Two likely candidates emerged. One was a venerable Dell Precision M6300 and the other a Lenovo ThinkPad X6. I thought both had Linux installed, so I was unpleasantly surprised to see that the Dell didn't have a bootable image on it. Never mind, I thought, I can use the ThinkPad. Alas, the person who'd installed Linux hadn't given me a record of any passwords, so I called his father and I'm expecting a message back soon enough that it didn't seem worth rooting the machine (which in retrospect seems like the best option).
Bright ideas can hit at any time, and it was now that I remembered I had both the original install disks and a Windows 7 Upgrade set. My neighbor is actually a Windows user, so it seemed like a friendly act to install Windows for him. Since the disk had nothing on it there seemed to be little harm in requesting a complete installation, which I did. After answering a few questions it was grinding away, so I went out. When I arrived back a couple of hours later the installation was almost complete, waiting for the entry of my Windows product key. Which I duly entered from the Windows 7 Upgrade box. Product key invalid.
Being of a dyslexic nature, not to mention getting on enough to be experiencing some long-sightedness, these episodes are painful for me. Suffice it to say that after three further attempts involving the use of a flashlight and a magnifying glass I was positive the product key was entered correctly. So I figured since I was installing an upgrade maybe the Windows product key required was that of my original Windows installation. So all I had to do was turn the laptop upside down and peer again. The same performance with flashlight and magnifying glass was again repeated multiple times. All no go.
So there I was, with a stuck Windows installation. The only way out that I could see was to call Microsoft, who helpfully gave the support number in a little booklet in the Upgrade box. After I enter three or four digits to indicate I am having activation problems with Windows I am finally told that Microsoft are sorry, but they are now closed and I should call back during their normal working hours. They do not tell me what their normal working hours are.
I guess I'll call back tomorrow, and bite my tongue rather than pointing out you never have any of this nonsense with Linux. When I need support there, the best in the world are available on the Internet.