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Say that I'd recently purchased 10 PCs from a retailer, but ordered them without any OEM operating systems, am I then at a later date allowed to go back to the same retailer and purchase 10 copies of OEM Windows, and legally install them on those PCs, or can I only legally use OEM copies of Windows that were purchased at the same time as the computer?

I would have thought I couldn't do this after the event, but if that is the case, why do many retailers (including big companies such as Dell) allow consumers to purchase OEM copies of Windows via their website without purchasing any hardware at the same time?

If there are any constraints, (e.g. you only have a limited time in which you can do this), what are they?

Edit: Additional Background Info (although, this makes the question more suitable for SF now)...

I'm about to enter a Microsoft Open Value Licensing Agreement, but all the OS licenses available under OVL are upgrade only. So I either go back to the supplier (Dell, as it happens) and purchase OEM copies, or I purchase the cheapest retail OS I can find that I can legally upgrade to Windows 7 Pro. I expect I can get OEM copies cheaper, but I need to ensure that whatever option I choose, that the business is license compliant.

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In the past I've gone back to a major UK on-line retailer and retrospectively purchased OEM software for just-purchased PCs without any problems - but whether I should have been able to do this is something I didn't question! –  Linker3000 Feb 11 '11 at 0:34
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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I work for an MS OEM, so I'll share my understanding of this according to our experiences, including selling single OEM copies without hardware. Hopefully it'll make sense. ;)

As an OEM you can sell the OEM version as part of the system sold up to 30 days after the hardware has been sold (to help avoid "whoops I forgot to order Windows with this" scenarios). So even though it was sold after the fact, it still becomes 'part of the system' and the OEM who sold you the equipment will be taking on the responsibility of supporting that OEM copy of Windows.

You have always been able to buy OEM packs of Windows as an 'end-user' without hardware, but they used to only come in like 10 and 30 packs, so most end-users wouldn't buy those packs. More recently (last couple/few years) they (MS) started producing a "1-pack" so that it became more attractive to small OEMs.

The thing is, when you buy a single OEM copy like that (or a 10 pack, etc.) it will be sealed, and by breaking that seal you agree to become the "OEM" supplier for that copy of Windows, and are responsible for supporting it yourself (ie: no free MS help if you have problems), and ensuring it's legally distributed (if you resell it).

One of our hardware customers is a large university and so we deal with Open Volume Licensing quite a bit, and since it requires a preexisting OS they (currently) buy 7 Home Basic OEM with their machines as it's the cheapest, and it can legally be used as the base OS to upgrade to the OVL Windows 7 version.

So we sell it to them with Home Basic, but we install Enterprise for them before delivery as an extra service. 'Home' never actually touches the hardware (aside from the OEM stickers, which we HAVE to apply by the OEM re-sale rules). And this procedure has all been blessed by Microsoft. :)

Anyway, if you bought the machines less than 30-days ago you should be able to go back to the OEM and get the order 'amended' or alike to include the OEM copies of Windows. But since you are just replacing the OEM license with OVL, you might as well just buy a 10-pack and call yourself the OEM. :)

Hope that helps...

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They would depend on the contract the OEM has with M$. You may find out these limits when you add the OEM copy you saw in the store to the checkout.

If it's a generally viewable item (ie not after logging in to an account that has bought things), then I'd expect no time limit. But do you really want to be buying OEM copies? If there is any difference at all, its crapware.

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I'm about to enter a Microsoft Open Value Licensing Agreement, but all the OS licenses available under OVL are upgrade only. So I either go back to the supplier (Dell, as it happens) and purchase OEM copies, or I purchase the cheapest retail OS I can find that I can legally upgrade to Windows 7 Pro. I expect I can get OEM copies cheaper, but I need to ensure that whatever option I choose, that the business is license compliant. –  Bryan Feb 11 '11 at 0:15
    
@Bryan look at Dell's business store if you must have OEM. –  tobylane Feb 11 '11 at 11:27
    
Many thanks. I've done just that! –  Bryan Feb 11 '11 at 13:19
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Say that I'd recently purchased 10 PCs from a retailer, but ordered them without any OEM operating system, am I then at a later date allowed to then go back to the same retailer and purchase 10 copies of OEM Windows, and legally install them on those PCs

Yes. But sometimes you're required to purchase OEM software with the hardware.

I would have thought I couldn't, but if that is the case, why do many retailers (including big companies such as Dell) allow consumers to purchase OEM copies of Windows via their website without purchasing any hardware?

Re-installations, upgrades, and it's good business. They (the retailer) usually have a deal with Microsoft to purchase licenses and software in bulk, for consumer resale.

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Be careful with OEM versions if you plan on using any form of MS distribution. Buried in the fine print, you'll find that no MS imaging or distribution mechanisms are supported with the OEM version of the OS.

What this could mean is that those OEM licenses aren't viable for upgrade for the purposes of OVL. Your best bet will be to talk to your MS rep and find out ahead of time. Either they'll be able to punch those OEM licenses into the system or they won't - and it's MS: if they cared about whether you were going to use OEM licenses, they'll have made it impossible. If it's possible, they don't care and they'll tell you.

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Thanks Kara, I'm told the OEM licenses are fine for OVL upgrade operating systems. –  Bryan Feb 11 '11 at 13:19
    
Good to hear. I had a bad experience trying to deploy OEM XP licenses with WDS, but maybe I'm one of the few who thought that would work. ;) –  Kara Marfia Feb 13 '11 at 19:25
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