Microsoft Desktop Licensing for Beginners

Microsoft desktop licensing is one area where there are many questions.  The answers can be quite surprising.  I will focus on Microsoft Windows Operating systems and the Office suite for this post.

Windows XP, 7 & 8.  All Editions – Home, Business, Ultimate

When you purchase a new computer Windows will already be installed on the device.  This is called an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) license.  Simply stated the software can only be used on the computer it was delivered on.  You cannot legally move the operating system to a new computer, old computer, home computer, your friend’s computer, etc.  If you replace the operating system with Linux or some other variant, you cannot move the Windows OEM to another computer.  It lives and dies with the computer it was delivered on.  If you have CDs or recovery DVDs they can only be legally used on this specific computer.

Windows 7/8 Upgrades – None, not available, they do not exist (think Easter Bunny) Microsoft discontinued Windows operating systems upgrades many years ago.  They simply do not exist for Windows 7 or 8. All Windows 7/8 Upgrades are a full retail license purchase that can legally be installed on only one computer.

Microsoft Office – 2007, 2010 & 2013. All Editions, Standard, Professional, Student , Small Business, Home, etc.

If your copy of Microsoft Office was included with your new computer over the last 10 years it is considered an OEM license just like the operating systems above.  It lives and dies with the PC. You cannot legally install it to another computer even if you have the CD/DVD and license keys.  Microsoft has added Product Activation to track how many times a product is installed and activated. Try it and you will see after installs… it will no longer activate.

Retail License – if you purchase a box of software from a retail location, Staples, Amazon, etc. and were provided a box with CDs and a license card you are authorized to install the product one time on a PC.  If you get a new PC you can remove the product from the old PC and install it on different PC.  If the product will not activate, you can call Microsoft and plead your case and they will reset the Product Activation.  This does not mean you can do this 10 times, you will no longer get your product activated.

The benefit of OEM and Retail licensing is low cost.  The primary disadvantage is that there are NO upgrades ever and you cannot move the software to other computers.

Open License, Open Business and Open Value Licensing

If you are a business and want the flexibility to purchase your Microsoft Office licenses in quantities greater than 10, and the ability to move licenses between any of your computers up to the quantity purchased.  Microsoft offers several license programs to accommodate your needs.  These various programs provide numerous benefits.  You can pay for it all up front, or over three annual equal payments.  The licenses cost more than an OEM license but you control what computers will have the software installed.  Microsoft’s only concern is that you only install up to the license count purchased. Many of these programs can include upgrade rights to new versions when available for an added cost. For business that wants to always be at a current version these programs offer the best value.

Licensing of Microsoft Desktop products is a simple concept, however, the variety of methods available to acquire the licenses can be intimidating.  Should you have any questions about the best license program for your business, please contact a Custom Systems Microsoft License expert at 800-359-3523.  All contact regarding license questions are kept strictly confidential.

Paul R. Cook
Paul R. Cook
Vice President, Network Services Group



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