Microsoft

A look at Windows Vista licensing schemes for home users and SMBs

With the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft offers several licensing schemes that home and small business users can use to easily and cost-effectively upgrade multiple computers. Here's the lowdown.

As you know, for years Microsoft has made volume licensing programs available to large corporations and institutions in order to allow them to easily and inexpensively roll out the Windows operating system to many computers. However, home and small business users had to fork out full price for each additional copy of the Windows operating system they wanted to install on their computers.

Fortunately, with the release of Windows Vista, Microsoft is offering several licensing schemes that home and small business users can use to easily and cost-effectively upgrade multiple computers. However, not all of these licensing schemes are easy to decipher. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll take a closer look at these licensing schemes.

Windows Vista Family Discount

In order to get Windows Vista out to as many computer users as possible, Microsoft launched the new home user licensing program along with the new operating system. Called the Windows Vista Family Discount, this licensing program specifies that if you purchase a retail version of Windows Vista Ultimate (Full or Upgrade), you can then purchase two Home Premium upgrade licenses for $49.99 a piece and upgrade two other computers in your home. (Keep in mind that Microsoft is describing the Windows Vista Family Discount licensing program as being offered only for a limited time.)

Because the Windows Vista Ultimate DVD contains all versions of the operating system, all you need to do is go online and order the upgrade licenses from Microsoft's Windows Vista Family Discount page. You'll then instantly receive a pair of product key(s) via digital delivery and can then immediately upgrade the computers to Home Premium using your Windows Vista Ultimate DVD.

This is actually a pretty good deal when you look at the costs involved. As shown in Table A, if you purchase the Upgrade DVD of Windows Vista Ultimate, you can install the new operating system on three computers for about $350. This comes out to a difference of $200 when compared to the full price of Windows Vista Home Premium upgrade — $149.99 at Amazon.com.

(Note: I'll use Amazon.com pricing as an example throughout this article because they are recognized by most folks and have relatively good deals. However, keep in mind that my intention isn't to promote Amazon and that prices may be lower at other e-tailors.)

Table A

Ultimate Upgrade DVD

$247.99

Home Premium upgrade License

$49.99

Home Premium upgrade License

$49.99

Total

$347.97

On the other hand, if you purchase the Full Installation DVD of Windows Vista Ultimate, you can install the new operating system on three computers for just under $500, as shown in Table B.

Table B

Ultimate Full Install DVD

$369.99

Home Premium upgrade License

$49.99

Home Premium upgrade License

$49.99

Total

$469.97

Windows Vista Additional License program

Because the Windows Vista Family Discount program only works with Windows Vista Ultimate, and Microsoft wants to turn as many computer users into Vista converts as possible; they recently announced the Windows Vista Additional License program for home- and small business users. Under this program, if you have already purchased either a retail or an OEM edition of Windows Vista, you can purchase up to five additional licenses at a 10 percent discount from Microsoft's Additional Licenses page or from select e-tailors such as Amazon.com. However, you may only buy licenses for the edition of Windows Vista that you already own.

If you bought Home Premium, you can buy up to five additional Home Premium licenses. If you bought Ultimate, you can buy up to five additional Ultimate licenses.

For example, if you go to Amazon.com and purchase the Windows Vista Ultimate upgrade for $247.99, you could then purchase additional Ultimate upgrade licenses for $224.99 a piece. For the sake of comparison with the Windows Vista Family Discount licensing program, let's look at the cost of upgrading 3 computers. With this in mind, you can see that you can install the new operating system on three computers for about $700, as shown in Table C. This comes out to a difference of $46 when compared to the full price of Windows Vista Ultimate upgrade

Table C

Ultimate Upgrade DVD

$247.99

Ultimate Upgrade License

$224.99

Ultimate Upgrade License

$224.99

Total

$697.99

On the other hand, if you purchase the Home Premium upgrade for $149.99, you could then purchase additional Home Premium upgrade licenses for $139.99 a piece. You can then install the new operating system on three computers for a little over $400, as shown in Table C. This comes out to a difference of $20 when compared to the full price of Windows Vista Home Premium upgrade.

Table D

Home Premium upgrade DVD

$149.99

Home Premium upgrade License

$139.99

Home Premium upgrade License

$139.99

Total

$429.97

Going the OEM route

If you want to venture outside of the regular licensing programs, you can save even more money—by going the OEM version route. But you have to be willing to forego a few of the benefits you would get with the retail version. When you go the OEM route, you get just the Full installation DVD in basic packaging — you won't get the fancy rounded plastic case, nor will you get any manuals, pamphlets, or other sales material.

As you may have guessed, these packages are designed for system builders and are supposed to be sold along with a hardware — a computer or a hard disk, for example. However, some sort of loophole exists that allows e-tailers such as Amazon and NewEgg.com, to just sell the OEM disks.

Of course, there are other benefits that you will forego when you go the OEM route. First, an OEM version of Vista is non-transferable. This means that once you install it on a system, you will be unable to uninstall Vista and install it on another system at a later date. However, you will still be able to upgrade various components on your system without reactivating. And, just like the regular Vista, if you upgrade too many components, you will have to reactivate. Second, you will not be able to receive any technical support directly from Microsoft.

If you're willing and technically capable, you can save a lot by going the OEM route. Again, for the sake of comparison let's look at the cost of upgrading 3 computers.

As shown in Table E, if you purchase the OEM version of Windows Vista Ultimate at Amazon.com for $189.99, you can install the new operating system on three computers for a little over $550.

Table E

Ultimate Full DVD

$189.99

Ultimate Full DVD

$189.99

Ultimate Full DVD

$189.99

Total

$569.97

On the other hand, you can purchase the OEM version of Home Premium for $119.99 at Amazon.com. You can then install the new operating system on three computers for about $350, as shown in Table F.

Table F

Home Premium Full DVD

$119.99

Home Premium Full DVD

$119.99

Home Premium Full DVD

$119.99

Total

$359.97

Deal or no deal?

After looking at these schemes for getting multiple copies of Windows Vista for a home or small business, what do you think? Do you think any of them represent a good deal? Are you thinking of taking advantage of one of them or have you already? Please drop by the Discussion area and let us hear from you.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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