Open letter to Microsoft- re: Tablet PC recovery problems


Dear Whomever at Microsoft is responsible for determining requirements for OEM recovery system distribution:

I trust that you follow the blogosphere (as mandated by Robert Scoble) and the myriad of complaints about the difficulty owners have with recovering from various problems that Windows XP creates for Tablet PC owners.  Eric Mack has detailed on his blog his problems with an operating system failure while travelling and his inability to recover from the problem.  This letter is not about Eric Mack as similar problems are encountered by hundreds if not thousands of Tablet PC owners all the time.  The heart of the problem has a simple solution that only you, Microsoft, can address and rather easily.

Microsoft Windows XP Professional Tablet PC Edition 2005 is considered a premium operating system.  That simple designation is the crux of the problem that makes recovery from operating system failures very difficult for Tablet PC owners.  Somewhere along the line someone at Microsoft decided that the Tablet Edition is a premium operating system so access to the actual operating system CDs should be restricted.  The only entities that can get their hands on this vital tool for recovering from problems are OEMs and software developers who have a valid MSDN license.  This means the only group that cannot get their hands on the means to easily recover from operating system problems are end users.  End users are the ones who purchase Tablet PCs.  It doesn’t take a big jump to realize that end users do not have the ability to affect simple recovery from these types of problems and the reason is the lack of Microsoft directives to OEMs to supply this tool.  In fact, I suspect it’s even worse than that and that MS has in fact restricted OEMs from distributing a set of Windows XP Tablet Edition install sets to end users.

Please understand one simple fact– wiping your Tablet PC clean and starting over from scratch every time you have an operating system problem is just not acceptable to the end user.  Why should a user with a duly licensed copy of the OS be confronted with starting over every time there is a problem?  This is a constant source of frustration that owners feel with both MS and the Tablet PC and is enough of a hassle to cause Tablet owners to turn to something else the next time they are in the mood to purchase a replacement computer.  While they may cite the OEM as the source of the frustration you, Microsoft, are in the position to correct this if you would, and you are the ulitmate losers when your platform is abandoned.

Some OEMs ship recovery CDs with the Tablet PC so owners at least have the avenue open to wipe their system clean and starting over when they have a problem.  As previously mentioned, this is not a real solution to anything but at least the option exists.  Other OEMs don’t ship any media at all so the end user either must purchase a set of CDs or run a system utility on the Tablet to create them on their own.  The main problem with this is that many Tablet PCs don’t ship with optical drives.  For these Tablet PC owners they can’t even make a set of recovery CDs which will only enable them to wipe their system disk clean and start over which is not a reasonable solution to begin with.

I have heard from numerous end users who have typical Windows XP problems such as an OS file gets corrupted and they cannot recover from it.  What is the purpose of putting such roadblocks in the way of end users who are having a problem with your product and then making a radical solution the only way out?  The OEM is not going to be blamed for this, only Microsoft.  Every time.

You can eliminate this problem by mandating as part of the OEM licensing agreement that regular Windows media must be supplied with all Tablet PCs.  Not just recovery media because in many cases these are overkill and just foment frustration for the owner with a valid license.  If you are determined to continue the policy that the Tablet Edition is just too “premium” to allow customers to obtain then at least mandate that OEMs must supply those recovery CDs.  These would go a long way to help out your customers in the time they need it most– system failure.

The ineffectiveness of the current OS supply situation was something I was hoping would be addressed in the upcoming WindowsVista as early indications from various teams at MS made public statements that the Tablet functionality would be rolled into the core of WV.  Steve Ballmer’s most recent public comments that the Tablet Edition would still be a premium version of WV were not what we Tablet owners wanted to hear as it implies the current unacceptable recovery situation will likely continue far into the future.  Come on, we are a loyal user base who are being hammered by this ridiculous situation and only you can fix it.  We are counting on you.  Thanks.



Tablet PC Blues…. Bought an acer tablet.. great system..great recognition of your handwriting until you somehow delete a key component of the tablet running software. No choices available to me to reinstall the software other than to reinstall operating system from recovery disk which wipes out my programs and data. Not very smart of the OEM’s or Microsoft to put us in this boat. PenOffice works just as well as the bullcrap politically involved tablet software restricted by microsoft. So I purchased Pen Office and am continuing on. Microsoft xp may be on my system but my distain and dislike for microsoft continues. I am a handicapped person who uses his tablet to communicate and microsoft just placed the owness of responsibility of recovery in my hands because the tablet manufacturers have no guts to get the full set of disks from the BIG M…pitifull


The decision to include disks for a Tablet PC is solely up to the OEM and not Microsoft. Maybe a group request to each of the OEMs who do not currently include any disks would convince them we need them included with every Tablet PC sold.

Michael Bliemsrieder

jk and stephen, yes, the HP tc1100 comes with a full set of recovery dvd and cd – so, mine has now crashed (windowssystem32configsystem is missing or corrupt…) and I’m trying to get me an external drive to fix this… but you’re both right, why couldn’t we just get recovery disks for this particular OS? Any news from Microsoft?


Charlie T

Hi James, do you have Edward’s contact info? If so, please let him know the petition is suspended until he emails them. Here’s the text at the petition link:

—–This petition was removed because the author did not provide a full valid name. Anonymous petitions are not permitted. Authors are given three days to respond with their name before a petition is removed. If you are the author of this petition reply to the email we sent you with your full name. If you are the author and do not have the email we sent you, send an email to asking us to reactivate your petition. Be sure to include your full name and petition ID in the email.


Jeremy Brayton

This is sadly one “justification” for warez. It never makes it right, but who the hell are anyone to deny you of product you rightfully purchased? Then on top of that to have the nerve to charge you for something you *gasp* already paid for.

I think a definition of terms is in order.
Recovery CD: OEM bundled package-o-crap with their RealPlayers, OEM Software, and knick-knacks that most people uninstall the first time they boot up. It may or may not include the OS and most cases does not.
OEM CD: Full install operating system tied to the OEM. This is a specific version of Windows that reads the OEM stuff so that you never have to input your license key if it’s on the licensed hardware. OEM software will not activate on non-licensed hardware. For proof, try installing an OEM version of Windows XP inside Virtual PC.

Recovery CDs are almost useless but in some cases they have things like utilities to rebuild that FAT partition that keeps lame laptop related stuff on it, or other justifications for whatever the hell they want. The real problem is the OEM CD which is NOT available by retail, ANYWHERE.

You have 2 options:
1) OEM includes said CD
2) Download said CD off distribution channels. It’s your hardware and your key, the software just happens to come from someone else. So technically you own a legal product, you just downloaded the media in not-so-nice methods. No harm no foul if they’re going to be stingy punks but then who ends up biting it in this scenario? Microsoft, not the OEMs.

So as a result, Microsoft does need to do something about them. This is nothing like those “bad days” at all. OEMs are just trying to short change customers who have more than paid for a $1 CD copy. They’re taking advantage of those “bad days” from Microsoft to provide “bad days” from (insert lame OEM here).


If you buy a cheap Tablet PC one of the corners an OEM will cut is the software media. My Motion Computing LE1600 (as well as the M1300, and M1400 before it) came with recovery media for all the Microsoft products (One Note 2003, Streets and Trips etc).

The guilty parties here are the OEM’s not Microsoft. If Microsoft mandated OS media be supplied it would be too much like the “bad days” when Microsoft was an illegal monopoly that harmed customers by running around micro-managing OEM’s through those OEM contracts.

Any OEM that cares so little for their customers deserves to lose those customers to an OEM such as Motion Computing.


Stephen, that is awesome and the first I’ve heard of anyone receiving an install dataset on a Tablet PC. I have not had to rebuild or recover my tc1100 and I assumed the included disk was a recovery disk like every other Tablet is distributed with. I’m going to take a look at it and see.

Your news is very good in that it makes the request of Microsoft I wrote about easier to affect if there is no restriction on their part about the OS distribution. They would just have to mandate it be included with every Tablet PC as part of the OEM license. Thanks for sharing that information.

Stephen Mok

Excuse me jk, but I do need to question if this is true: “I suspect it’s even worse than that and that MS has in fact restricted OEMs from distributing a set of Windows XP Tablet Edition install sets to end users.” (and also this comment: “The Tablet Edition of WinXP is not available to any end-user. Period.”)

Why am I questioning it? Because when I bought my HP TC1100 Tablet PC in January this year, HP shipped a full Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 DVD with it – not a recovery disk, but a full installation DVD.

So I’m merely an end-user, but I have in front of me a complete Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 DVD.

My TC1100 actually died in the first week of use and I had to borrow an external DVD-ROM drive, reformat and reinstall from scratch. This is when I discovered that the DVD was actually a full install disk and not merely a recovery disk. An additional CD was in the package with all the necessary drivers and utilities from HP, which I had to separately install after Windows installation was completed.

So while I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying (that full installation media needs to be included with each new Tablet PC), maybe the tide has already turned and some OEMs are starting to do this already?

Stephen Mok
Sydney, Australia


j00ky, I responded to the email threat you just emailed me. I don’t know what you are talking about- I do not sell products nor spam anyone from this site. Please provide me with details of the spam you are referring to so I can figure out what you are talking about.

don hamaguchi

on my second tablet … praying that the dreaded re-vive the dead machine happens latter/never … if the number of problem with the op syst/hardware are not resolved i will bail on the tablet and stick with the plain jane portable … if you need to be a geek to keep a tablet running, it will never reach main stream

don h

Jon Dee

Hear hear James. I have had so many problems from not having the Tablet PC OS CD’s when something goes badly wrong. I’ll sign any petition – it’s crazy that we don’t have our own OS CD’s for this kind of basic stuff.

Best regards,

Jon Dee
Blue Mountains, Australia

Scott Shaw

This definitely needs to become a petition. Microsoft needs to know how many end users they are impacting by this poor decision.


Relying on the end-user to create recovery CDs as soon as they get their system is absurd. So now people will download an ISO of WinXP tablet edition off the net, because they have no choice. So the fact that they don’t include CDs creates more so-called criminals out of regular end-users. Those that cannot download the CD are basically screwed, which I believe to be the majority.

Seems like even if they didn’t give you the retail CD, they could at least include the /i386 folder, and pre-install the recovery console for you.

Alfredo Octavio

Thank you very much for your informative article. I have toyed for moths about buying a Tablet PC from this guys
as they are decently priced and made locally. What stopped me is that they didn’t sell it with XP Tablet PC Edition, the reason given was that it is not available in spanish. I spent months trying to find out if I could buy Tablet PC Edition in English and installed it. I didn’t find out a complete answer until I read your blog.

Steve S

I agree that the situation with Tablet XP is absurd. What is MS afraid of? I certainly haven’t noticed any Tablet Linux machines lately…

Charlene Barina

I, too, strongly agree with this. If a petition turns up, I’ll be getting in line to sign. Like many people who use tablets, I’m in a position where I often advocate them. Right now, it’s mostly to technical people who could handle the recovery CD issues…if this didn’t happen, though, I’d be all the way gunning for tablets rather than, say, laptops, for my colleagues and endusers.


Eric Mack

James, my M4 is booted, but I’m not sure it was any technical genious on may part; it may have been a small technical miracle. The real test, of course, is to reboot, when I’m untilling to do for the next few days. I’ve got too much to do. Soon… Meanwhile, I’m collecting info from folks who have shared their TPC reload experience.


Nick Ross

Couldn’t agree with the sentiment more . .

Count me in on the list of signatures


Ron, it’s true that laptops also now ship without CDs by default but the fact is in a dire emergency you can purchase winXP CDs and recover. Not fair and not good but a viable option.

The Tablet Edition of WinXP is not available to any end-user. Period. So this problem is even more acute for them than standard notebooks and desktops.

Thanks everybody for your good comments. Eric, did you get recovered yet?

Eric Mack

Well said, James,

I case this becomes a petition – and I hope it will – I’d like to be among the first to sign it.

Eric Mack
eProductivity Specialist

Scott Sherman

James, You’re right on here. I’ve been pricing a new Dell desktop and I notice they now sell recovery CDs for $10 each. It’s too bad they don’t give them away, but at least they’re an option. What I want to know is – who WOULDN’T spring for the extra ten bucks?

Harold Li

Wow. I just had to comment because this is exactly how I feel. I have had to recover my Tablet PC twice. It is particularly frustrating with my Toshiba M200 because there is no built-in optical drive and it will only detect Toshiba external optical drives on boot-up. There must be a better way.

Thank you for writing this.


James, I don’t quite understand why you’re singling out the tablet os. I just bought two dell desktops, and there were no cd’s included with it. Zero. Seems to be the issue all the way around.

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