If the computer is an OEM and was originally installed with Windows 8 then $265 CDN seems excessive. Even if the computer did not come pre-installed there is a good chance the key could be recovered from the bad hard drive.
A 1TB drive can be had for about $50US and Windows 8.1 install media can be had by downloading and running the Media Creation Tool for free.
Any OEM computer with Windows 8 or 8.1 installed has the key embedded in firmware. Windows 8 would auto activate once online.
What is the make and model of the computer? You can verify if the key is embedded in firmware using FIrmwareTablesView. If the key is in the MSDM table then the most she should have paid would be $50US plus labor. Some notebook or all in one computers require more labor to remove the drive but I can't fathom $265.
Download Gsmartcontrol. Run the program and under the Attributes tab look for Power On Hours and check it to how long your friend has used the computer with the new drive. You can also run the short/long tests to check the drive for failure.
Look in Event Viewer for any hints for what is causing the driver issue.
Edited by JohnC_21, 05 January 2017 - 04:42 PM.