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Windows 7 OEM vs Retail

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January 21, 2011 9:12:43 PM

Hello Toms Hardware,

I have decided to buy a version of Windows 7, though I do not know wether to buy an OEM version or a retail version. Are there any differences between the two? Why is one so much cheaper?

On one particular website, it says the following: "Conditions Apply: You can only purchase OEM Windows with system order or if only you are a system builder. Please contact your nearest branch for more information."

I am building my computer myself, so theoretically I am a system builder. Does that mean I can buy this OEM version of Windows 7 and save hundreds of dollars ($180 vs $400~). I want to get the most out of my version of Windows 7 (be it Ultimate, Professional or Home Premium) and I want fully functional recovery disks should I need them.

Put simply, what is the difference between the OEM and Retail versions of Windows 7?

Thanks,
-Klosteral

More about : windows oem retail

January 21, 2011 9:26:30 PM

OEM Windows is supposed to be sold with a new PC, or the parts required to build a PC (though many sellers ignore this condition).

It is also only supposed to be installed on a single system - as it binds to the motherboard of the system its installed on.

However, I've successfully installed my copy on 3 different builds now (core 2 duo, phenom II, i7) with no problems. Worst case you just call Microsoft and deal with an auto prompter giving you long key codes to validate it again. Obviously though you can only have it installed on one PC at any given time.
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January 21, 2011 9:27:40 PM

Put short - buy OEM Home Premium 64bit and enjoy. :) 
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 21, 2011 9:28:31 PM

the difference is that you get no free technical support with microsoft w/OEM (you have us and google :D  )

Additionally the OEM will only work on one computer retail on 3. Go with the OEM if you only need to install it on one PC more than one Retail.

Choose Pro if you need compatibility with xp, home premium if not

Not sure about recovery disks question
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January 21, 2011 9:29:11 PM

OEM: much cheaper than retail. For example, in one store the OEM of Win 7 Home Premium cost $109 and the same version in retail cost $199.

No difference than a retail version. Retail offers limited tech support. OEM does not. Depending on where you buy, OEM may require hardware purchase.

Whichever you buy, make sure you get the full version, not the upgrade.
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January 21, 2011 9:29:14 PM

OEM: During online activation, it locks the product Key/OS to one computer (I think the part it locks to is your motherboard, that could be wrong though), so that you can't install it on any other computer. As far as I know, re-installation is fine, unless you're replacing your motherboard AND hard drive. If you need to install to a new HD and mobo, well, you still might be able to do it, but expect to go through hell and back to get it working with the 'help' of mircosoft costumer support.

Retail: A limited number of installations, however, you can install to multiple PCs (but only one at one time). So say, if your uberGamerRig3000 is hit by a meteorite, and you build a new one, you can install your copy of retail windows on it. I cannot however, install it on both uberGamerRig3000 and granniesSubparPC at the same time.


AFAIK, there is no other difference besides the type of license you get.

tl;dr OEM is somewhere between a bitch to reinstall, and impossible. Retail can be reinstalled, even on a new PC.

Also, it's technically illegal to put an OEM version of windows on a PC you're not building yourself. Although who the hell is going to do anything about it if you install it on your dell? No one.
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a b B Homebuilt system
January 21, 2011 9:30:27 PM

The OEM copy does tie itself to the mobo if you get a new mobo you need a new copy at least that's what microsoft tells you but really you can just call them and they'll reactivate it for you
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January 21, 2011 9:30:42 PM

In addition to what Nerdbox 87 said,

OEM is only the bit that you purchase. The full retail version has 32 and 64 bit included. Not really a problem though if you bought the 64bit OEM.

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January 21, 2011 9:36:26 PM

Klosteral said:
Put simply, what is the difference between the OEM and Retail versions of Windows 7?


OEM license can only be purchased with new hardware. The OEM license is also tied to the computer. You cannot move it to another system without violating its terms. An OEM license does not receive support from Microsoft (exception to this is issues with MS updates). A retail license can be moved from system to system and you will also receive Microsoft support should you require it.

Here is a link to Microsoft's website with some more info on OEM license:
=http://www.microsoft.com/oem/en/licensing/sblicensing/pages/licensing_faq.aspx
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January 21, 2011 9:37:04 PM

Wow, thanks for all the rapid responses!

Here is my situation. I am currently running Windows 7 x86 (32-Bit) on my first build. It came with two disks in the package (32 bit and 64 bit) so I assume I have the retail version.

My second build is sitting - still in boxes - on the floor behind me. The only things I did not buy are monitor, keyboard + mouse, DVD drive, HDDs and PSU. I want to install a x64 version of Windows onto my "new" computer but with my "old" hard drive.

I am wondering wether I can re-activate Windows on a completely different computer in a completely different version (64-Bit). If I can do it with my retail disks, I will be happy. If not, I will have to buy a new version of Windows, hence the OEM question.

Question 2: Can I reuse my current retail version of Windows 7 Home Premium? Does it matter that I have reinstalled this on my current system multiple times in 32-Bit form?
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January 21, 2011 9:44:38 PM

Also, here is a point of clarification in regards to motherboard replacement. This is a direct copy and paste from Microsoft's website:
Quote:
Q. Can a PC with an OEM Windows operating system have its motherboard upgraded and keep the same license? What if it was replaced because it was defective?
A. Generally, an end user can upgrade or replace all of the hardware components on a computer—except the motherboard—and still retain the license for the original Microsoft OEM operating system software. If the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons other than a defect, then a new computer has been created. Microsoft OEM operating system software cannot be transferred to the new computer, and the license of new operating system software is required. If the motherboard is replaced because it is defective, you do not need to acquire a new operating system license for the PC as long as the replacement motherboard is the same make/model or the same manufacturer's replacement/equivalent, as defined by the manufacturer's warranty.
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January 21, 2011 9:49:31 PM

Hmm yes I do read that, however that should not really be an issue for me. I am going to be purchasing a new version of Windows 7 for use on a new computer, once. An OEM version of Windows costs $99 and can only be used once, vs a retail version that costs $299 and can be used 3 times. I would say that it would be better to keep buying OEM versions, right?

Also, I have just found the box for my current retail version of Windows 7 HP. It came with 2 disks - 64-Bit and 32-Bit but only one license key. Does that mean I can use that license key to run and install both versions of the operating system?
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a b $ Windows 7
January 21, 2011 9:58:56 PM

Good comments in total from previous posters.

You have some extra options:

1) You can buy an upgrade package which will be priced about the same as OEM. It is considered retail, so you can get MS support. You also get 32 and 64 bit dvd's. Perhaps this is what you already have? Look on the package, it will say upgrade or not.

2) You can buy a family pack that is essentially an upgrade version with a product code that can be activated on three different pc's.
At $125, it is a great bargain if you might want to upgrade even one more pc:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

The install disks of every version is exactly the same.
What differentiates them is the product/activation code.
An upgrade version must be installed from a OS, that reads the dvd containing Windows-7. That is a bit different than oem or retail that will install by booting directly from the DVD.
The intent is to allow an easy migration from vista to Windows-7. If, however, you want to migrate from a 32 bit vista to a 64 bit Windows-7, you can't use that procedure. A 32 bit OS can't install a 64 bit OS. That is why Microsoft allows you to install windows-7 upgrade from a dvd, giving you 30 days to activate. You can then install the update in the normal manner and delete the windows.old folder when done.

And, yes, you can use a 64 bit dvd to reinstall on an oem PC and reuse the oem 32 bit activation code.

Bottom line is that microsoft wants you to use legitimate copies of the os, not hijacked clones, and to use each copy on only one pc(3 for the family pack)
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a b $ Windows 7
January 21, 2011 10:02:25 PM

Klosteral said:
Hmm yes I do read that, however that should not really be an issue for me. I am going to be purchasing a new version of Windows 7 for use on a new computer, once. An OEM version of Windows costs $99 and can only be used once, vs a retail version that costs $299 and can be used 3 times. I would say that it would be better to keep buying OEM versions, right?

Also, I have just found the box for my current retail version of Windows 7 HP. It came with 2 disks - 64-Bit and 32-Bit but only one license key. Does that mean I can use that license key to run and install both versions of the operating system?


Yes, some people might want to dual boot a 32 bit version and a 64 bit version on the same pc.. That is OK. You just can't do it on two different PC's with the same activation code.
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January 21, 2011 10:38:44 PM

I want to install it on a "different" PC because the internals will be entirely new. That said, it will be installed on my current hard drive, over my current installation, effectively deleting the 32-bit version.

I would not be surprised if I have an "upgrade" version of the software, though I did install it on a computer from scratch so there was no operating system on the HDD when I installed Windows 7. I am currently backing up and imaging my entire computer so that if something goes wrong, I can always fall back on this.

Perhaps I should mention that I recieved my two disks off an Uncle who purchased a Windows 7 bundle (4 copies of Windows 7 Home Premium) at a discounted price - 4 for the price of 3 - so he gave me the 4th set. All I have are two disks and a code, I do not have the manual or other extras that one would expect to find in a retail box.
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a b $ Windows 7
January 21, 2011 10:48:02 PM

I agree that you probably have an upgrade package.
When you go to install, the dvd load will probably detect that there was a previous windows present. You can go ahead and install on top of it. So long as the previous windows is not in use anywhere else, you are OK.

The manual and documentation are minimal. You did not lose much there.

Because upgrade is considered retail, you can reinstall it as many times as you wish, just not on different pc's at the same time.
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January 21, 2011 10:52:37 PM

Ok. Thank you geofelt, they are the exact words I wanted to hear.

I would also like to thank everyone else for their fast and intelligent assistance. I am not going to select a "Best Answer" at least not yet for two reasons.
1) I want to see if this actually works.
2) If anyone wishes to add something or I come up with a different question, it would be easier to continue this thread.
3) Because I cannot specifically say if anybody gave more/better help than anyone else. I wish I could assign it to all of you.

Thanks all, I will report back from my x64 PC,
-Klosteral
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January 22, 2011 2:20:24 AM

To anyone who may be concerned - you can replace the motherboard very easily (even to different models/sockets) and still re-activate OEM copies.

I've done this multiple times with various different builds, you simply ring a microsoft number, and deal with a computer auto-prompter. You select the option that you're reinstalling on the same computer, and then it reads out long series of activation codes you enter. It's that simple. (Takes <5mins)

Hell - my upgrade from an AMD board to my i7 board just activated no questions asked lol
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January 22, 2011 2:37:10 AM

That is good to know, so if my current copy of Windows 7 does not work, I will buy an OEM version. A dollar saved is a dollar well spent :) 
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March 24, 2013 9:35:12 PM

geofelt said:

And, yes, you can use a 64 bit dvd to reinstall on an oem PC and reuse the oem 32 bit activation code.


I would really like some clarification on this statement.

Can a computer with 32-bit Windows 7 Professional installed directly from the end user DVD in a system builder's kit, not explicitly configured as an OEM setup, be upgraded to a 64-bit Windows 7 Professional install using the same key from the 32-bit install?
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a c 136 B Homebuilt system
a b $ Windows 7
March 24, 2013 9:51:05 PM

Buy win 8 64 bit. There is no retail or oem version , and the license lets you activate it on another pc once its off the original [ one at a time ]

It takes less than 10 minutes to make it look and feel just like 7 , or vista, or Xp , or 98
using a free program called classic shell

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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a b $ Windows 7
March 24, 2013 9:54:02 PM

FDSFGS said:
geofelt said:

And, yes, you can use a 64 bit dvd to reinstall on an oem PC and reuse the oem 32 bit activation code.


I would really like some clarification on this statement.

Can a computer with 32-bit Windows 7 Professional installed directly from the end user DVD in a system builder's kit, not explicitly configured as an OEM setup, be upgraded to a 64-bit Windows 7 Professional install using the same key from the 32-bit install?


Yes, the license is 32/64 bit agnostic. Of course, if you change from 32 bit to 64 bit, you will need a 64 bit dvd.
But, I think all windows dvd's are exactly the same(excluding 32/64 bit), and what you install and how is determined by the product code. For example, if you buy an upgrade kit, you will get both a 32 and 64 bit dvd, but only one activation code. I have successfully changed a laptop 32 bit installation to a 64 bit version using an entirely separate 64 bit upgrade
dvd. And... vice versa.
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March 24, 2013 11:49:36 PM

The problem could in fact be the adapter as well.
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a c 84 B Homebuilt system
a b $ Windows 7
March 25, 2013 6:41:22 AM

Klosteral said:
Wow, thanks for all the rapid responses!

Here is my situation. I am currently running Windows 7 x86 (32-Bit) on my first build. It came with two disks in the package (32 bit and 64 bit) so I assume I have the retail version.

My second build is sitting - still in boxes - on the floor behind me. The only things I did not buy are monitor, keyboard + mouse, DVD drive, HDDs and PSU. I want to install a x64 version of Windows onto my "new" computer but with my "old" hard drive.

I am wondering wether I can re-activate Windows on a completely different computer in a completely different version (64-Bit). If I can do it with my retail disks, I will be happy. If not, I will have to buy a new version of Windows, hence the OEM question.

Question 2: Can I reuse my current retail version of Windows 7 Home Premium? Does it matter that I have reinstalled this on my current system multiple times in 32-Bit form?


The windows you have will be either retail, or upgrade which comes with both 32 and 64 bit dvd's.
Upgrade is also considered as retail, which means that you can transfer the license from one pc to another(a pc is defined by the motherboard).
But, you can only install your windows license on just one pc at a time.
If your old pc will be disassembled an no longer used, you are good. If you will be using both, then you need to purchase a second copy of windows.

However many times you reinstalled windows on your previous pc does not matter. Microsoft might keep tack of that, and be suspicious of piracy, but so long as it is reinstalled on the same pc, you are good.
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