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How to buy Windows 7 for £50 less: the truth about OEM versions

Posted on 15 Sep 2009 at 17:26

Tim Danton delves behind the myths and misinformation to explain why the OEM version of Windows 7 offers excellent value with few drawbacks

Anyone who’s built their own PC will have shuddered at the cost of buying a full version of Windows, until they stumble upon the apparent bargain that is the OEM version. Created for PC makers such as Dell, HP and Mesh, it offers a chance to buy a genuine version of Windows for around half the price of the “retail” box.

Let’s put that into real figures. Right now, you can buy a retail version of Windows Vista Home Premium for £125 inc VAT from Amazon.co.uk. The OEM version costs £78. If you want Ultimate, the difference is £160 versus £136.

Note that I’m not using Windows 7 prices here. That’s because there are no OEM versions currently on sale (these won’t arrive until after Windows 7 hits the shelves at the end of October) and because, at the moment, Windows 7 is being heavily discounted – Amazon is actually selling Windows 7 Home Premium for £65 inc VAT on pre-order.

So what’s the difference? What are the restrictions? Is it a genuine saving or a false economy? To find out, I spoke to Laurence Painell, Windows OEM & WGA Product Manager.

What is an OEM version anyway?

The boxed, retail version of Windows 7 Home Premium. Is it really worth paying £150 for when you can buy the OEM version for £60?OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, and in this context refers to PC makers. The idea is that Microsoft charges them significantly less money for their version, but in return they don’t get any plush packaging and the PC maker has to provide all the customer support.

Usually, online stores such as Scan.co.uk and Amazon.co.uk make it obvious that you’re buying an OEM version rather than the “full” retail box – what Microsoft refers to as the FPP, or fully packaged product. Look out for the telltale label “OEM” or, in Amazon’s case, “OEI”.

The official Microsoft line on OEM versions

There’s plenty of confusion over whether Microsoft officially condones the sale of the OEM version of Windows to the public. At one point it would turn a blind eye if the software was included with a piece of hardware (such as a mouse), while others pointed to the message printed on the back of the OEM Systems Builder Pack packaging: “Each individual software license inside this package may ONLY be distributed with a fully assembled computer system.”

However, it seems common sense has prevailed, and it’s clear from our interview with Laurence Painell that Microsoft is actually quite happy for consumers to install the OEM version of Windows themselves.

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User comments

shaunb

Interesting to hear the official line on this from MS, very honest of them.

I built my Vista Ultimate machine (ok, Ultimate seemed like a good idea at the time) a couple of years ago with a 32-bit OEM copy and made a huge saving over FRP.

Interestingly I have since upgraded to 64-bit with the same license key with no problems. The only issue is that you need to source the 64-bit install media yourself (from my work MSDN subscription in this case).

By shaunb on 16 Sep 2009

OEM OR NOT

JUST MAKE SURE WHEN YOU HAVE INSTALLEDTHE SOFTWARE & YOU CLICK ON MY COMPUTER THE SERIAL DISPLAYED IN THE SECOND BLOCK READS 'OEM' NOT '016' WHICH IS WHAT OEM COPIES SUPPLIED TO MANUFATERES SOMETIMES PRODUCES WHICH RUNS YOU FOUL OF CORPORATE LICENCE RULES, YOU INSTALLATION BEING DECLARED PIRATE AFTER 5 YEARS OF USE, A LENGTHY 70 MINUTE CONVERSATION EVENTUALLY GOT ME A FULL LICENCE REPLACEMENT SERIAL NUMBER.
SO I RECOMMEND YOU BUY FROM A GOOD RETAILER.
BUYER BEWARE.

By roberttrebor on 21 Sep 2009

Student Windows 7

According to the MS website, and your magazine, us students will be able (for a time-limited period) to buy the Pro version for £30!

Given the variety of other expensive software you can get student / educational licences for (Photoshop CS4 for example) it makes joining the Open University for a 10-point course to get that .ac.uk email address a very good buy.

By cats_five on 21 Sep 2009

They said that about XP

Well they said pretty much all of that about XP OEM but it let me replace motherboard, RAM and CPU in one go without even requiring me to reregister (or maybe it did it automatically, but I certainly did not have to call anyone).

I seem to recall people on the internet saying that there were 7 tests, looking for changes in hardware items, and if you failed too many of them then it asked you to reregister and explain yourself! Also something about being able to change things every few months without it minding, just not liking you replacing too many things in too short a space of time (which would raise suspicions of software piracy).

Either way, all I'm saying is that it may not be as intrusive/tricky as they are making it sound. The approach is surely going to be more sophisticated than with XP, not less so (which is what always reregistering after a mobo replacement would imply).

By justposted on 24 Sep 2009

motherboard,hard disk,processor

In my system building day's to be eligible for oem we had to purchase these 3 components.

By SimFlash on 7 Oct 2009

What you can do Physically Vs Legally

The OEM license is tied to the first motherboard it is installed on.
If that motherboard is replaced under warranty then fine.
However any other change of motherboard and the license is no longer valid.
This is where we get to the "physically Vs Legally" part.
Legally as soon as you replace your motherboard your license is void.
Physically - just call up MS, tell them a lie and your OS will be reactivated.
Doesn't mean you're running license legal - quite the opposit in fact.

Compare this to the requirement of a driving license.
I have to have a driving license to drive a car on the road.
If I haven't got one, get into the car and turn the key it will still start, I can still physically drive it - just not legally.

Bottom line.
If you replace your motherboard with an OEM license and then get it "activated" by fair means or foul, you are no more legal than somebody who pirated their copy of the OS.

I know people don't want to hear this - but it's the truth.

By Stoofa on 13 Oct 2009

So let me understand if i have read this as correct.If the System you built has a motherboard Fail on it for what ever reason.You as the system Builder should be able to legally re register the OEM licence provided it happenes within the first year (IE the motherboard is under warrenty).Other than that an upgrade board after the orginal blows up is ethically wrong within the 1st year and wrong out side the 1 years MB warrenty? Is that correct

By Jaberwocky on 21 Oct 2009

So let me understand if i have read this as correct.If the System you built has a motherboard Fail on it for what ever reason.You as the system Builder should be able to legally re register the OEM licence provided it happenes within the first year (IE the motherboard is under warrenty).Other than that an upgrade board after the orginal blows up is ethically wrong within the 1st year and wrong out side the 1 years MB warrenty? Is that correct

By Jaberwocky on 21 Oct 2009

PC Pro?!

Or you could use Linux like any other competent person. Seriously why would you pay for an inferior product when you can get so much more for free?! Can so-called "PC Pros" refer to themselves as such and keep a straight face when they are apparently such complete idiots.

By Ryan31 on 25 Feb 2011

I bought a cheap OEM windows 7 product key at a store named "License Key Shop". It's really good!

By superrossg on 12 Feb 2012

Thank you for the information about licensekeyshop.com

Thank you for the information about licensekeyshop.com. it's very helpful!

By guesswhat on 24 Feb 2012

Is this still relevant and true today?

As things on the internet are there forever, I just wondered if the information in this article was still accurate and correct?

By CarlW on 8 Dec 2012

Windows 7

I've heard of recycling news to fill gaps in a publication but this???

By tyronet2000 on 19 Sep 2013

Windows 7?

Is this article an error or am I on board the Tardis?

By Pixie59 on 10 Oct 2013

internet

When reading on the internet it is always useful to check the date of posting in this case it says
"Posted on 15 Sep 2009 at 17:26"

By chiiirac on 4 Nov 2013

Ancient news

Why am I entertaining this stuff from 2009?

By Chewsy on 20 Feb 2014

Windows 7 Product Key

Microsoft give Windows 7 Product key Sticker with every Supported PC or Notebook, But When it lost by someone, he cannot get it again from Microsoft.
In this case, Everyone want to get a key from some other person or company, So I suggest you to get it from ODosta

By odosta on 26 Jun 2014

Where to buy Activation ID

You cannot use one key at multiple systems at the same time, until you have got a key for 3 users from Microsoft or its distributors in the world, such as; [haitusoft][1], [ODosta][2] etc.


[1]: http://haitusoft.com
[2]: http://odosta.com

By odosta on 23 Jul 2014

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