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Licensing my firm's Linux / OS X Computers with Windows 8 Pro - proving impossible....

Posted on 2013-01-24
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-02-01
You would think Microsoft don't want me to consider using their latest OS in our workplace. We have a total of about 15 systems at my firm that are not licensed for Windows. Some are Macs (and have not run Windows to date) and some are PCs we bought previously, that came with a distribution of Linux.

My request is simple - I want to legimately license these 15 systems with Windows 8 Pro. I don't mind how we do it (or, within reason, what we pay), but it's looking impossible to do.

Before now, I would have splashed out for a new retail box license of Windows. But Microsoft have axed this option. Now they just have the upgrade licenses (which I note are limited to 5 PCs in the enterprise: see terms at bottom of page here) and OEM licenses. I read the OEM licenses can be used also as 'personal' licenses, but Microsoft are clear in their terms that, again, you may only do this in a corporate setting on 5 PCs:

"If you are using the software as an operating system for commercial use, you may not license more than five copies of the software for such commercial use in total (and each copy of the software must be separately licensed)."

So what about my other 10 remaining unlicensed systems?

Open License is no better, as the Win 8 Pro licenses here can be bought in any quantity, but require a valid license of some form of Windows already linked to the PC in question. They are another form of upgrade, and these computers I have are not in any way licensed for older versions of Windows.

I find this whole business baffling - I've searched on and off for hours, and to the letter of the law I cannot see a way to sensibly license these systems legitimately. Microsoft are almost saying to me "buy a new PC with Windows 8, or stick with your Linux". You can guess the direction I'm thinking.....

The only two ways I can think around it is that I buy the PCs off my firm, 'refurb' them, install Windows 8 Pro and license as an OEM, and then 'sell' them back to my firm. As a system builder (which I genuinely am) I guess this is a legit process, but crazy! Alternative is I buy cheapest retail copy of Windows 7, and upgrade it to Win 8 Pro through Open License. This is more costly than I ideally care for. Can anyone think of a better way around this madness?

Cheers guys :)
Question by:bluemercury
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LVL 84

Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 38817074
Yes, that is baffling.  Why do you want to license your Linux machines?  They don't require anything from Microsoft.  Are you wanting to run Windows 8 on them?  That's not something I would recommend if you have not used it before.
LVL 98

Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 38817076
I can see Windows 8 Pro OEM licensing that can go on a computer not running Windows, so you should be able to do that.


A Windows OEM license can be used on any computer that will run it. However (a) the license cannot be further transferred and (b) Microsoft does not supply any support. But it should work. I have definitely done it with Windows 7 but the link above says it should work for Windows 8.

.... Thinkpads_User
LVL 37

Expert Comment

ID: 38818157
OS X is a valid upgrade source to Windows Volume licences.

If the Linux computers were supplied with OEM Windows licences (such as virtually all HP/Dell/IBM computers) they would be a valid source for a Volume Licence

The limit of 5 upgrades that you mention, is not a total limit, above 5 you need to contact a reseller, as opposed to PC World etc.

If the Linux computers have never had a Windows licence, then you would be correct in that there is no direct path using only Windows 8 to become licensed.  However I presume that this is just a "thought experiment"

You could try contacting a Microsoft reseller, or even contacting Microsoft...
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Author Comment

ID: 38818611
Thanks for all your comments guys, I really appreciate you trying to help.

Response in order:

DaveBaldwin - for simplicity, I didn't give the full picture on our current setup. The systems came with Linux or Mac OS X, but we never used these OSs. We instead used some Windows licenses from the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS) as the company I work for full time arguably supplied IT services to other companies at the time, and still are a registered Microsoft Partner (this lapses in March). With the reduction in work, this sideline business has kind of ceased. The MAPs Win Client licenses are only 'upgrade' licenses anyway, so I've always been conscious we have a license issue to resolve.

I myself am an MCSE and have worked with Microsoft solutions all my working life - so actually a switch to Linux would be painful, if somewhat appealing in some other respects. Windows 8 is testing out well with my firm's wider software, the only issue being the removal of the start menu, which I have back with a cheap $4.99 investment in Start8 (per system).

Thinkpads_User - the link you gave is about the upgrade, as far as I can see. Regarding the OEM license, from all I have read there seems to have been significant changes to elements of how Microsoft dictate licensing now. The article at MS I quoted suggested that OEM licenses can be bought as 'personal licenses' but only up to 5 systems.

ArneLovius - Very interested by your comments. First, could you provide a link that actually details OS X as a valid upgrade source for Windows 8? I've heard this before, but never found documentation that confirms it. That will be two licenses sorted through Open License straight away as upgrades, if I can see documentation that allows this.

Regarding the 5 upgrade licenses, as I run a separate business in my own right as a Microsoft Partner, is there a path for my client to buy the boxed upgrade license (£49.99 in the UK, but given access to both architectural versions) through me? And what about the download copy?

As for the systems truly unlicensed with nothing Windows already, it looks increasingly like I will have to find a convoluted way of refurbing and reselling of the units through my business, just to get them licenses with OEM software under that agreement.

This is no thought expiriment. I'd love to embrance open source more (I do where I can), but some of our mission critical apps are very much built on Microsoft frameworks (particularly .NET and IIS) , and it would be impossible at this moment in time to make such a drastic switch. We will be a MS shop for a long time. I did consider switching to a Hyper-V based VDI, but that brought about even more licensing woes, some of which Microsoft couldn't even answer with clarity themselves.

I have got very frustrated just trying to do the honest thing!

Any further thoughts or answers to above greatly appreciated :)

Author Comment

ID: 38818673
LVL 98

Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 38818676
I have got very frustrated just trying to do the honest thing!

Of course! We are not suggesting anything not honest.

The link I provided has a link on the right for a full version of Windows 8. Unfortunately it is only for OEM which I noted and which has limitations.

I did not know there was a limitation of 5 units. I didn't think Microsoft cared so long as the licenses were used once on one computer.

I agree with the suggestion to contact Microsoft for clarity.

My own experience is that computers old enough to be pre-Windows 7  are due for replacement, so we get new systems for clients with either Windows 7 or Windows 8 but that licensing is supplied via the manufacturer and is OEM.  If a computer is running Windows 7 and then the user wants Windows 8, a fresh install of Windows 7 permits a reliable upgrade to Windows 8. I have done this.

So it may be that Microsoft sees no market in retail full Windows 8 licensing.

... Thinkpads_User

Author Comment

ID: 38818677
Sorry accidentally pasted the Google referal, better this instead: https://partner.microsoft.com/download/global/40189980
LVL 37

Assisted Solution

ArneLovius earned 1000 total points
ID: 38818756
Page 2 "FPP" Fully Packaged Product, but you can't buy it as FPP!!!

OS X has been an upgrade source for a while.

Author Comment

ID: 38819175
Didn't think you were suggesting I was dishonest.... just venting my frustration that Microsoft won't seem to provide a path for honesty! :)

Yeah indeed - this is my point that Microsoft do seem to have changed the contexts of using OEM, allowing a max of 5 instances for business / personal use on otherwise unlicenced system, but no more. OEM before was just for system builders - but people ignored it and got away with it. Or they went and bought the retail copy of the latest Windows correctly, which is no longer possible. So all along I've been aware I could buy a retail copy of Windows 7 Pro, then upgrade it to Windows 8 Pro via open license. This of course is going to be a costly, as I'll need to get a retail license of Win 7 Pro as a minimum (£200) plus the Win Pro 8 Upgrade through Open License (Circa £140). A total of £340 just to get licensed for Win Pro 8 is not ideal!

ArneLovius - I spotted the FPP reference too, and read the further info in the doc. This appears to be another example of a document that is inconsistent with the reality. When I discussed licensing with Microsoft for a Hyper-V VDI proposal last week, they not only gave me inconsistent info (and incorrect info they partially correct later via email) but admitted some of the documentation out there on Win Server 2012 is actually wrong with regards to certain elements of licensing. I'm now guessing the same could be said of Win 8 - but will hold on to this document to back the process of licensing the Macs, if nothing else :)

I've worked out my own conclusions on this - I will endeavour to go through the Heath Robinson process of buying back the unlicensed units from the firm, and then reselling them as refurb, with the OEM licenses attached. I'm pretty sure that Microsoft can't have a problem with this; I'm registered as a legit system builder, and I couldn't find anything in the terms that said I couldn't do this. Our systems are less than 3 years old (SFF Acer AMD based PCs that are actually pretty nippy, with decent SSDs added) so were bought at a time when Windows 7 was out and the standard OS on most systems, but it was also a time for people being open minded about Linux, and quite a few distributions were in play by most manufacturers on some of their systems (certainly Dell & Acer had plenty of offerings at the time). It's clear Microsoft has not considered that some firms would want to do this, and actually put in place draconian limits that will damage their sales in this instance, and just annoy admins.

Thanks to all for their input - I will endeavour to award points later on :)


LVL 37

Expert Comment

ID: 38819203
If you did it before Jan 31st, you could do the upgrades for £25 each


Author Comment

ID: 38819283
Thanks - yep know all about that. We're going the route of the £49.99 boxed version, as it comes with both 32 & 64-bit disks, giving us greater flexibility for which architecture we use. I believe even with this version, we are still limited to just 5 upgrade licenses in our firm. Hey ho!

Cheers :)

Accepted Solution

bluemercury earned 0 total points
ID: 38825349
I've done a lot more further researched in to this over the weekend, and believe I have managed to answer my own question....

Microsoft run a licensing programme called 'Get Genuine'. I'd been aware of this before on the consumer side, but it is extended to business and other organisations, and full details on it can be found here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/genuine/business

To quote from this page, the 'Small and Medium Business, part of the programme is strictly designed for smaller businesses that have found themselves the following positions and works as follows:

"Scenario 1: Confusing an upgrade with a full license.

Scenario 2: Trying to use a Volume License to install Windows over a Home Edition license.

Scenario 3: Unintentional purchase of counterfeit software.

How do I correct a licensing mistake?

For the above scenarios and other licensing issues, Microsoft offers several easy licensing solutions to ensure your company is using properly licensed, genuine Windows software. All of these solutions are meant for use on your existing PCs with a previously installed counterfeit or otherwise unlicensed copy of Windows. Refer to the information in the table to learn more and get genuine today."

We have not broken any of these rules, but for sake of argument I could easily say scenario 1 has happened at my firm. Even though it hasn't, you will notice the all covering "other licensing issues" I have highlighted in bold further in the text. To me, this is the answer, albeit the normal bureaucracy that we can expect from Microsoft.

I can provide 'Get Genuine' licenses to my firm, through my Open License reseller account with my distributor. The price is about the same as an OEM license, but technically carries support from Microsoft, instead of from myself (a bonus).

This seems the only way to license a computer with Windows 8 Pro currently, on a system that doesn't already have some kind of Windows license. That, and the option I mentioned before of full retail box purchase of Win 7 Pro, then upgrade an (a lot more costly - about £130 versus £350, or such like!).

I hope this helps someone else stumbling on this problem. I'm going to accept my own solution as the EE solution, but I really value you guys trying to help, and thanks for your time. Why Microsoft could not advise me on this is poor...

Many thanks :)

Author Closing Comment

ID: 38843115
Accepted own solution, but split points with ArneLovius, as re-reading post, a helpful aside was provided in confirming Mac OS is a valid OS to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro through Open License. Thank you for this very helpful tip I had looked past in recent times :)

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