Angry Time Computers customers have complained that the PC maker is forcing them to pay £60 for a Windows XP 'factory settings' restore disc that rival manufacturers provide free of charge.
Time introduced the charge because Microsoft does not allow companies to bundle full copies of its XP operating system with PC packages.
In order to provide the back-up, which is used to reset factory settings, most manufacturers store the restore function on a partition on the hard drive.
This is easily accessible by the customer, but many companies also provide a free CD containing the restore functions.
Time has made the function 'inaccessible' from the hard drive without the use of a special disc, for which it charges £59 unless customers buy one of its support packages, which cost between £99 and £249.
vnunet.com has been inundated with complaints from customers. One, Craig Hill, said: "When I tried to buy a Colossus PC, the Time sales assistant was insistent that I needed to also pay for a Windows XP back-up restore disc.
"As I know computers pretty well I was sure this was a gimmick as Windows XP has restore points."
Time has defended its actions, however, claiming that accessing the hard drive is a complicated process which is made simple by its software.
"Our reload disc policy uses unique software and restores the PC's factory settings easily and efficiently [in under 10 minutes]," said a spokesman.
"Other PC manufacturers rely on a method of restore which requires the customer to use expensive technical support for help installing various drivers and software.
"In our experience these calls can last for long periods and a customer may have to make these calls several times."
But other PC companies contacted by vnunet.com, including Samsung, Hewlett Packard (HP), Evesham and Dell, disagreed.
HP explained that its hard drive restore function did not require a telephone support line, although one is available if required.
"It is not a difficult process, just a few clicks. But if a customer isn't happy doing this we will send them a free restore disc," said a spokeswoman.
Most manufacturers also make it easy for consumers to burn their own restore disc from the hard drive if they wish.
High street retailer Dixons explained that it did not provide a restore disc, but that it would be easy for users to burn a copy from the hard drive.
Microsoft pointed out that it has no control over charges for restore discs.
"The provision of a back-up solution to the [version of] Windows XP supplied by an original equipment manufacturer is at the discretion of that manufacturer," it said.
"The costs of providing recovery media are up to the manufacturer and not Microsoft."
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