I need to activate Windows 7 ultimate x64 on my workingstation and I have to buy a product key. I'm considering opting for a solution with a greater value for money: purchasing a cheap used laptop with Windows already preinstalled, uninstalling it and recycling the product key for activating Windows in the workingstation I am currently using. (I would install a distro Linux opensource on the new laptop instead).

I have several doubts:

1) Product keys used for x86 operative systems do work for the x64 of the same version as well (for example, do they work both for Win 7 ultimate x86 and Win 7 ultimate x64) ?

2) the laptop I would buy comes with Windows preinstalled: after having uninstalled it, is there the risk to face any additional troubles while using its product key for activating Windows on a second device?

3) If any troubles by attempting doing that, could I still apply for Microsoft technical support?

4) I saw that product keys come with different names (OEM and so on): should I keep those differences in mind for my purpose?

OPTIONAL - - -

I'm also considering purchasing a laptop with Windows PROFESSIONAL installed instead than ULTIMATE: in that case I should downgrade my windows 7 ultimate to the professioanl edition in order to use the product key of the former -> is there any remarkable implication I should considere before doing that? (I mean data loss, the necessity of reinstalling softwares, any kind of incompatibility with the product key, etc...)

up vote 4 down vote accepted

This cannot be done. The product keys on the machine you purchase will be tied to that hardware, and as such won't activate against new hardware. Note that OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) keys are the bulk of keys you will find with machines direct from a manufacturer (EG. Acer/Dell/Lenovo etc...). Retail keys are ones you purchase direct from a store, or Microsoft directly, without the PC itself, just the software/key.

See here and here for more information, specifically this part of the site (aimed at manufacturers issuing OEM licences)

The Microsoft Software License Terms is granted to the end user by you, the system builder. It is related to the OEM System Builder License for the PC on which it was originally installed.

You are required to support the license on that original PC, but you cannot support a license that has been moved from a PC that you manufactured to one that you did not. This is one of the key reasons why an OEM System Builder License can’t be transferred. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

and here

Q. Can my customers transfer or sell their OEM software licenses?

A. After an OEM software license has been installed on a PC, the license may not be installed on or transferred to another PC. However, the entire PC may be transferred to another end user along with the software license rights. When transferring the PC to the new end user, the software media, manuals (if applicable), and Certificate of Authenticity label must be included. It is also advisable to include the original purchase invoice or receipt. The original end user cannot keep any copies of the software.

Now, if you purchased a machine with a retail version of Windows, you may be able to transfer this. However, this is only really likely on a custom built computer, and will be quite hard to track down, as the user is more likely to have retained their key for their own use.

To answer your questions, although you cannot go down this particular path:

  1. Yes, Windows 7 and above keys are valid for 32-bit and 64-bit installations.
  2. See above :)
  3. You will not get technical support.
  4. Yes, OEM and Retail keys are the world of difference in your case.
  5. You cannot downgrade from Ultimate to Professional without completely reinstalling, or doing an in-place upgrade of the OS. You will lose any activation status, you may need to reinstall software and data should be backed up before attempting either.
  • thanks. I saw that on ebay some people sell product keys for the activation of Windows 7 which do not violate copyright and also let the user to download the .iso : so how is it possible? Is it a different type of product key? – robertalrp Feb 9 '16 at 15:50
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    @robertalrp - It would have to be a retail key for that to be legal. I would not personally trust an ebay seller for an OS license. There is nothing stopping them from selling the same license multiple times. What do they care if they get banned from ebay, once they have your money, just purchase a retail license from a reliable source. – Ramhound Feb 9 '16 at 15:51
  • Ok... Me I hold a workingstation with windows 7 ultimate already installed and I need to activate it, how can I do? A window appears telling that I need to insert a product key or purchase it: should I purchase it from there instead? – robertalrp Feb 9 '16 at 15:55
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    @robertalrp You will need to purchase a Windows 7 Ultimate product key from a reputable seller, which may be difficult for Windows 7. – Jonno Feb 9 '16 at 15:57
  • @robertalrp - If it isn't a retail license then it cannot be transferred to another machine. Have you read the Windows 7 EULA it uses really clear language. – Ramhound Feb 9 '16 at 17:26

Product keys used for x86 operative systems do work for the x64 of the same version as well (for example, do they work both for Win 7 ultimate x86 and Win 7 ultimate x64)?

This is false. You can install Windows 7 32-bit or Windows 7 64-bit with the same license key. You are limited to a single installation per license key at any given point in time obviously.

the laptop I would buy comes with Windows preinstalled: after having uninstalled it, is there the risk to face any additional troubles while using its product key for activating Windows on a second device?

The device would still come with a Windows 7 COA sticker. OEM license cannot be transferred to any other device. Even if you installed Windows 7 on the device, and attempted to activate the OEM license on another device, the activation process would fail.

I'm also considering purchasing a laptop with Windows PROFESSIONAL installed instead than ULTIMATE: in that case I should downgrade my windows 7 ultimate to the professional edition in order to use the product key of the former -> is there any remarkable implication I should consider before doing that? (I mean data loss, the necessity of reinstalling software, any kind of incompatibility with the product key, etc...).

How do you plan to downgrade Windows 7 Professional, when you have no rights t do that, you cannot simply change the type of license you have. Microsoft only allows OEMs themselves to offer this right, and even then, there are specific conditions applied to those rights. You cannot go from Windows 10 Professional to Windows 7 Ultimate, those rights, simply do not work like that.

If any troubles by attempting doing that, could I still apply for Microsoft technical support?

Microsoft Technical Support is not something that is offered for free for any Windows user.

I saw that product keys come with different names (OEM and so on): should I keep those differences in mind for my purpose?

You cannot transfer OEM licences to devices, even if the two devices, are the by same OEM.

Your Only Real Solution: Just purchase a retail Windows 7 license from a reliable seller.

Junno's Link to the EULA is helpful

  • Ok, thank you for replying! – robertalrp Feb 9 '16 at 16:07

There is one circumstance in which you would be able to use the product key from a used computer's COA to activate your new Windows install. That would be if the COA product key was never actually activated.

Many corporations have a site license for windows. The computers they buy have COA stickers on them as usual but they wipe and reinstall before using the hardware, using the company's disk image and the company's site license product key. So the product key sticker on the hardware will never have been activated, it won't be linked to the hardware and it can be used one time to activate Windows on some other computer.

Microsoft tries to prohibit this kind of thing with their EULA, but EU law says that it is legal to resell software (so that part of their EULA has no force in Europe), and obviously even if you live in the US, if you decide to ignore the EULA you can try it. As long as you are the first person to use the key to activate a copy of windows, it should work. Finding a PC where the key was never activated is of course tricky, but there are European Ebay sellers who sell tons of keys harvested from decommissioned corporate PCs.

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