I have a desktop (HP) and a laptop (MacBook Pro). HP is currently running Vista Ultimate. (It came with Vista Premium; I formatted it and installed Vista Ultimate because I had a license for that on hand. A friend helpfully reformatted my restore partition.) MBP is running Mac OS X.VI with VMWare Fusion to Windows 7 RC.

I'd like to upgrade both to Win7 Ultimate. I've researched the OEM license and found it a bit frustrating - Microsoft seems not to like coming out and saying who's eligible to purchase and who isn't. However, it SEEMS that with Windows 7 anyone who's (a) building the computer themselves and (b) OK with having to provide their own support is eligible to buy and use an OEM license.

This brings me to my interesting question. Who's the builder of a virtualized PC image? Is it the person who installs the virtualization software (me)? Is it the builder of the hardware the image is run on? (Wouldn't that be interesting if you decided to run it on a different machine?) In short, am I eligible to purchase an OEM license to run under virtualization, or should I attempt to restore the original Vista Premium install on the HP from the OEM sticker, upgrade it to Windows 7 Premium, upgrade that to Ultimate with Anytime Upgrade, and move Vista Ultimate to the MBP (then upgrade it to Windows 7 Ultimate)?

(And if I am eligible to purchase an OEM license for running under VMWare, are there any pitfalls I should know about? Like the whole thing never working again if I upgrade my VMWare version?)

If you have an answer, please also cite its source, since I've been able to find a couple of places saying virtualization is allowed (and a couple of places saying it's disallowed) but none of them pointing to an official Microsoft source.

Please Note: SuperUser is NOT a legal resource, and any answers provided are not in any way guaranteed to be legally correct. For correct legal information it is recommended to consult a lawyer

  • As I see it, you can install it, Microsoft won't like it but they don't mind as long as you're licenced, and you won't get support.
    – user3463
    Jan 11, 2010 at 9:16
  • (re: Diago) Yes, that's why I amended my post to ask for sources to be cited. It can't hurt to clarify, though, so thank you.
    – Arkaaito
    Jan 11, 2010 at 11:05
  • Who cares? You paid for your software, if its not technically legal then copyright law is flawed.
    – user64910
    Apr 1, 2011 at 8:30
  • Remember that an OEM license is tied to the computer it's first activated on. If you lose your VM (due to accidental deletion, disk crash, etc.) and create a new one, Microsoft might not let you activate your OEM license on the replacement VM.
    – Wyzard
    Jul 11, 2012 at 23:29
  • 1
    @fax "I don't agree with the law" is neither a legal defense or a moral one
    – Mr. Boy
    Nov 12, 2014 at 11:51

3 Answers 3


Quoted from this thread Windows 7 licensing rights:

What license do you have? Retail, OEM, and Volume Licensing are all different.

Volume Licensing http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/springboard/archive/2009/08/06/windows-7-enterprise-edition-understanding-software-assurance-volume-licensing.aspx:

"Virtual OS Rights - Use up to four instances of Windows in virtual OS environments for each license that has active Software Assurance coverage." Notice that this appears under MDOP. "MDOP is an add-on subscription license"

You can find the retail and OEM EULAs here: http://www.microsoft.com/about/legal/useterms/default.aspx

As far as I know, since the days of Vista, Microsoft allowed running up to 4 virtual machines, as long as they use the same operating system and serial number as in the physical machine.


It's finally quite unclear what are the virtualization rights of a desktop Windows version, with conflicting opinions between authorities (even Microsoft). Finally, only a thorough examination of the EULA can maybe give some answer (and maybe not).

  • 2
    That thread is referring to Volume Licensing, the question is about OEM licensing. Best option would be to talk to a Microsoft-recommended shop and ask them about your options. Jan 11, 2010 at 10:31
  • 1
    Best option is to look at the OEM EULA, as recommended above.
    – harrymc
    Jan 11, 2010 at 10:45
  • Well, I looked at the page that I linked in my comment above ( oem.microsoft.com/public/sblicense/2008_sb_licenses/… ) ... The EULA seems like a great pointer, but when I tried to access the link at microsoft.com/about/legal/useterms/default.aspx and selected the OEM option, I got microsoft.com/about/legal/useterms/error.aspx - seems to be a generic error page. In addition, I'm pretty sure that the post quoted here only applies to MDOP / Software Assurance / whatever they're calling it nowadays.
    – Arkaaito
    Jan 11, 2010 at 11:09
  • 1
    @kaerast: 4 virtual machines offer is only valid for Windows Server family of products starting with Enterprise edition. Standard edition of Windows Server 2008 allows for one virtual machine and desktop Windows (including Vista and 7) do not have additional licences for virtualization. Jan 11, 2010 at 12:44
  • I was finally able to access the EULA page without errors, so I'm accepting this answer (since I think the EULA is the final authority here). The EULA does indeed seem to allow it, but there's enough FUD around this that I'm seriously reconsidering the dual-boot at all. I doubt this was the outcome Microsoft was looking for, but... :-)
    – Arkaaito
    Jan 29, 2010 at 3:50

I wrote to Microsoft and asked the question about OEM. They said it was ok.

This was the answer:

You can install it on your Mac as long as it not has been installed on another computer. When it comes to OEM, the license will be locked to that specific motherboard.

  • 1
    His original OEM license has been installed on another computer (the HP), and OEM is tied to a particular motherboard (in the HP). So it is not ok. Nov 26, 2015 at 10:17

It is not legal since OEM is connected to particular hardware. Except for Windows Server 2008, you cannot use OEM licence inside of virtual machines.

However, on practical side, it will work properly and you will not have any problem with Windows Update.

  • Okay. This is sort of what I would expect intuitively, but the OEM license agreement (at least the one available online at oem.microsoft.com/public/sblicense/2008_sb_licenses/…) doesn't mention virtualization anywhere, not even to disallow it. Then again, it also says that the software must be distributed preinstalled on a customer system, but that's been contradicted by Microsoft spokespersons elsewhere. Is there a separate document which I should be looking at, or have they announced it somewhere?
    – Arkaaito
    Jan 11, 2010 at 9:46
  • Take a look at: blogs.msdn.com/mssmallbiz/archive/2005/09/07/461950.aspx Jan 11, 2010 at 12:37
  • I'm just curious, why do you say "Except for Windows Server 2008"?
    – brunorey
    Aug 9, 2016 at 19:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.