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MS Retrofitting OEM Licences

Thursday, 16 February 2006 eula microsoft windows

I’ve just read an article off Digg saying that Microsoft have retrofitted their OEM Windows licences with a new caveat for upgrading users.

Whereas before, you were only limited to however many times you could be bothered to ring up their activation line for a new auth code, now, to stay within the bounds of their “license” — if you can call it that at all — you either have to scale down how much you’re upgrading to a small amount or buy another copy of Windows.

Their reasoning for this is that if you swap out your motherboard and thus CPU, you’re effectively making a brand new computer and licenses are non-transferrable (if you didn’t know). The only claim for redemption is to say (and maybe prove) that your old system has died a physical death and the hardware change causing reactivation is neccessary and not just a “because you want to” upgrade. In the Microsoft representatives own words:

“Microsoft needed to have one base component “left standing” that would still define that original PC. Since the motherboard contains the CPU and is the “heart and soul” of the PC, when the motherboard is replaced (for reasons other than defect) a new PC is essentially created.”

This sounds like a complete load of nosh to me. Re-licensing something that a customer might have bought under a different license agreement sounds highly dodgy and I’m sure that MS would have problems upholding this in court (especially in the EU).

MS make software. They have a right to say: “you can only install this on one PC.” They do not have the right to say what defines a new computer. They do not have the right to say “oh because you bought a webcam, more ram and an external harddisk when you purchased your OEM copy, you now have to add a new copy of Windows to the bill.” They either have to trust the user or have automated checking to make sure only one instance of any one software key is running and disclose this in the agreement.

The article then goes on to say that OEM partners (the people building computers with Windows preinstalled — Dell etc) that they are the ones that have to enforce this when upgrades (to an extent that MS figure they can claim is a new computer) are done.

I guess this means anyone that is lucky enough to have a Dell/HP/whatever and dares to get it upgraded rather than buying a new PC, should expect to pay for the upgrade + a copy of windows.

I’ll just clarify that normal retail licenses (which, coincidentally, cost two to three times the price of OEM) are not affected in this switch. Neither are bulk licenses, unless they’re tied to hardware through OEM licensing.

That just leaves one question though… What’s going to be happening with these old licenses? If the hardware is not broken and the upgrade is purely cosmetic, are the OEM vendors getting their money back on the license because you’re not using it anymore and you’ve just paid for another one? I’ve not personally a) had a vendor made PC and thereforre b) never asked them to upgrade a system so I dont know what their return process is… Do they ship you your old, license-bound hardware back to you? Because by not doing this, they’re effectively stealing a copy of Windows off you — which I daresay they’ll happily repackage back up and sell out of their “factory outlet” for still a high price but without having to pay for the expensive parts.

The article I read is at Aviran’s Place.

If you know any more on this, ping me an email (until I get the comment system up) to Oli-=at=-ThePCSpy.com and tell me what’s going on. Seems like there’s going to be a lot of murkey business going on.