Can I use the OEM Windows product key when I re-install my system after using the key for a VM?

Lewis Lebentz September 1, 2012
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I now use Ubuntu as my main OS, and have Windows 7 Home Premium dual-booted, as that’s what came on my laptop when I bought it from Sony.

When Ubuntu 12.10 comes out soon, I would like to format my whole system and have a clean install of it, removing Windows 7 entirely.

But, I would like to have it in a Virtual Machine in case I ever need it. As my laptop doesn’t support VT-x, I thought I would just test it first. So I downloaded it and installed it in VMware, and it seems to work. I activated it with the Product Key Sticker on the back of my laptop and it worked!

I am now worried that, when I reinstall everything, even though it’s the same computer; it won’t let me use my product key again as I used it in a VM?

I don’t really know why it worked, because I thought because it is OEM, it would only work when installing directly onto my laptop. I am thinking that for some reason I now wasted an extra use in a VM?

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  1. fatihamzah
    September 7, 2012 at 12:13 am

    I dont think its ok, but with same Manufacture/Hardware i think is ok

  2. HLJonnalagadda
    September 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    It should not be an issue as long as Windows is activated on a single machine at one time. You would need to talk to them and authenticate every time the key is used though.

  3. Lambvolution
    September 3, 2012 at 12:41 am

    it'll work as you don't change 2 of your hardware Processor and motherboard. OEM key record what processor and motherboard do you use

  4. Benjamin Glass
    September 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    I think it should still work if it worked once. If it doesn't, you can probably call up Microsoft support. Even though they probably won't be happy if you mention Ubuntu, just ask about putting it in a VM. They're usually fairly helpful. You could also try using Wine HQ in the Ubuntu install.

  5. Tudor Rusu
    September 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    It's not a problem, but make sure you don't activate it too many times. OEM keys have a number of activations after which they won't work anymore.

  6. Naoman Saeed
    September 2, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I think it should work. I had win7 VM last year . and i used the same key on my laptop. i think virtual machine is not considered as a real computer by microsoft. but i m not sure because after installing on laptop i never happend to use the vm . plus i deleted it shortly afterwards

  7. Bruce Epper
    September 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Experience as of 1 week ago: Hacked a TechNet/MSDN Win7HP installation ISO to appear as an unbranded OEM disk. Installed in VirtualBox to verify that it works properly using code from sticker on desktop that had illegal copy installed using Volume License key that was flagged by MS (which is why i did the hack and test). Installed on desktop after installation & activation worked in VM. No hassles - installed and activated without any issue at all. Passes WGA flawlessly.After doing multiple reinstalls on the same hardware with Vista, I have had to use the telephonic activation (never even had to talk to a live body). Even if you end up having to do a telephonic activation, I would expect the same to apply. No explanation ever needed.

  8. GrrGrrr
    September 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    It will work fine, as it's OEM key.
    I have done that for my Vaio before.

    You would however have to activate it again online/phone method

  9. ha14
    September 1, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    in case fails activation you have the choice phone activation. It all depends on which kind of license you have.

    When it comes to OEM, the license will be locked to that specific hardware. OEM license cannot be transferred to another computer or virtual system;
    http://pubs.vmware.com/fusion-4/index.jsp?topic=/com.vmware.fusion.help.doc/GUID-50FC0AF1-AA0A-486D-89AB-4FA4C1CAA56C.html

    If you have retail license then you are free to do what you want in virtual mode.

    If Windows is pre-installed on a computer by an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), the operating system is automatically activated without the need for interaction from the user. In this case, the copy of Windows installed does not use the product key listed on the certificate of authenticity, but rather a master product key issued to OEMs called a System Locked Pre-installation (SLP) key. On each boot, Windows confirms the presence of specific information stored in the BIOS by the manufacturer, ensuring the activation only remains valid on that computer, even if the product key is used on another machine
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Product_Activation

    What Microsoft won't tell you about Windows 7 licensing
    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/what-microsoft-wont-tell-you-about-windows-7-licensing/1514

    MICROSOFT OEM SYSTEM BUILDER LICENSE
    http://oem.microsoft.com/public/sblicense/2008_sb_licenses/fy08_sb_license_english.pdf

    Find End User License Terms for Microsoft Software Licensed by Microsoft or the Computer Manufacturer
    http://www.microsoft.com/About/Legal/EN/US/IntellectualProperty/UseTerms/Default.aspx

  10. Justin Pot
    September 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    In my experience this shouldn't be a problem. You might need to talk with them on the phone, but so long as you're not using one key in multiple instances the people on the phone tend to be understanding and help you make it work.

    My experience is a few years old, but it's all I can offer. Best of luck to you! Ubuntu's my favourite.

  11. Mike Green
    September 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I don't think it will work as windows will see the key as used on another computer (VM will appear to be different from your PC).

    You may be able to get it to work if you ring them up. Their lines are expensive though I think.

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