I know this is an obvious observation for most of you but I think this post would be helpful for newbies like me. after much failure trying to reinstall the OS using all the common methods I decided to try the ISO route. I did not know if I would need a COA or if it would be asked for. I tried to find an ISO to burn that did NOT require a COA for activation but could not find one that specifically said it did not. I needed to download one from MS because I had no choice. the download page asked me to enter a COA. I had two, both matching my edition of preinstalled windows. they were my HP COA, and my COA from my old DELL. both were detected as preinstalled and rejected. as a lark I tried the burned CD to see if it asked for a key. it did. the HP key was rejected despite that this desktop IS an HP and the key came from that desktop. the DELL key was ACCEPTED and the upgrade installation finished and activated. fully? 30 day grace period? I do not know. NO warning has appeared so far. I read that ALL HP OS product keys are fake and will never work. all other brands WILL work as long as the key matches the OS edition preinstalled. it worked for me. there are sites that provide unused OS keys for various editions and architectures as a free download. I would have printed a list if my DELL key did not work. I do not know if that would or would not have worked. since I have several cloned hdds the ISO CD is now a fail safe route. I now know I can use it again if need be. presumably on any computer preinstalled with the same edition. works on a BLANK hdd? on a computer sold without a hdd? I have no idea. I can always install my cloned hdd in any desktop, either as a replacement or in an empty cage. now that the desktop is up and running, the recovery partition should now work, a cloned hdd should work, and the reinstall cd set should work. yes? insights, advice? just curious.