I want to purchase a brand new Toshiba or Lenovo laptop with the aim of formatting the hard drive, installing Ubuntu Linux OS and using the Windows OS as a Virtualbox virtual machine.

Would doing this invalidate the warranty that comes with these laptops?

Additionally, is it possible to legally use the Windows OS as a virtual machine, rather than on the HD?


no, installing a different operating system will not void the warranty. however, you may not be entitled to driver and software related technical support if you're using another OS.

and no, it would not be legal to use an OEM license with a virtual machine as it is technically speaking a different computer with different hardware (although virtualized).

  • If he uses a different OS/CD-Key on his laptop then wouldn't it be legal? I thought the only illegal part would be to use it in multiple computers. If he is going to format his computer than the VM would be the only instance of the OEM installation.
    – Juice
    Dec 27 '09 at 16:56
  • 1
    the OEM installation has been activated with the original hardware, so installing windows with the same key it will fail the activation on a VM and you cannot legally use it.
    – Molly7244
    Dec 27 '09 at 16:59
  • Would getting a new CD-Key be the equivalent to purchasing a whole new licence? As Luminose mentioned, I would only be using the Windows OS as a single instance.
    – nitbuntu
    Dec 27 '09 at 17:00
  • yes, technically speaking, you will have to to purchase a new license if you want to use Windows in a virtual machine. there are different scenarios for various retail versions of Windows, but the rules on OEM licenses are very strict.
    – Molly7244
    Dec 27 '09 at 17:03
  • One more thing. Does the same hold true for Apple Macbooks and Mac OSX?
    – nitbuntu
    Dec 27 '09 at 17:05

I personally think it's a grey area. If the manufacturer doesn't support that specific version of the OS you're installing, they could very well deny honoring your support contract. I'm almost certain if you read the agreement, you'll find something of that nature. There has been evidence that an OS managing the hardware it's running on incorrectly can cause hardware failures.

I would suggest making a clone of the OS the laptop shipped with and storing it somewhere, so if you ever do have to send it in for hardware repairs, you can put it back to it's original state assuming the hard drive isn't the problem and you have another computer to do the clone.

As far as Apple hardware is concerned, I think if you show up at the Genius Bar dual-booting Ubuntu, you're going to get turned away.

  • Or how about me removing the hard drive altogether and keeping it safe as a backup? I could slot in a new HD, install what I like on it, and if any problems do come up, I could just slot the original HD back in?
    – nitbuntu
    Dec 28 '09 at 15:36
  • That would solve this particular issue, but then you would get the whole "oh, you removed a part so it must be invalid" thing, which might cause some trouble. Jun 22 '12 at 18:37

While I (nor anyone else here unless they actually work for the companies in question) can gaurantee the accuracy of this answer. If you have a warranty question, it's best that you call the manufacturer and speak with a manager (the people answering the phones usually have a script and can't (or are afraid) to deviate from it).

That said, companies will LIKELY deny you certain support if you are not using the OS the computer shipped with. They COULD (and some will) tell you to reinstall the OS that came with the system and then they will help you. Certain things that are obviously OS independent and/or can be tested using manufacturer supported utilities will likely be fine (running a manufacturer supported boot CD to test the Hard Drive, for example. Other things, like why the screen won't run above 640x480, may require the original OS.

As for virtualizing the OEM license, it is prohibited. Microsoft doesn't permit OEM licenses to be run in virtual environments.

  • Does anyone know of any Laptop manufacturer which has a reasonably liberal service agreement. I want to purchase a business-grade laptop, but don't want to be left with no support for any hardware problems that could come up. Software support is obviously not something I would expect. What if the hardware is 'certified' to run with Linux. For example, the Toshiba Tecra A10 is 'certified' by Canonical to run on Ubuntu 9.04:- webapps.ubuntu.com/certification/list/….
    – nitbuntu
    Dec 28 '09 at 11:24
  • Dell offers some models of business laptops with Ubuntu. I believe Lenovo does too. And while there is a definite possibility with having the manufacturer's support people deny you hardware assistance when troubleshooting a problem if you aren't using the originally included OS, I would expect Dell to be lenient. And you can always hang up and try back tomorrow. Dec 29 '09 at 7:41
  • In England it appears that there are no business laptops with Ubuntu being sold. I only see a couple of models which are netbooks.
    – nitbuntu
    Dec 29 '09 at 16:09

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