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When reinstalling Windows 7, does the language, version, architecture (64-bit or 32-bit) or source (OEM, retail, or MSDN) matter?

Is there different license keys for windows 7 Retail and Windows 7 OEM versions?

I've been offered a OEM license but don't have any media and wondering if I can use it?



marked as duplicate by nhinkle Jun 28 '11 at 1:31

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  • 2
    In a nutshell, yes you can, but only "on Pre-installed PC" (Bla bla) ... basically you can only install it on ONE PC. That's all. (And you are a good boy, you sleep better at night. :)) – Shiki Jul 12 '10 at 17:31
  • The key has genuinely not been used! Just need to get a hold of OEM media... – John Jul 12 '10 at 17:46

You can install Windows 7 from non-OEM upgrade or retail media and activate using the OEM code. You will likely need to call Microsoft and do activation by phone (rather than automatically over the net) when you activate though, because using mismatched media and license forces a phone activation. I've done this before - used retail upgrade media to install, then activated using an HP OEM key from the COA of the computer I was installing on.

To clarify: OEM licenses are permanently restricted to the computer they were sold with. You can buy an OEM license yourself and install it on whatever computer you want (which is what I thought you were doing), but once it's been installed, you cannot transfer it. You can reinstall an OEM copy of windows on that same machine using whatever media you have access to, but you can never transfer it.

  • This is similar to what I'll be doing, the guy who's giving me the key had a fully licensed copy of windows 7 ultimate and his new lenovo came with a OEM license on it, will I still be able to use it on non lenovo hardware? (A dell laptop) – John Jul 12 '10 at 20:06
  • Hold on a sec. OEM licenses are permanently associated with the machines they were sold with. Your friend is not allowed to give you the license his lenovo came with, because the license is tied to that lenovo laptop. He would be permitted to give you his fully licensed Ultimate key, and use the OEM key the lenovo came with himself, but he can't transfer the OEM license to you. – nhinkle Jul 12 '10 at 20:23
  • Thanks nhinkle - I just responded to Blackbeagle below. At least I know now. Still think its terrible though. – John Jul 12 '10 at 20:26
  • It is a bummer, I agree. One way to get Windows 7 cheaper - if you are a student, check out the Ultimate Steal (google it), and a lot of companies which have software agreements with Microsoft can sell their employees Windows for a very discounted price. Check into those. – nhinkle Jul 13 '10 at 0:44

Yes, you can use it to install Windows if you can get a Windows 7 DVD from somewhere.

To know more about the difference between OEM and Retail check this answer.


NO! Based on the additional comment to @nhinkle you made, legally the OEM key is tied to the hardware it is sold with. So, the OEM key for the Lenovo lives and dies with that specific machine and can't be transfered to any other machine.

What the owner should do is to use the OEM key for the Lenovo, then transfer ownership of the retail copy to you.

  • Shame :-( I doubt he'll give up his ultimate license! Don't blame him. Ah well, kinda sucks though - essentially when you buy a new PC then you technically never own a Windows 7 License, you only have the right to use it while that PC is in operational use. That should be explained more thoroughly when selling PCs to folk. I thought Microsoft got to took to court in Europe over this? Obviously they won! Thanks for your help guys. John – John Jul 12 '10 at 20:24
  • I knew I read something on this before; Legal in Europe? theregister.co.uk/2002/05/08/selling_oem_windows_copies_you – John Jul 12 '10 at 20:40
  • The difference is that Microsoft isn't charging you the full amount for your OEM license. A retail Windows 7 Professional license is $260, regular folk like us can buy an OEM license for $140. Big OEMs pay a small fraction of that, though the exact amount isn't publicly disclosed. Under Microsoft's EULA, you can ask reject the EULA and demand a refund from the OEM, and you then have to destroy all copies of media they sent you. People rarely exercise this right, and it's really a pain in the neck - the OEMs make it hard to do on purpose. – nhinkle Jul 13 '10 at 0:43

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