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Can I transfer a Windows 7 license to another computer?

If I have a computer which is physically damaged beyond practical repair, can I legally take the Product Key from that computer and use it to install the same Operating System on a new machine?

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    Welcome to the site. Here, we generally like questions to be as concise as possible, while still having enough information to be properly answerable. Please don't take offense to edits on your question. They're meant to help. – Iszi Mar 24 '11 at 20:50
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    another thing to consider is that many OEMs (ala Dell, HP, etc) put some protection in the install disc preventing you from installing it on a computer from another manufacturer. – Patrick Mar 24 '11 at 21:13
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    @Patrick - Good point. However, I was pleasantly surprised recently to see that the Dell OS disk was a pretty vanilla Windows install disk without any of the OEM crapware on it. (All of that was on a separate disk.) There may have been some usage protection going on in back that I didn't notice, but otherwise it was just like any other normal Windows install disk as far as operation went. – Iszi Mar 25 '11 at 0:22

That depends, if you have retail version of the OS then you can reinstall it on another system. If it is an OEM version that came with the computer then it is not okay to install it on another PC.

This FAQ page from Microsoft provides an extensive amount of information on OEM licensing.

EDIT: Per Johns request below I'll add that OSX can only be installed on Apple hardware, regardless of whether the OS came with the PC or was purchased retail.

  • You might want to add that OSX can only be used on Apple hardware. – John Mar 25 '11 at 2:52
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    Bear in mind that this only covers what Microsoft want, not the legal status. These aspects of the license may not be enforceable in your legal jurisdiction. Many EULAs contain provisions that have been ruled unenforceable in various jurisdictions. Unfortunately, in many countries only large companies with cash and lawyers can afford to get a legal opinion on these things. – Colin Pickard Mar 25 '11 at 10:37
  • IANAL, but I guess that installing on another machine would be legal in Germany, for example, since you didn't sign a contract before the purchase. This assumes that you are only using it on one machine at a time, and therefore not covered by copyright law. Of course it is quite likely that Microsoft will refuse to activate the OS on new hardware, but that's another issue. – Colin Pickard Mar 25 '11 at 10:42

You can have two types of licenses on your OS (and other software/hardware), that is:

  1. OEM

    An original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, manufactures products or components that are purchased by a company and retailed under that purchasing company's brand name.[ref 1] OEM refers to the company that originally manufactured the product. When referring to automotive parts, OEM designates a replacement part made by the manufacturer of the original part. source - wikipedia

    basicly it means that OEMs are always sold with computers bought in supermarekts - ready bundles and it can't be transfered anywhere. You can only change some parts - not entire pc

  2. BOX or Full

    This one gives you a free hand at changing destination computer as many times as you want.


Generally, no. The license that comes with most computers is non-transferrable.

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    It's a little more complicated than that. – ChrisF Mar 24 '11 at 21:13
  • @ChrisF Can you name a major brand that sells consumer laptops with a transferable license of Windows? – Hyppy Mar 24 '11 at 22:40
  • not everyone buys branded PC's, and not everyone who does has the original copy of Windows on it. They may have upgraded from XP to Vista for instance. – Matthew Scharley Mar 25 '11 at 0:54

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