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Microsoft changes the EULA for Windows 8 OEM versions

So if you’re building up your own PC, you have to make a choice as to which version of Windows you have to buy. Legally, you’re only supposed to load an OEM copy of the software onto a machine with new hardware that you’ve just bought (motherboard or hard drive) and keep it on that machine only. If your motherboard fries and you put in a new one, the system prompts you to activate it – most people just choose to reactivate it, since the assumption is that they bought the license and that its fine so long as it stays on one machine. Unlike DSP versions, which cannot be re-activated no matter how many times you try to activate it, OEMs can be reactivated so long as they stay on the same machine.

The downside to this is that the full-fat versions, the retail boxes, don’t have this limitation in the EULA, yet the software and activation process remains the same. Since many people don’t want to pay extra for the boxed copies, they buy the OEM versions to save money and ignore the EULA flat out. 

Microsoft knows this and its irked them for years. But now, they’re agreeing that its okay. In a recent change to the EULA spotted by ZDNET, there’s a change in the wording of the EULA for Windows 8 that allows people to run OEM versions of Windows on their home-built computers. From the EULA:

We do not sell our software or your copy of it – we only license it. Under our license, we grant you the right to install and run that one copy on one computer (the licensed computer) as the operating system on a computer that you build for your personal use, or as an additional operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition, subject to the restrictions outlined under “Are there things I’m not allowed to do with the software?”

You’re now allowed to use the OEM license on your computer, but you’re now also allowed to use that license to run Windows 8 in a virtual machine or as a separate OS on a partition on your drive. This change more targets people using Apple Macbooks and iMacs. The popular means of running Windows on Apple’s products is by using the free Bootcamp software, allowing you to dual-boot Windows and OS X on the same machine. People still bought and used OEM licenses for this but Microsoft picks that up in the activation process – it was still illegal from the point of view of Microsoft because their EULA expressly forbid it. You can now do this without the looming threat of legal repurcussions (not that I’m sure Microsoft would ever penalise a paying customer that pays for the software but doesn’t use it as they envisioned).

Also popular is the option to use Parallels on OS X, virtualising a Windows environment in the same way that XP Mode does on Windows 7. This is now acceptable according to the EULA and means that you now have Microsoft’s blessing to buy the cheaper OEM packs instead of the expensive retail ones. But there’s more to it than that.

When you activate your license through the internet, Microsoft takes note of what motherboard you’re using. So, what if you install Windows 8 64-bit onto your rig and then use Virtualbox to install a 32-bit version of Windows 8 using the same key? Theoretically, by going according to what the EULA says, you’re allowed to do this. Its still the same motherboard and computer and you’re still using the same key. Microsoft, however, sees a virtual machine as a separate computer on its own and will require you to buy an extra license for it. Bummer for the guys doing software development that need a virtualised environment for testing, then!

As the October launch nears I’ll be looking into this and more as I finish my second part of my Windows 8 review, with a third on the way to wrap things up. I also now have a key of my own to use and I expect that I’ll be installing Windows 8 as my primary OS in the next month or so.

Source: Tom’s Hardware, ZDNET

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