13 June 2009
©2009 Microsoft Corp.
©2009 Microsoft Corp.

Okay, I’ve just about had it. Once again, I have just read some comments on a blog post about the restrictions on OEM vs Retail copies of Windows. And once again, people are obviously just regurgitating what they have read somewhere else.

I, on the other hand, base my comments on my own experience installing various versions of Windows (XP, Vista, OEM, Retail, etc.) on a whole boatload of computers over a period of many, many years.

So, can you move a copy of Vista OEM to another computer? Can you move an upgrade copy of XP to a different computer? Can you do a clean install with an upgrade copy of Vista?

The short answer is this: you can do anything you damn well please with any legal copy of Windows.

I have read so many bogus posts and comments and web pages on this topic that it makes me want to throw up. When Vista came out, everyone was up in arms about the new EULA, the more strict installation procedure, “ultra-Big-Brother” restrictions that prevented you from moving your OEM copy of Windows from your old machine to your new one, and so on.

I’m here to tell you that it’s all BUNK. Seriously, most people have no idea what they’re talking about.

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For example, Vista actually checks for fewer hardware changes than XP did. Yes, you can upgrade your graphics card, and no, you won’t have to reactivate Windows. Not only that, but in the olden days, there were actually human beings on the line when you had to call to activate Windows manually. They would actually ask you a question like, “Do you have this copy of Windows installed on only one machine?” All you had to do was answer “Yes” and they’d give you an activation code. Pretty awful, right?

Well, guess what? It’s even better now. They’ve cut costs and removed the pesky humans from the mix, so now you press 1 for “I have only installed Windows on one machine”, and you press 2 for “I’m an idiot”.

So, can you move your Upgrade or OEM copy of Windows onto that new computer you just built? Yes. What you have to do to get it to work is quite simple:

  1. Install old copy of Windows on new machine
  2. Activate old copy of Windows on new machine
  3. If activation doesn’t work, call the telephone number they give, press buttons, and it will give you an activation code

That’s it. Of course, you are NOT allowed to run the same copy of windows on two different machines, because that’s piracy. But you CAN move any copy of Windows onto any machine. The absolute worst that will happen is that you will have to reactivate by phone on the new machine.

In fact, let me tell you a few happy stories to illustrate my point.

My friend bought a new laptop in Spain a couple years ago. It had the Spanish version of Vista Basic. Fortunately, Spanish keyboards are very close to a US layout, so that was nice. But the Spanish version of Vista just wasn’t going to do for her. So, what did I do?

Easy: I took my OEM DVD of Vista Home Premium (US English), stuck it in the DVD drive on the laptop, and did a fresh install. When it asked for the Product ID Key (PID), I used the one on the sticker on the bottom of the machine (yes, the key for Spanish Vista Basic). When it came time to activate, obviously it didn’t work. So I called the telephone number, typed in the necessary numbers, et voila! I was able to use my US OEM Vista Home Premium DVD to do a clean install of Vista Basic on a machine and use the “Spanish” Vista Basic PID to activate it.

You see, there’s nothing wrong with doing that, and Microsoft knows this. I didn’t pirate Windows – the machine came with a valid PID, and I just wanted my friend to have Vista in English. Since every Vista DVD contains all the versions of Vista, I could easily install Basic in English on her machine with her valid Basic PID.

But then it came time for me to upgrade my computer! Oh NO! But I used my Vista Home Premium DVD to install Vista on my old computer, AND Vista Basic on my friend’s Spanish laptop! When I change the motherboard, RAM, and graphics card, surely Microsoft won’t let me keep using Vista! Surely they are tracking my underwear size as I write!! OH, WHOA IS ME!!!

Actually, I upgraded my machine just fine. And then Vista booted. And then it asked me to reactivate my licensed copy, which I did. Guess what? I didn’t even have to call Microsoft’s phone robots! It just worked, exactly like it should.

This is all despite the fact that so many people were – and are still – mindlessly carrying on about how the OEM versions are “locked” to one machine, etc. etc. and so on and so forth. Think about it: Microsoft sold you a copy of an OS. Officially, they have certain policies in place, because they have to say something. But if I’ve paid for an OS, it’s a legal copy. That means I can move it from one machine to another, and as long as I don’t have it installed on multiple machines, I’ll be okay and Microsoft won’t care. They aren’t stupid. They realize that people upgrade their computers, regardless of whether they have OEM Vista or Retail Vista or Upgrade Vista or whatever.

So, the next time you have to upgrade your computer and transfer a license to your upgraded machine, or install a US English copy of Windows using a Spanish PID, just try it instead of freaking out about it. Try it, and see what happens. Just stick to one valid PID for one computer, and you won’t have any problems. I haven’t encountered a single problem to date.

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The Truth About Windows Licensing, Activation, and the EULA
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One thought on “The Truth About Windows Licensing, Activation, and the EULA

  • 15 December 2014 at 10:06
    Permalink

    Nice story but it doesn’t always work. My HP workstation came with a Vista Business OEM sticker on the case and had Windows XP Pro installed on the hard drive.

    I bought Windows 7 Pro 64 bit to be installed on this machine but didn’t want to loose XP so I use VMWare to convert it to a virtual machine.
    After installing Windows 7 I tried to start the virtual XP. Well, it did start but immediately came with the message that I needed to active it.

    Calling Microsoft didn’t work. So I called HP support and they told me that it was impossible to get XP activated because it is an OEM version.

    Fortunately I had a few days left before XP wouldn’t work anymore and that was just long enough to copy some program setting from XP to Windows 7.

    Reply

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