NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft ( MSFT) earlier this year responded to free office-tool competitors like Google ( AAPL) Apps and Zoho by stepping away from its traditional hard-sell product rollouts.The company adopted a more Web-oriented, viral strategy: It promoted so-called release candidates of Windows 7. That is, fully functioning versions of the code that work for six months or so, then expire -- at which point a full license must be purchased. Initially, I and millions of others -- Microsoft declined to say exactly how many downloaded the RC code -- loved the idea. I installed the Windows 7 RC, wrote about it and recommended it as a means of softening the upgrade from XP to Windows 7. Well, live and learn. It turns out that if you decide to purchase a full license at the end of your promotional period, you must essentially reinstall the entire code from scratch. There is no one-step upgrade. The upgrade process we all went through six months ago to install the RC -- backing up your stuff, collecting your software, waiting all day to update Windows -- must be done again, from scratch. To speed the process and calm my nerves, I took a fresh look at so-called one-touch back-up systems. These are hard drives that make saving your data super simple. The likes of Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), SanDisk ( SNDK) and Western Digital ( WDC) all make them.
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MSFT, ORCL or EMC?