Well, you can! There is nothing stopping you from using Windows except the upfront cost of doing so. You might say to yourself, "Well, Windows was free. It came with my computer." It did come with your new computer but it definitely was not free. You paid for it. The cost was wrapped up in the total cost of the machine which makes it transparent to most of us until something bad happens.
Take for instance - a hard drive crash! If it has not happened to you yet, do not worry because it will. So, I had a Compaq desktop with Windows XP installed. It came that way fresh from Radio Shack (yes, Radio Shack). I had that computer for about three years before the hard drive crashed. It crashed "Big Time" which meant that none of the data was recoverable and I had to buy a brand new drive. Did you know that hard drives do not come with Windows installed? Well, they don't.
I told the guy at the computer shop that I had a Windows XP disc which came with my machine so I thought there would be no need for me to pay for another Windows XP program since I had already paid for the one that shipped with my computer. If only it were that easy! I installed the disc and it prompted me for a license key and gave me a convenient telephone number to Microsoft to call. So I called it and things just got worse from there.
Turns out that the computer shipped with what is known as an "OEM Copy" of Windows XP. It is a "Special" version of XP that Compaq installed on my machine which supposedly is customized for that particular machine. Okay – what ever that means. Microsoft told me that only Compaq could send me a new OEM copy and provided me a phone number to call Compaq. I started to get that "About To Get Screwed" feeling.
I called Compaq who promptly told me that my computer is out of warranty so they can not provide me another OEM Windows XP disc for free but I could easily purchase one for $175.00. What!? I argued that I had already purchased a copy of Windows because it was included with my machine. Why should I have to purchase another copy? I hung up, mad, and called Microsoft back. I requested a quote for a new version of XP thinking to myself that if I'm going to have to buy another copy I had might as well get the XP Professional version. $325.00!!!
So, to say the least - I was mad! I had been duped out of money for an operating system that I had already purchased once before but, because of a hard drive failure and an expired warranty, I had to purchase it again. This event is what spurred my interest in all things open source - i.e. Linux.
I now run Ubuntu 8.04 on that same machine that is now eleven years old. I get free software, free updates, and I'm free to modify any of the programs in any way I want (although I can't because I'm not a programmer but it is nice knowing that I could do it anyway). If my hard drive crashes again, I'll just download another free copy of Ubuntu and keep right on rolling. For Free!
Long Live Linux.