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I'm planning on building my own PC with the help of a friend, and after reading through this article, it seems that I need to purchase a System Builder licence. Does this mean that I should not buy Windows 8 Pro for this pc, I should rather specifically buy the System Builder version?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

As per Windows 8: The end of the full retail version?, Microsoft is no longer planning to sell full retail versions of Windows 8. Instead end users can now buy the upgrade versions and also the OEM/System Builder versions if they so choose.

As per Windows 8 pricing for system builders said to be roughly the same as Windows 7 and What are the cheapest and easiest upgrade paths to Windows 8?:

You want to install Windows 8 on a new PC that you built or bought that did not include a Windows license.

You can preorder an OEM [aka System Builder] copy of Windows 8 that includes Personal Use Rights. Two weeks before the Windows 8 launch, those prices are around $100 for Windows 8 and $140 for Windows 8 Pro.

However, I recommend waiting until October 26 to see what price Microsoft offers on downloadable full licenses. I suspect that during the promotional period the discount will be significant.

Thus you can either buy:

  1. Upgrade version of Windows 8 (Standard)

  2. Upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro

  3. OEM/System Builder version of Windows 8 (Standard)

  4. OEM/System Builder version of Windows 8 Pro

  5. Windows RT (will only be available pre-installed on ARM-based devices)

  6. Windows 8 Enterprise (will only be available to Software Assurance customers, as well as MSDN and Technet Professional subscribers)

Only #3 and 4 will really be of use for a new PC without a valid license for either XP/Vista/Windows 7. #1 and 2 can be clean installed as per this article, but you will initially need to use the Upgrade Assistant to qualify the PC, which means you'll need a valid genuine key for XP/Vista/Windows 7 at hand (plus according to reports the old OS does need to be installed as well).

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It should be noted that the personal use licence is NOT the same as the OEM licence. The personal use licence has more or less the same terms as the previous retail licences, especially in transferral of licence and support from Microsoft. – Bob Oct 28 '12 at 17:21
@Bob - There isn't a personal license. – Ramhound Oct 29 '12 at 19:55
@Ramhound What are you on about? I linked to a licence called the "Personal Use License", hosted by Microsoft themselves. – Bob Oct 29 '12 at 19:58

In practice the 'system builder' or OEM version is simply a discounted version with less packaging, and no support. Its meant for sale with new PCs, and yes, you can install it on a new PC (and only a new PC as per licence).

Retail is slightly more expensive, and you can install it on anything system, new build or existing pc as per the licence. There is no longer a retail version, only a personal use licence that works with the system builder version

Both are the same software sold through different retail channels - think of one as a 'wholesale' version and the other is 'retail' but they're both the same OS. You can get a System Builder Windows 8 professional copy or upgrade. The only change here is that previously you could not transfer a system builder licence between your own systems, now you can. This would not effect you in any way, and brings this licence in line with the retail licence

As this is a new build, the system builder licence would be a better choice since its lower cost, and you can get a professional edition with that licence. Retail editions would work identically, and just have a nicer box.

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See article I linked to for end of retail version sale. Seems the volumes were too low so they simply decided to make the OEM versions available to end users. – Karan Oct 25 '12 at 7:02
in which case, what edition she gets is a moot point. There's only really one option. Still 'pro' vs 'system builder' feels like a moot point here. – Journeyman Geek Oct 25 '12 at 7:06
Precisely, for end users to install it's either an upgrade or the OEM version of Standard/Pro. RT will come pre-installed, and Enterprise of course is not for end users. Makes things so much easier compared to earlier, eh? :) EDIT: It's not Pro vs. System Builder, but Upgrade Pro vs. System Builder Pro. So only one choice for a new PC without an OS. – Karan Oct 25 '12 at 7:09
I wonder if upgrade pro will install without a pre-existing OS though. I recall some of the older editions doing that, which confused things more. Its nice to have less versions to consider tho. – Journeyman Geek Oct 25 '12 at 7:12
Upgrade Pro can indeed be clean installed, but at the beginning of the install the system will need to be qualified with a valid/genuine XP/7 key. – Karan Oct 25 '12 at 7:14

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