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I have recently purchased a Windows laptop with the intention of installing Linux on it. My question is about the existing Windows installation (note that as an ultrabook, my shiny new computer does not have a CD drive, so I don't know what the recovery media is).

I would rather not dual boot, but will have occasional reasons to use Windows, so I see 2 options, both of which involve a VM:

  1. Use a VM to point to the Windows partition as in this post.
  2. Install Linux as the only OS and then install Windows as a guest in e.g. VirtualBox.

I can see how to do #1 (and I can also see some of the potential problems that will come from multiple OSes reading the same partition).

About #2: if I completely wipe the HDD and install Linux only, can I use the Windows serial # to install a copy of Windows (8.1 to be specific) as a VM? Or will I have some issue, even though it is a legitimate serial #?

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    The Windows 8.1 license you have is an OEM license, and is tied to the motherboard. The VM has different hardware, and you won't be able to activate Windows with the same license. – and31415 Mar 18 '14 at 11:23
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    @and31415 That's quite irritating. If I understand you and FAQ correctly, in order to do option 2 I would have to buy a new license, b/c that copy of Windows would not be tied to any existing computer. Is that right? – learner Mar 18 '14 at 11:33
  • @learner That's right: a VM counts as a whole new machine. The easiest way to preserve your license is to dual boot, indeed. – and31415 Mar 18 '14 at 11:42
  • @and31415 OK, thanks. Would you mind writing this up as an answer so I can accept it? – learner Mar 18 '14 at 11:47
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OEM license

No. The Windows 8.1 license you have is an OEM license, and is tied to the motherboard. The VM has different hardware, and counts as a whole new machine. This means you won't be able to activate Windows using the same license. The easiest way to preserve your activation is to dual boot, indeed.

OEM licenses are single-use licenses that cannot be installed on more than one computer system, even if the original machine is no longer in use.

Generally, an end user can upgrade or replace all of the hardware components on a computer—except the motherboard—and still retain the license for the original Microsoft OEM operating system software. If the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons other than a defect, then a new computer has been created. Microsoft OEM operating system software cannot be transferred to the new computer, and the license of new operating system software is required.

Source: Licensing FAQ

References

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