Here's the issue: there were a lot of problems with the install. My husband is one of many who got a defective serial key that was 19 digits rather than 20. Many sites, including the official C&C help site, had this "helpful" advice:
There is currently a work around that may allow you to bypass this issue. Since you have the first 19 characters of the code already, you can basically try "guessing" the last character. To do this, simply enter your existing code, and then for the last character, try the letters A-Z, and then the numbers 0-9. You should eventually get the right combination, and be able to play the game.
Wow, that sounds both fun and easy, doesn't it? Just the way I want to spend my time after spending $49 for a game.
The issue, however, was that the game was coded to abort install if you failed to enter the correct serial number after 3 tries. After spending 30 mins of aborts and re-installs, my hubby was pretty angry.
So, my husband tried to follow the second set of advice,
In order to get a replacement code, please click the "Contact Us" link on the left side of the page, and attach an image of your code to the incident.
If you do not have access to a digital camera or scanner, you can fax us a copy of the back of your instruction booklet, along with a copy of your receipt, to (512)-949-4994. Please include with your fax your First and Last name as well as your incident number.
If you would like, once you have created your incident, you can also contact us by phone using the number found on page 28 of your manual.
Note: If you decide to contact us by phone, please include the incident number that you created for this issue.
But, that didn't actually work, either. When he called EA, they insisted that you did everything online and they wouldn't talk to him about the serial number. So, he ended up spending 3 hours starting the install over and over, again and again, until he guessed the correct number. What an AWESOME opening puzzle for the game!
We'd be holding a pretty serious grudge against them at this point if it weren't for the stellar performance of Tim Curry as the Russian Commander, Premier Cherdenko. Hail, Comrade! [If you're a Tim Curry fan, you can see him in this re-mix Red Alert 3 video, along with George Takei.]