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How does Windows 7 licensing work for running the OS as Virtual Machines?

To sum things up:

  • I have bought Windows 7 Professional (OEM license)
  • It's installed on my laptop
  • Am I allowed to create virtual machines, using any freely available virtualization software, and use Windows 7 Professional with the same license key on them as well? Does it make a difference if it's an OEM license or not?
  • I would use the laptop to run the virtualization software.

Why?

  • To try out software on a virtual instance and not risk cluttering my main OS install
  • It might be a nice way to separate concerns

In my experience there are a lot of rumors and speculations concerning license issues. Please do not answer based on a feeling. I'm interested in answers from people who have investigated this, by carefully reading the license agreement or by contacting Microsoft.

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marked as duplicate by Mokubai, KronoS, avirk, Dave Rook, Diago Jan 11 '13 at 11:52

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.

    
I'm dubious about the title. If you're an administrator and has a better one feel free to improve it! –  Deleted Jan 9 '13 at 12:56
    
The title doesn't exactly match the question, and I'm curious about which one you intended to ask. 'Am I allowed to...' and 'Does the license allow me to...' can have two very different answers. –  Marcks Thomas Jan 9 '13 at 13:19
    
Here is a link to free Windows virtual machines in VirtualPC format, which can be converted to vbox for example): microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=11575 You can freely use them to test said applications without cluttering your own install. –  Shadok Jan 10 '13 at 15:18
    
@MarcksThomas: I added another bullet under "To sum things up". Did it make things less confusing? Could you please elaborate on why the title doesn't match what I want to ask? –  Deleted Jan 10 '13 at 23:37
    
@Mokubai: Well they're certainly similar. My question concerns Windows 7 Professional and the possible duplicate is about Windows 7 Ultimate. Theoretically their EULAs could be different, I don't know if they are. –  Deleted Jan 10 '13 at 23:39
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1 Answer

up vote 12 down vote accepted

The answer is no.

From the Windows 7 licence agreement available at www.microsoft.com, section 3 "ADDITIONAL LICENSING REQUIREMENTS AND/OR USE RIGHTS":

d. Use with Virtualization Technologies. 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.

Note the "instead of" part. If you use the licence to install Windows in a VM, you may not use it for a second Windows installation on the physical computer.

This applies to both OEM and retail licences.

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1  
Thanks for an excellent and informative answer! :-) I wish they would have been a bit more generous though. –  Deleted Jan 9 '13 at 13:10
    
The quote from the license agreement specifies a few conditions under which the licensee is allowed to use the software on a virtual machine, but does not forbid usage outside of these conditions and therefore does not back your conclusion, which may nonetheless be true. Even if skipping over them might normally be appropriate, these details are fairly important in a legal question. –  Marcks Thomas Jan 9 '13 at 13:31
1  
@MarcksThomas - I think Indrek did a good job pointing out that a Windows license can be used in a virtual machine or a physical machine but the license does not grant the use of the same license on both at the sametime. –  Ramhound Jan 9 '13 at 13:36
    
@MarcksThomas IMHO, the "instead of" part makes it pretty clear that this is an either-or deal - you can run your copy of Windows either directly on the licensed computer, or in a VM, but not both. The user only has the rights explicitly described in the EULA, and since the quoted section of the EULA is the only one that concerns virtualisation, I'm not sure what exactly you think I skipped over. –  Indrek Jan 9 '13 at 13:44
1  
@Indrek: You did say that, but it is not entirely true. 'Instead of' does exclude option A in the sense that the permission described thereafter is only valid if option A is dismissed. That however, does not rule out the possibility both option A and B are allowed simultaneously. It merely rules out that, if both are indeed allowed, the permission for option B follows from the quoted paragraph. The permission can be derived elsewhere without contradictions. –  Marcks Thomas Jan 9 '13 at 19:22
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