Credit: David Sprague

Eric Lundgren, an innovative computer engineer, may have to spend 15 months in prison for saving the environment and recycling computers.

Even though Lundgren has a successful computer recycling business, the thought of throwing away or destroying so many PCs was unsettling. So he hatched a plan to copy and sell to refurbishers PCs with Microsoft restore discs. However, when the company learned what he was doing, they tried to put him in prison.

Piracy is a crime and affects the bottom line profits of video game manufacturers, Hollywood films, and software companies like Microsoft. But a Microsoft restore disc is included when someone buys a computer and is available as a free download when someone can prove their product key for Windows belongs to them.

But for people who buy a second-hand computer, if the product key to the copy of Windows does not belong to them (registered with Microsoft) the computer is worthless and must be thrown away.

Equally disturbing to Lundgren was the fact the free restore discs, included with a computer’s purchase, often get lost by the owner, thrown away by a company, or simply misplaced. That easily comprehensible act of negligence made Lundgren’s job of wiping a computer’s hard drive and giving it a fresh installation of Windows nearly impossible. Only with a fresh reinstallation of the operating system could the computer be sold in good faith to a new user.

That fact bothered Lundgren, who daily destroyed perfectly good computers all because their product key was missing and/or they weren’t registered with Microsoft. So he and his business partner went to China and located a manufacturer who would create and ship back to the US some 28,000 “Microsoft Windows restore discs.”

He intended to sell them to other computer recyclers and not to the general public for $25 each. Remember, Microsoft gives the product away, but proving ownership of the operating system is difficult if not impossible to do, especially if the product’s key code is invalid or not registered to the new buyer.

Even though Lundgren never sold a copy of the “restore” disc, its manufacture bypassed Microsoft altogether and allowed for recyclers to quickly offer for sale quality computers who still had a lot of life left in their systems. Lundgren lost in court and was at the moment of surrendering to the prison industrial complex to serve out his 15-month sentence when his case was accepted at the 11th circuit court of appeals.

The original judge in the case, Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, seemed to realize Lundgren’s actions were taken more as an attempt to save the environment and be socially responsible with computer trash. He noted Lundgren’s long history of taking care of the environment as well as others. According to the LA Times, Hurley was troubled by the verdict he was forced to apply:

“This case is especially difficult,” Hurley told Lundgren at his sentencing last May, “because of who you are today and in terms of who you have become.” The judge received evidence of Lundgren’s recycling company, IT Asset Partners; his projects to clean up e-waste in Ghana and China; and a 2016 initiative in which Lundgren’s company repaired and donated more than 14,000 cellphones and $100,000 to the Cell Phones for Soldiers organization to benefit U.S. soldiers deployed overseas.

Lundgren described what he believes is the motivation for his prosecution. He told reporters:

In essence, I got in the way of Microsoft’s profits, so they pushed this into federal court on false pretense,” Lundgren said. He said McGloin “testified that a free restore CD was worth the same price as a new Windows operating system with a license. … This was false and inaccurate testimony provided by Microsoft in an attempt to set a precedent that will scare away future recyclers and refurbishers from reusing computers without first paying Microsoft again for another license. … Anyone successfully extending the life cycle of computers or diverting these computers from landfills for reuse in society is essentially standing in the way of Microsoft’s profits.”

As it stands, people who buy computers which do not have a working copy of Microsoft Windows installed will have to pay Microsoft for a new copy, an action which usually costs more than the value of the old computer. Doing so is pointless.

In fact, a person should just go ahead and purchase a new computer at a big box retailer, instead of paying the same price for an old, used computer.

This is precisely the problem Lundgren attempted to solve. Even though the software is free at the time of the original sale and free for download, the mega-company will prosecute anyone who attempts to profit from their free downloads. Lundgren will likely do prison time if the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals does not rule in his favor.

Jack Burns is an educator, journalist, investigative reporter, and advocate of natural medicine


  1. He must not have a very good lawyer. He needs to focus on intent to defraud. All crime is based on intent. They have to prove he intended to defraud Microsoft. His intent is obviously to limit waste using what Microsoft gives away to new computer purchasers

    • I also wonder why his $41M incorporated business couldn’t provide some shielding for him. Acting through your legal fictional entity, called a Corporation, provides huge amounts of indemnification from personal liability. Shoot – that’s half of why I incorporated.

      From the LA Times reporting I can’t tell if he acted as private citizen or through the company.

      But in the end he stepped in it, plain and simple, by trying to sidestep the $25/copy that Microsquish charges the refurb guys for a fresh restore-disk. It’s one of the few reasonable things MS still does. I think he knew what he was doing, so a little spanking might be in order. But not jail time.

      • Send all the Microsoft execs to China; let them sit there and asphyxiate on the toxic fumes from melting down e-waste to extract certain components deemed “valuable” just like many desperate Chinese do day in and day out. Then send images of their suffering to the next generation of Microsoft execs lest they forget their complicity in that suffering by pulling stunts like this one.

    • Ubuntu is good. But there are ways to extract the keys legitimately from the old OS. As long as the key lawfully purchased originally and is only being used on one machine Microsoft doesn’t care. I’ve done my share of system recoveries too – lawfully. I typically set up my machines to be at least dual boot or even triple boot (legal “hackentoshes”).

  2. Its the American way. Waste everything as long as it profits a few. As far as I’m concerned, the PC maker made their profit when they sold it, end of story.

    • I agree. All these machine came with windows. You can’t buy a computer from the store without some crap version of windows. You have to build your own. Micro$oft made their money once, they should stop being greedy. Boycott microsoft. Linux is better.

  3. This is why we all need to delete windows. Linux is easier than ever to install and use.

    I run a small computer repair business and I always install a linux partition on the computers I put windows on. Even if the customer does not use linux, it makes it easier for me to fix the computer when windows breaks. And windows always breaks. I see very few broken computers. Mostly “broken windows”. Sometimes I do see broken hardware, power supplies, video cards, hard drives, broken laptop screens etc. But this is usually fixable with some inexpensive parts. Every so often i see a computer that is not worth the time to fix so I’ll recycle the parts.

    I prefer Debian because it is what I’m used to, but I’ve installed all kinds of linux on customers computers through the years, sometimes just to try new distros. If you’re new to linux try linux mint, nice easy install and easy to use. ElementaryOS is nice too. I use puppy linux on older machines because it is super small and fast. You can run it from a cd or usb stick and backup all your files when windows crashes. Then I format the hard drive(s), I usually write zeros with dd from the command line, then I partition and install some operating systems.

    I try to steer customers away from windows whenever I can because windows is such a security threat. It also saves them money. I can do a fresh linux install in about an hour or two. This includes a hosts file to block ads and tweaking it to make it nice. A fresh windows install can take 10 hours or more to get buttoned down and software installed and updated. I always disable windows updates because I’ve seen windows updates break too many fresh installs.

    Just this week I had a customer call me. He is 87 years old. When he tried to shutdown windows 7 he accidentally logged off instead. He could not remember his password so he gave it a hard shutdown with the power button. Windows did not like this at all and it wrecked his USB drivers and his mouse and keyboard would not work. So, I went out to his house and because I set this computer up last August with Debian 9.1 and windows 7 it made it much easier to troubleshoot and get working again.

    This gentleman didn’t realize that linux was a separate operating system, though he had heard of it. So, I gave him a little computer lesson, showed him how to use his browser, get to his email, his photos and documents, showed him around a bit, how to adjust his screen display to make the words bigger and how to turn it off. I think we have another linux user. He called the next day and said he used linux all day instead of windows. He is not tech savvy. Linux is easy enough for an 87 year old to use.

    The other reason I boycott windows whenever I can is because of the NSAKey. Ever since the 90’s windows has a built in back door for the NSA. It’s called NSAKey. I experimented with deleting the file, and when you try to load windows it gives you the blue screen. So I put it back where it came from and everything was fine.

    I do not trust windows and I never do any online banking or bill paying with it. Debian is much safer.

    We should all boycott windows. We should all move to linux.

    • Great comment! More people need to know about this. Sounds simple enough and the only real obstacle is the habit people have. Everyone’s used to windows and this would take effort to make the switch. I don’t even play games anymore so this sounds perfect for me. I just do internet stuff

      Thank you


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