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Back a couple years ago when Windows 7 was first rolling out, I recall some noise about all but the Super Galactic Ultimate editions being impossible to run in a virtual environment (like VMWare or, in my case, VirtualBox). This older question says "any version" but it also says "commercial license", and I don't know what that means.

I'll phrase the question this way, therefore: I'm running Linux, and I've got VirtualBox. I have no license (or even media) for Windows 7 at all. If I drive over to a retailer to buy a copy of Windows 7 with the intention of running it in VirtualBox, what version do I need to buy? I don't need any OS features other than the ability to run newer IE versions (9 and 10 etc), so things like networking limitations or server features are completely unimportant. Obviously what I'd prefer is to buy the cheapest thing I possibly can.

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If you do cross browser testing, you may have a look at this article coding.smashingmagazine.com/2011/09/02/… –  Maxime R. Dec 6 '11 at 17:57
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You could in theory use a trial version of Windows 7. I do believe a single instance is good for 180 days. If all you are doing is testing this might be a possible solution. –  Ramhound Dec 6 '11 at 18:04
    
If you attend a University or are employed by a large company, you may want to contact your IT department and ask whether you can obtain a license through them. This would usually be much cheaper than a retail license. –  William Jackson Dec 6 '11 at 21:49
    
@WilliamJackson thanks - I don't attend school and I work for a teeny tiny company :-) –  Pointy Dec 6 '11 at 22:09

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You can look up the license terms for an version of Windows 7 at this Microsoft site.

All full retail versions of Windows 7 include this clause in the license terms:

Instead of using the software directly on the licensed computer, you may install and use the software within only one virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed computer.

You need to buy a Full version (not an Upgrade version) because you are not upgrading an existing version of Windows. At this writing, Windows 7 Home Premium is $200 at the Microsoft Store.

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Why does he need Home Premium. If all he is interested in is running IE9 all he needs is the cheapest version. Beyond the additional features like media center the versions are exactly the same. The only different is if he needs language packs, then he has to pay more, otherwise its a complete waste of money. –  Ramhound Dec 6 '11 at 18:06
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@Ramhound Home Premium is the cheapest version available in the US. Home Basic is only available in "emerging markets" (whatever that means), and Starter is only available to OEMs. –  William Jackson Dec 6 '11 at 18:50
    
OK then, thank you so much. –  Pointy Dec 6 '11 at 19:17

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