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My work computer is a Linux desktop with a Windows 7 virtual machine for Visual Studio and IE testing. I'm very picky, and I don't want to configure two Windows installs... but I can't think of a way to do this without running afoul of Windows activation.

I've already set up VirtualBox to run my VM off a physical hard drive, and grub isn't too hard to configure. But it'd be a waste of time without solving the activation problem.

Is there any way I can boot into a single install of Windows as a virtual machine and on actual hardware without having to reactivate (until I'm eventually flagged as a pirate) every time I switch between the two? Is there any MS-endorsed way to use a single installed license with two sets of hardware?

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I'm going to guess no. (and all it is is a guess) As for why; because they are MS. – BCS May 7 '10 at 19:47
I'm not super optimistic that there's a way to do this and stay valid... but there's always a chance. I'm still hoping someone here has experience with this sort of thing. – ojrac May 7 '10 at 20:11
I haven't used VirtualBox but in VMware Workstation I would use snapshots to overcome this limitation. Create a base system and activate it and create a snapshot. Then create two more snapshots based of the first one and configure them independently of each other. – Mike Fitzpatrick May 8 '10 at 1:23
Does that mean reverting the hard drive to a vm-registered snapshot before opening the VM, and a direct-boot snapshot before booting? Does that help share one install? – ojrac May 10 '10 at 17:34
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Per the Windows license, it technically treats VM's as a separate machine; so regardless you'd need to 'technically' buy 2 licenses, some links for possible help:

On a side note, if you've already activated the VM and you go to active the 'hard iron' you won't be flagged as you're allowed a certain number of 'hardware' changes (with limitation) but both the physical and virtual machines could be run side by side after activation without being 'flagged' ... it's just a violation of MS's license agreement (whatever that might mean to a particular individual) .. I've personally done it numerous times in some field testing of some applications (though I also drop the VM when I don't need it anymore)

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Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your experience. It figures that the licensing is at least as complicated as the tech. – ojrac Dec 16 '13 at 19:46

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