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Microsoft OS Licensing – Types and Tips

Mar 31, 2016

The enterprise end of Microsoft OS licensing can be a land of unknown jargon – daunting, and (seemingly) incomprehensible. As Microsoft is a standard OS for most businesses to have these days, it’s important to tackle these unknown aspects of  this necessity. Thus, MTI created this handy guide to breakdown the three most common types of OS licensing Microsoft offers to help your business integrate their technology into your day-to-day operations.



Any PC, laptop or tablet preloaded with Microsoft OS upon purchase is known as OEM – or, Original Equipment Manufacturer. What’s great about OEMs: no installation hassles, and it’s slightly cheaper than buying the OS separate from the product. The downside to OEM? It basically lives and dies with the equipment it came with. Purchasing an OEM license also prohibits you from installing the software on any other devices. So, if you were looking to copy the software onto your laptop or tablet, your hands are unfortunately tied. In order to expand on to additional devices, you have to upgrade to a Retail or FPP license.



Full Packaged Product, or more commonly known as Retail, licenses are the most commonly purchased type of Microsoft OSs. As their name denotes, they’re the boxed software products you purchase through retail establishments. Retail licenses are essentially yours forever – you can uninstall and reinstall the software whenever you choose, as long as you’re only installing them on a single device at a time. With some Microsoft products, like Office for example, you are allotted an additional download license with your purchase so that you can download the same copy of the OS on a portable device of your choosing, but this availability very limited. Other OSs like Windows Server will actually provide you with up to five additional CALs (or client access licenses) so that other users or devices can connect to that particular Server at any instance.



Volume Licensing (VL) is the largest of the licensing categories and easily one of the most confusing. Essentially, VL means that the licensing is purchased directly from Microsoft through an official partner or reseller. If your enterprise requires software purchases in bulk, or you necessitate more manageability/flexibility/options, then VL is the direction you would be going in. VL requires an initial minimum purchase of five licenses, but the license types can vary across Microsoft’s entire product suite. With VL, you also have more portable use rights and can download a wider variety of licensed products onto portable devices. An exclusive of VL is also the ability to transfer licenses between machines – meaning that software is not locked to the desktop PC it was initially installed on, and can be transferred to another PC should the primary host expire.

Note: None of the above licensures have an expiration on them. So, as long as you don’t opt-in for a subscription service that automatically invalidates the old license and issues you access the new one upon OS update, you have the rights to the licenses indefinitely.


Not so bad, right? License agreements are quickly demystified once the tech talk is translated into a more accessible language, and hopefully this quick guide helped in that effort. Should you have any concern that your licenses are invalid or inauthentic, reach out to our tech support team and we would be happy to help you get back on the right track!





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