how to "activate" Vista

  palinka 18:33 16 Feb 2009

Suddenly , after 13 months of use, I'm asked to activate Vista. Meanwhile my blue desktop has tuurned black, though all the icons are there and all is working normally.
I clicked the click her to activate and immediately receive message that "the activation key you typed is not valid" - but I haven't typed anything!!
The options are to "purchase another key" (Like heck!!)or to type a different key. Decided that choosing that second and typing in the product key from my label might cause further problems I went to the microsoft site. INstructions there are equally confusing - "Click Start >collapse/expand this image (the circular MS loco) but that doesn't appear when I click Start; >click Computer >click system properties in the toolbar" - but system properties is nowhere to be seen.
Help!!! Can someone please tell me exactly what to do

  palinka 19:13 16 Feb 2009

some slight progress but I still can't do thye activtion.
I did a system restore to yesterday. Desktop then opened normally
Can’t recall all the steps but eventually I installed Active-X and Office Genuine Advantage which were apparently essential .
Then arrived at a new window where I clicked Validate now and received mesage "Validation service is unable to determine whether this copy of Vista is genuine." and telling me to try again later. D4sktop backgroundturned black again.
My copy is genuine (bought with a new Dell machine from Dell 13 months ago).
I believe it's possible to do validation by phone. Anyone know the number to phone?

  palinka 20:05 16 Feb 2009

In the end having tried Microsoft who said go to Dell as it's OEM; then Dell said as it's out of warranty you have to use our paid for support service (£19 a throw by phone); I went back to the original "Click here to activate" and clicked on "type a different key", where I entered the key from my OEM sticker and whoopee, it's activated. Only 2 hours of my time spent on this useless exercise.

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