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When installing Windows 7 or Vista, does the language, version, architecture (64-bit or 32-bit) or source (OEM, retail, or MSDN) matter?

I've purchased a retail license of Windows 7 Ultimate for my machine at home.

I'm thinking of creating a dual-boot install:

  • 64-bit install for work apps (need the RAM for virtual machines and RAMDisk)
  • 32-bit install for entertainment apps (Media Centre, games, etc)

How does retail licensing work in such situations?
Can I activate the same license on both installations?


I would like to add that I want to have separate partitions for work and play.

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marked as duplicate by nhinkle Jul 4 '11 at 6:36

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Game will work better with more RAM, so 64 bit for games would be better. I see no arguments to not go fully in 64 bit. – Michael B. Aug 31 '09 at 20:45
Aren't the 64-bit and 32-bit installation discs sold separately? You would get seperate keys in this case, but in the case of the RTM, the codes worked on either version, so it'll likely be the case on the final version. Don't install both though if you don't have to. 64-bit works fine for everything, including games. I've been using it for months and have never had a "32-bit issue". – Will Eddins Aug 31 '09 at 20:57
64bit and 32bit are only separated for OEM versions (or were for Vista) all the data is on the disc for all versions, the serial number just changes what gets installed. – salmonmoose Sep 1 '09 at 9:58
@Livinloud: Some games I own don't support 64-bit OS – Arnold Zokas Sep 1 '09 at 11:21
@ArnieZ: 32-bit apps will run under the 64-bit version of Windows. – Powerlord Sep 1 '09 at 14:40
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Who knows. The EULA which will determine this has not yet officially been published by Microsoft.

Can I activate the same license on both installations?

Looking at the EULA for Vista, yes and no.

Technically, yes. Because the activation wizard will see that you are installing onto the same machine it should activate without question.

Legally, no. You are only permitted to have one single copy installed at any given time.

Really interesting article here for bedtime reading although it does only apply to Vista. Again, no official word on the 7 EULA yet.

How does retail licensing work in such situations?

Retail boxes will come with a single key that activates both the 32-bit and the 64-bit flavours. You simply select the 32-bit or 64-bit version during the installation process.

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Thanks for your input. I will ask the same question on Microsoft forums and see what response they provide. – Arnold Zokas Sep 1 '09 at 11:25
If you use RAID, you already have two installations. I don't think it counts as two. – Andrew J. Brehm Sep 1 '09 at 12:25
How does Microsoft Vista talk about partitions vis-a-vis machines? Some EULA clarify in their language that one system partition=one machine. I ask because I don't know. :) – techtechmo Sep 14 '09 at 13:33

I was once told by Microsoft support that what mattered was that Windows had a per-seat licensing model. This meant that a single copy of (consumer) Windows is only meant to be accessible to one person at a time.

So by extrapolation, I read the situation thus:

  • Dual boot ought to be fine as you're not running both instances at the same time.
  • VM-style situations where you can have both running at the same time is naughty


  • This conversation was held back in the early days of XP whilst setting up my parent's PC so Microsoft have had plenty of time to change the rules.
  • When the feds come to arrest you for denying Uncle Bill licensing revenue I will disavow all knowledge of ever having discussed this matter ;-)
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Thanks for your input. I will double-check. – Arnold Zokas Sep 1 '09 at 13:23

I would like to add that I want to have separate partitions for work and play.

Wouldn't it make more sense just to create two seperate user accounts, install all your work software on one at the user level (so its not accessible to the other) and install all your play software on the other. Then you'd have one copy of Windows, one license, any software you need on both accounts you could install as admin and you'd be making the most of your resources.

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I need 64-bit for work apps (to get 16GB RAM). I need 32-bit to run some games that wont run in 64-bit (for example: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic). – Arnold Zokas Sep 1 '09 at 14:53

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