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A new company, Key Computers, is to offer cheap computers, notebooks and peripherals and tackle the growing mountain of waste computer products in the UK, Matt Whipp writes.

Prices start from £199.99 including VAT, credit card charges and delivery for an Internet-ready system based on a 233Mhz Pentium, a 1.6Gb hard drive and Windows 95. Notebooks start from £349.99. The products are sold with a one-year warranty and Key Computers will donate 10 per cent of its profits to charity (Children in Crisis and Friends of the Earth).

Stuart Robb, director at Key Computers, said: "We want to be the Network Q of the computer world."

The company also sells new computers, and customers can mix and match old and new to get a machine that meets their requirements. "We don't up-sell, we down-sell," said Robb, adding that for someone who simply wants to try out the Internet, buying a refurbished computer is just 'a punt of £200 rather than a grand for a new machine'.

According to Robb each component undergoes stringent testing before re-use and that the company experiences less returns from recycled machines than from new.

The stock it gets is generally in good order, coming from government and corporates, but with any components that can't be recycled, plastics and precious metals are melted down and disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner, Robb says.

EU member countries are to impose a business disposal tax on waste IT equipment, in accordance with the Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE). Key Computers' goal is to produce machines, both old and new, that can be disposed of in a 'green' way. "We are ahead of the legislation," said Robb.

However noble the intention, or cheap the product, Microsoft takes a dim view on recycling licences for its Windows OS.

A spokesperson for Microsoft told us that a licence for an OEM-installed or boxed copy of Windows can be transferred, as long as the end user also has the valid certificate or licence that came with it. However, "If a business has a volume licensing agreement then those licences can not be resold."

However, Robb assures us that systems from Key Computers come with new licences and accompanying documentation. It should be noted though that Windows 95 is no longer supported by Microsoft.

Last year Australian charity PCs for Kids ran into trouble with Microsoft for doing much the same thing: installing copies of Windows on recycled machines without paying for new licences. Robb told us that now Microsoft will allow charities to sell on Windows licences, and charges them £12,000 for the privilege.

Key Computers can be contacted via its Web site or through its sales line on 0800 018 918. The company goes live on September 24.

© PC Pro

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