"Questions are a burden to others. Answers are a prison for oneself."
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: The End-User License Agreement (EULA) provides for refunds
through the PC's OEM (the "Manufacturer"). Why, then, are you
seeking refunds from Microsoft?
A: The EULA effectively has the OEM acting as agent for Microsoft.
We feel it's in Microsoft's, the OEMs', and the users' interest
to have this refund handled efficiently, directly through Microsoft,
and are estimating they will agree.
Q: You aren't serious about doing without Windows entirely,
A: 100% serious. The Microsoft products being returned are
completely unused, unneeded, and unwanted -- because the machine
was bought solely for use with open-source operating systems,
not Microsoft ones. Many if not most of us are people who use
non-MS operating systems by choice, routinely, every day. That
full-featured, open-source operating systems do exist and that
some PC buyers prefer them is apparently a novel idea for some,
but a fact for us.
Q: What about people who secretly continue to use the product after
getting a refund?
A: There are none in our group: We are legitimate users of open-source
operating systems who were obliged to accept bundled* Microsoft OS
(operating system) software to buy their computers, but who declined to
accept the license terms, have not used it, and are therefore
now seeking refunds as the EULA specifies. We will confirm in
advance that all refund participants meet these guidelines.
Q: Will Microsoft's Foster City office accept the products
A: We don't know, yet. The January 20th
"Sm@rt Reseller" piece
says Microsoft is "preparing a response to the campaign".
Q: Are users of proprietary non-Microsoft OSes on Intel, such as
BeOS, SolarisX86, SCO UnixWare, OS/2, QNX, and NeXTstep
for Intel (to name a few) also welcome?
A: This is an initiative of and by the open-source software
community. We welcome separate efforts by users of proprietary
OSes, who would certainly have an equally valid claim. If
you hear of such an effort or want to start one, please contact
and we'll be glad to assist (e.g., share information and link
to your Web site).
Q: I'm not seeking to return software, but may I come along?
A: Yes. Members of the open-source community and sympathetic
observers are welcome.
Q: May I take video footage / take photographs / report on
A: Yes. Please let us know, so we can assist and answer your
Q: How can I stay informed of plans, developments, and news?
A: Two things: Sign up for the Windows Refund Newsletter at
http://zork.net/refund/ (the most important step),
and send e-mail to
Q: How else may I help?
A: To volunteer to be a "parade marshal", please e-mail
If you set up your own local Windows Refund Day site, please
and we'll be glad to share information with you and link to your
Q: Specifically when and how are you doing all this?
A: Please see the schedule and
directions. You need to be at one
of our four assembly points no later than 10 AM.
Q: Is it OK if I just show up at the Microsoft office in
A: No. Do not do that. Just take our word for it.
There are things you would miss that you don't want to.
Q: The EULA says users should "promptly contact Manufacturer for
instructions on return". Is there a time limit?
A: Not as such. Recent purchasers are particularly welcome, since
it is more self-evidently true that they never wanted the
bundled Microsoft product, never used it, and do not agree
to the EULA.
Q: Will there be a pro-Microsoft counter-demonstration?
A: One Microsoft spokesperson has dangled the threat of a
counter-demonstration, which we can expect would be heavily subsidized
by Microsoft, like the free sushi at Windows NT user group meetings in
the Bay Area. However, we expect that the media would react
unfavorably to such an event, so we don't think it will happen.
Q: Monday, February 15th (Windows Refund Day) is Presidents Day.
Will this be a problem?
A: No. Microsoft's Foster City office has confirmed that it
will be open.
Q: Is it true, as Daniel P. Dern
wrote in LinuxWorld, that Windows Refund Day will be the Ides
A: Not quite. The "Ides of February" works out to Feb. 13th. One
correct Roman name for Windows Refund Day would be "XV ante Kalendas
Martius", or (in full) "[dies] quindecem ante diem Kalendas Martius".
Since you asked.
Q: Aren't you just taking advantage of a legal loophole?
A: No. We're doing exactly what the EULA says: Those who
don't want the bundled product, haven't used it, and don't
accept its license terms were told explicitly by Microsoft
in the EULA that Microsoft is "unwilling to license the
software product" to them, and to return it for a refund.
That is what we're doing.
Q: I don't like the mouse I got with my PC, either, yet it's
part of the packaged deal, and I have to live with it. Why
is this different?
A: It's different because Microsoft specifically provided for
a refund, for anyone who doesn't accept the EULA. All of our
participants are exactly that -- people who bought their
computers to use exclusively for open-source operating systems
that they prefer.
Q: Are you trying to bring back the bad old days, when computers
were sold without a preconfigured operating system?
A: We're not challenging the practice of preloading. We're
simply exercising our right under the EULA to return what
is for us an unused, unwanted preload product, for refund.
Q: Why are you attacking Microsoft?
A: We're not attacking Microsoft at all, and acknowledge that many
like its operating systems. We, however, prefer and use
open-source OSes, and are therefore returning these unused Microsoft
products, as provided by the EULA. Perhaps, if other people
want "our" copies (which we are returning in pristine, unused
condition), Microsoft can then sell them to people who actually
want them and consent to the EULA.
Q: If you didn't want the bundled OS, why did you buy the
A: For one thing, in some cases (such as PC laptop computers),
essentially no alternatives exist without a bundled Microsoft OS.
For another, the refund offer is an official, inherent part of
the bundle: That provision is written right into the license.
Q: Will you be returning other Microsoft bundled software that
features the same sort of EULA (for example, Office 97), or
A: Yes. You are welcome to join us to return any unwanted,
unused bundled Microsoft product whose license contains the
following or similar language:
If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, Manufacturer and
Microsoft Licensing, Inc. ("MS") are unwilling to license the SOFTWARE
PRODUCT to you. In such event, you may not use or copy the SOFTWARE
PRODUCT, and you should promptly contact Manufacturer for instructions
on return of the unused product(s) for a refund.
Q: I can't come. Can I get a t-shirt, anyway?
A: You can get a t-shirt by coming! Not otherwise. Period.
VA Research is paying for and distributing these shirts, as thank-you
gifts for attending.
Back to the Windows Refund for the Bay Area page
*Many commentators feel that, in a technical sense, Microsoft's
OEM arrangements constitute "tying" rather than "bundling". We
decline comment: This issue
is far beyond the scope of our initiative, but interested readers may
wish to consult extensive on-line materials, including a
1998 address by a U.S. DOJ official.