I have recently opened a new computer repair business with a primary goal of performing quality repairs at a lower cost than the competition. One issue I'm running into is Windows activation. After reading through countless forums, I have the following understanding of retail keys: They may be used on multiple computers, as long as a single key isn't activated on multiple computers at the same time. How is this determined? As in, if I decommission one computer, can I immediately use that retail key? My second question is how are OEM keys paired with a specific computer? More specifically, what component of that computer? Thanks for the clarification!
Yes retail can be used over and over just as long only one at a time! OEM windows 7 is tied to the motherboard (or its direct replacement) that it is first installed on as the only legal use. The Win 8 OEM license is more like the retail license giving flexibility on its use.
With windows 7 OEM the license is tied to the first motherboard it's installed on.With Windows 8.1 you can move it to another build when you are done with this one , but only one computer at a time.With Windows 8.1 you can change all the hardware you want including the motherboard.
OEM versions of Windows 7 are identical to Full License Retail versions except for the following:
- OEM versions do not offer any free Microsoft direct support from Microsoft support personnel
- OEM licenses are tied to the very first computer you install and activate it on
- OEM versions allow all hardware upgrades except for an upgrade to a different model motherboard
- OEM versions cannot be used to directly upgrade from an older Windows operating system
OEM vs. Retail
OEM Windows 7 comes preinstalled on computers. This is the cheapest way to buy windows. Large PC manufacturers like Dell, HP etc. (collectively called royalty OEMs) install windows on millions of such PCs. The main characteristics of such systems are:
The license agreement and support agreement is between you and the PC maker, not MS.
Activation by the end user is not required. Windows is preactivated at the factory by the OEM using images and standard SLP keys.
Your copy of windows is locked to that PC. The license is not transferable.
OEM system builder is what you get when you buy from say Newegg or from a local "white box" vendor. It too has the characteristics of Royalty OEM windows. Although it is possible for an individual to buy a System Builder copy, the license requires that the software be installed using the OPK (OEM preinstall kit) and then resold.
Retail version is what you buy from a retailer like Amazon or Bestbuy. Its a full price version that comes packaged in a retail box with a retail product key. It has to be activated online via MS servers using the key on the box, it is not tied to the PC it was first installed on, though it can only be used on a single computer at a time. And, MS directly provides the support for it. It is also more expensive than OEM copies.
As far as functionality is concerned, theres no difference between any of the versions above, given any specific edition (i.e. between OEM pro and retail pro, or between OEM ultimate and retail ultimate).
You might care to do the same as I do in my business - refuse to reinstall if the Product Key on the CoA is obscured to the point where you can't read it. Use any genuine DVD - 32 or 64bit as necessary - and when prompted to input the key you can either use the one from the CoA or the one on the DVD cover. You can click on Skip this Step but that only gives you three days to activate. Sooner or later you need to Change Product Key in Control Panel>System where you should have thirty days to activate.
If a genuine key fails activation, use the Telephone service where the delightful voice of Diana Muldaur will guide you through and it almost invariably goes smoothly. Sometimes it will fail the automated process but an adviser will usually allow it.