1. #1

    Question What is the difference between OEM windows and FULL version?

    Just curious what the difference is. OEM is significantly cheaper, and i was going to buy it, but it says u can only use it for one computer.

    Is it like a one time use thing?

    Lets say i install it on my computer. then a year later i wanna clean it all up and re install it, or even build a new computer, can i install that same OEM copy i had?

    It has this nice disclaimer:
    Use of this OEM System Builder Channel software is subject to the terms of the Microsoft OEM System Builder License. This software is intended for pre-installation on a new personal computer for resale. This OEM System Builder Channel software requires the assembler to provide end user support for the Windows software and cannot be transferred to another computer once it is installed. To acquire Windows software with support provided by Microsoft please see our full package "Retail" product offerings."

    Can someone translate that for me?

    Thanks in advance!
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  2. #2
    tetrisGOAT's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    The product key binds to your motherboard model.

  3. #3
    It's a bit complicated, but the base line is that in an OEM version the 'systembuilder' is responsible for the support, whereas in a retail version MS is responsible for this. In practice however this support is pretty limited anyway and not much use for most people. The thing is, who or what qualifies as a system builder. What they actually mean is the company who assembles it. You can buy an entire computer selecting the different part, but officially the supplier has to assemble it and install it. This however is rarely what happens in practice as most people just build their system and use an OEM version anyway. OEM are only meant for new systems and more important tied to that particular system. The retail version allows you to uninstall it and to use it on a different system.

    That said most people use an OEM just because it's ridiculously cheaper, but you won't be able to install it on a new computer (hell, when I updated my motherboards firmware during the building of a pc I had to go to an entire reactivation system, because Windows thought it was a different PC).

  4. #4
    tetrisGOAT's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    That reminds me, they will be introducing a "home builders" version of Windows with Win8.
    This will be priced similiarly to the OEM version (depends on the specific store, but about equal) and have flexibility like the full retail.
    This is for people who builds their own computer and want one license to move around with.

  5. #5
    Go with the OEM version. Officially it's suppose to be tied to one MB. But, you can really move it if you need to. I've done it many times.

  6. #6
    Bloodsail Admiral spaace's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
    Ontario, Canada
    When you go to re-install it on something new, you just have to contact microsoft support (which is quite quick and easy mind you) and you give them your product ID#, and cd key# and they'll give you a new number for a "genuine" software.

    That's what I just did when I recently upgraded, anyways. Only hassle was taking 5 min... better then spending 100 bucks
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  7. #7
    Bloodsail Admiral Fooliecoolie's Avatar
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    Apr 2009
    Crossville, TN
    OEM is cheaper but MS frowns on selling them as standalone products. Several local builders will sell it with the purchase of MB/CPU combo or HDD to avoid the hassle.

  8. #8
    I have put an OEM OS I own onto multiple computers. No hassle there. But I did learn about some interesting gaps in the BIOS while trying to install XP on my bootcamp partition for my Macbook Pro. Fortunately, it was as simple as adding in one key, but there are at least a few differences on the bios level.

  9. #9
    Don't be fooled the OEM do lock to a MOBO but around 30 days the data is gone, tried and installed win 7 2 days ago VIA my OEM windows 64bit installed and serial key worked fine. Seems the old windows xp and 98 tricks still work.

  10. #10
    Herald of the Titans theWocky's Avatar
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    Aug 2012
    South Africa
    OEM - Sold and pre-installed by a manufacturer (eg Dell, HP, etc) and is bound to that PC - you can't use it on a different PC.
    DSP - Sold with a PC that is not branded (ie custom-built) and is also bound to that PC like an OEM once activated- you can't use it on a different PC.
    Retail/Full - You can use it on any PC as a new install or an upgrade - as long as it is on one PC at a time.

    Microsoft don't "frown" on people using OEM or re-using DSP licenses - they regard it as illegal and unlicensed. If I take an OEM license from an Acer PC and use it on another - even if I stop using the Acer PC, it is not a valid license. It may activate as you can usually activate it more than once, but it's still illegal in the eyes of Microsoft.

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  11. #11
    High Overlord Quintana's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by spaace View Post
    When you go to re-install it on something new, you just have to contact microsoft support (which is quite quick and easy mind you) and you give them your product ID#, and cd key# and they'll give you a new number for a "genuine" software.

    That's what I just did when I recently upgraded, anyways. Only hassle was taking 5 min... better then spending 100 bucks
    This right here. I've used an OEM copy of W7 on 3 different machines so far, only once did I have to call Microsoft to get a new key. Takes no time at all.

  12. #12
    There is another option. While Windows 7 Home Premium OEM is around $100 you can always pay $200 for a TechNet Standard subscription from Microsoft. You get access for 1 year to the TechNet site and can download all the ISOs from the site. If you don't want to renew you still get to keep the existing licenses. Most are good for multiple activations (I have activated some keys 10+ times). And instead of just getting Windows 7 Home Premium you will get Windows 7 Ultimate, Professional, Home, etc... along with Windows 8, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, and a BUNCH of other software.


  13. #13
    Brewmaster Biernot's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    I don't know exactly how the situation is in the USA, but here in Germany it is the following:

    There are 3 versions available to the consumer (not counting volume licenses and other stuff for big companies):
    - OEM
    - System Builder
    - Retail

    This is the license type that comes pre-installed with a new computer/laptop. The product key is slapped on the computer/laptop itself and the installation is usually pre-activated (but not necessarily). Included with the purchase must be:
    - A genuine windows installation disc (+driver disc) OR
    - Recovery discs with the factory settings OR
    - a recovery partition and the ability to create recovery discs
    The reason, why the manufacturers use this license, is because they get it cheaper from microsoft than the System Builder version. (and in case of the bigger manufacturers, they save a few cents by not having to include the discs)

    System Builder:
    This is the most common way to purchase a license separately. It is just a standard DVD case with
    - Product key
    - Original Installation disc
    - System Builder disc (this can be used to create specialized installation discs, but is essentially not important for normal consumers)

    Full Retail:
    The version that Microsoft intended to be the normal selling version. It includes
    - Bigger DVD case
    - Product key
    - both 32 & 64 bit installation discs
    - a manual
    - limited support directly from microsoft (which is worthless)

    Now to some common misconceptions:

    All above licenses need to be activated. OEMs are usually pre-activated, so you don't have to do yourself. If you activate your copy, there is a hash tag (like a fingerprint of your computer, or more precisely of your motherboard) stored on your computer and on the microsoft activation server.

    If you re-install windows, change your motherboard or slap the hdd in a new computer, you need to re-active the installation. If you don't do this too often (like only every few months, don't know the exact time intervals), the normal activation process via internet should work flawlessly. If you do this more often (and i think with the OEM licenses every time after the first time), you need to do it via phone (which takes about 3-4mins). Only if you try to activate it multiple times in a short interval, you will get into problems.

    Multiple Installations:
    For all the above licenses you are only allowed to have one running/activated installation at a time. This is also goes for the retail version, which comes with two installation discs but only one key.

    32 / 64 bit:
    All above product keys work for 32 and 64 bit (but only one installation at a time).

    When you activate your copy of windows, you bind it to your computer. But this bonding is only temporary and only serves the purpose to prevent multiple parallel running installations with just one key. At least here in germany there is a law***, that explicitly forbids the binding of a software license to a specific computer.

    *** This law was created about 8-9 years ago, mainly to allow people to sell the windows license they purchased with their computer separately. Before that there were certain windows xp oem product keys from major manufacturers (Fujitsu-Siemens, Dell, etc.), that were hard-bound to the computer they were installed on and could not be activated on a different machine.

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