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> The difference being that you can install or upgrade Windows on a system without buying a new laptop or requiring support from the vendor

You are looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses, or you got very lucky with drivers. New drivers were required for every new Windows version from Win 2000 to Windows 7,even for the display (or if you are unlucky, Ethernet). The only way to get those drivers was via support from the vendor. I distinctly recall trawling dodgy 4th party driver aggregation websites, downloading and burning them to CDs in internet cafes multiple times.

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