The Dell OEM Windows cd is fine. The key number should be on your computer's case, and if it is not, Dell should provide it to you.
The version of Windows Dell gave you is called an OEM version.
I would want both the Dell restore cd and the Dell Windows XP installation cd even if they charge for them because if your hard drive goes, so does the restore partition. When you talk to Dell insist on the Dell OEM Windows XP SP2 CD and the Dell Restore CD as well.
The license you get with a computer manufactured by a major manufacturer or assembler like Dell is different than a retail license in as much as it is good only on that particular computer that you bought from Dell. The software is also different in some ways, customized for your particular computer.
The way they put the operating system on your machine is also different - they image it rather than install it.
Unlike the retail version, it cannot be transferred to another computer if the first computer is destroyed (or you upgrade and remove it from the original computer). The 25 digit key is good only on that particular Dell computer so you do not really own it, you are just licensed to use it on that computer only.
Many of us who build our own computers buy OEM versions which can be purchased for much less than a retail version. This is completely legitimate, and just like the license you have, they are good only on the original computer on which it is first authenticated. Unlike the retail version the OEM version comes with no free support from Microsoft (except for support resulting from problems caused by critical updates), and if you buy the computer from Dell, as you did, Dell provides the support.
If you buy just the OEM version of the op system you do your own support.
Why would you want to buy a retail version?
You already have a legitimate, licensed version albeit only for that particular computer, but buying a retail version (which can be installed but would not have Dell's proprietary drivers or the Dell support to which you are now entitled) would make no sense at this time.
Edited by Enthusiast, 26 July 2006 - 01:04 PM.