copy & improve on the design & value-add to the consumers. Make the new design your own instead of doing a poor job plagiarizing prior art.