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Is it OK to Use OEM Windows on Your Own PC? Don't Ask Microsoft

While researching my most recent article, No OEM For You: Windows 7 OEM Packaging is Not For Individuals, I ran into an issue that I should have foreseen: Microsoft's licensing reads like the Dead Sea Scrolls and you need to be an expert in Aramaic to understand it. I don't speak this EULA language, but I know someone who does, Ed Bott. And coincidentally, but not surprisingly, he was actually working on his own post about the OEM versions of Windows 7 when I pinged him. And as he promised, his own more thorough post is now available. It's a must-read.

If Microsoft expects its customers to take license agreements seriously, it has a responsibility to communicate the terms of those agreements to its customers clearly and unambiguously. As I noted earlier this month, Microsoft does a generally poor job of explaining its complicated rules for how Windows licensing works. But I deliberately left one type of Windows license off that list, because it deserves its own special place in the Corporate Communications Hall of Shame.

I’m talking about OEM System Builder licenses for Windows desktop editions. If you look at any online shopping site that caters to PC enthusiasts, you’ll find these copies displayed alongside the upgrade and full license packages that Microsoft says retail customers are supposed to buy.

According to Microsoft, [those who] bought that software and installed it on their own new (or old) PC ... are violating the terms of the OEM System Builder license agreement, which says, in convoluted language, that you must install the software using the OEM Preinstallation Kit and then resell the PC to a third party. If you install that software on your own PC, you don’t have a “genuine” copy of Windows.

Be sure to check out the full post which, thanks to Microsoft's secretive practices, reads like a Dan Brown mystery, except of course that Ed's post is well-written and has to do with EULAs, and not the Masons. You get the idea.

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