Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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?

share|improve this question
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)

share|improve this answer
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

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.