A few months ago, I wrote about the Microsoft EULA in general and how it works with Windows 10 digital licensing. My main point was that this EULA should be rewritten, based on the observation that as a Windows 10 license (product key) only allows one install on one device (see featured image above), digital licensing basically forbids any dual boot scenarios using the same edition. A digital license means that for instance as soon as Windows 10 PRO edition has been activated on your device only once, all subsequent installs on that device will be automatically activated using the same license and key. This happens regardless of how many additional installs you do for dual or multi boot scenarios.
OK, let’s say that I as a user decide to “obey” and add a second Windows 10 PRO on the same device using another product key. No, it does not work. Booting back to my main Windows 10 installation and checking it, I can see that its license has changed, and it is now using the new key I used to install a second copy of Windows. In nutshell, whatever I do, my device is only accepting one license / product key for use on all Windows 10 installations of same edition on that device at any given time.
For users, this might cause a dilemma –namely, not to use dual / multiboot setups, or knowingly breach the EULA.
Lately, more and more users on tech sites I follow have voiced another type of concern, this time about transferring an OEM license. I have been following a thread on TenForums.com where a clearly honest user is voicing his / her concerns about OEM license transfer: “The prosecution and penalty for the transfer of an OEM license“:
On the Internet, I have seen cases of transfer of OEM licenses after motherboard change.
Assuming an OEM user has successfully transferred the license via Activation Troubleshooter, is it possible for Microsoft to prosecute them in the future? Does the OEM license agreement mention a relevant penalty?
I must be honest and admit that the above post first made me smile and think how odd that someone thinks Microsoft would prosecute a private user who has breached the EULA. But, I realised that there must be many fundamentally honest users out there thinking along those same lines. I respect the OP (original poster) for going public with his / her question, to get an answer and hopefully also, some peace of mind from it.
The fact is that Microsoft has unofficially allowed transfer / re-activation of an OEM licence when transfer has been to the same machine after a motherboard change. Officially this is and has not been allowed but it has mostly worked since Windows 7 using phone activation and now in Windows 10 the Activation Troubleshooter. Many OEM license users have reported that they have even managed to transfer OEM licenses to completely new devices using the Windows 10 Activation Troubleshooter and a digital license linked to a Microsoft account.
It’s not only OEM license holders who have activation concerns. Here’s another quote from Ten Forums:
I purchased a full retail Win 10 pro license and the product was delivered digitally. I did a clean install on the machine I was intending to use, but subsequently decided I did not want to use that machine because of its age, so I purchased a new computer. I expected that I would be able to transfer the license to the new PC, but when I install it, and try to activate, I get activation error 0xC004C003. I’ve called Microsoft support several time, which has not fixed it. I removed the license from the original machine with slmgr.
Can anyone tell me how this is supposed to work?
All this, and more explains why I think the Windows 10 EULA should be completely rewritten, be it OEM or Retail. In addition, Microsoft should in my opinion be a “pacemaker.” That is, it should show a good example and be the first of the major players in IT to make its EULA so clear and understandable that the average user has no issues in interpreting it. And, let’s not forget: Microsoft should really focus on its licensing and activation systems. It is unacceptable that the users so often have difficulties with transferring their valid and legal retail licenses. The Activation Troubleshooter in Windows 10 is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough. Just browse various forums and search for activation issues to see what I mean.
I would like the Windows 10 EULA to be absolutely clear and clearly state that as long as a device has a digital license to one specific Windows 10 edition, you are allowed to install that same edition for dual- or multi-boot based on that existing digital license. I would like Microsoft to make it absolutely clear that yes, you can switch the motherboard in case the old one has died without losing your OEM license.
By the way, talking about Windows 10 licenses: Did you know that although the free upgrade from Windows 7 SP1 or 8.1 officially ended on July 29th, 2016, it’s still working? In fact I upgraded an activated (retail license) Windows 7 Hyper-V VM just last week to Windows 10, which was automatically activated as soon as I got to the desktop. My guess is, although Microsoft will of course never admit it, that at the moment they are seeing it more important to get Windows 10 numbers up than to get revenue from each upgrade. I am relatively sure that Microsoft will, unofficially of course, allow free upgrades until the end of extended support for Windows 7 SP1 in January 2020.
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.