Q: My 10-year-old Samsung laptop had a catastrophic crash. I took it to a local repair shop and the tech/owner said the entire drive and data could not be recovered. He also said the operating system on the laptop was an illegal unlicensed copy of Windows 10.

I gave him permission to install a new solid-state 500GB drive. He also installed Windows 10. He did not tell me the source of this new operating system.

When I got home and accessed the home page of the new operating system I saw a folder titled “kms2020work.” I’m assuming this has something to do with Windows 10. Is this a legal Microsoft product?

And how could he know the original Windows was unlicensed? When I bought the laptop new it came preinstalled with Windows 10, presumably installed by Samsung.

Richard Rice

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A: There are a number of ways to determine if your copy of Windows 10 is legitimate, but the simplest is to click on the Windows icon in the far left corner of the task bar and then type “run” in the search field. A window will pop open with a field where you can enter “slmgr.vbs /dli.” That will cause another window to pop open that will show the license status.

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And yes, if you bought the laptop new with Windows 10 preinstalled I’d be very surprised if the operating system was not licensed. If the drive was unrecoverable and the operating system was not working I’m at a loss to explain how the technician could determine the version of Windows you had been using was not licensed.

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Q: In a recent column you expanded on a discussion about the need for subscription or home-built VPNs in light of the fact that address protocol https:// is already encrypted. Of course, that is true once the secure connection is established with the target web server. To get there, however, your connection request must first go through your ISP unencrypted. This allows your ISP to collect information on what sites you visit. And they have your personal information such as name, address, ZIP code and phone number and possibly even more information that they collected when you signed up for their service.

They can correlate that data and then who knows what kind of information they sell to third parties? A subscription VPN service only allows your ISP to see that you are going to the VPN server. The data and your actual destination are encrypted all the way from your PC to the target. Of course, the VPN service would know where you are going, but their business model is based on not divulging that information. Their terms of service state that they do not save any of your traffic data. At least that is true for the ones I looked at.

Bruce Zelazosk

A: Good point.

Connecting to a site that uses HTTPS means that your communication with that site is encrypted but it doesn’t mean that an ISP (or a hacker) can’t see that you went to that site. So the question is, do you care if someone knows what sites you visit? If you do, yes, use a commercial VPN.