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Vista Build 6002 "This Copy of Windows is Not Genuine"

Time:October 11
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So I bought a computer over a year ago from Best Buy when my last one died. It's a laptop that, while it isn't going to ever run brilliantly, serves its purpose as a 2d art editor/internet surfer.
My problem?
My copy of Vista suddenly decided it wasn't genuine. 
My sticker with the serial key is illegible; it's been over a year, and I left it on the bottom of the computer without paying any attention to wear and tear (until I realized -- hey, my computer has LOST ITS MIND.)
I don't really have a desire to do a factory-restore type wipe, but at the  moment, that appears that it might be the only option.
It isn't likely that Best Buy gave me a cracked copy of Vista (I'm just assuming, here) but visiting other sites, I've discovered that other people who purchased from Best Buy ALSO had this problem.
*What* is going on?
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Trust me, if it's a virus, it's the cleverest little virus that ever was -- I ran just about every scan that I could throw at it, and I'm pretty careful with where I go/what I do and download. (Usually I'm the one cleaning malware off my friends' computers; I know what to look for in general, as well as what to avoid).
I do have an extended service plan. I took it in to Best Buy today and they told me, oh so helpfully, that the sticker on the bottom was unreadable, and there was nothing that they could do, but that they reccommended essentially wiping it to factory settings, which is what I'm actually trying rather desperately to avoid. (I have wayyy to many programs/preferences that I have no desire to reinstall).
I would never have bought Vista if I'd had a choice; it was literally the only option I could afford at the time that I bought the computer.  I would've paid to downgrade, but this computer doesn't run XP -- the drivers are incompatible, or somesuch reason. (I considered using nLite and making a custom XP install, but I wasn't sure I was up to it, and it wasn't worth buying an extra license for it if I wasn't sure it could handle it.) At the time that I bought it, Windows 7 was still unavailable to the general public.

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