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Is there any way to do this? Bought some new Dells at work that come with an (OEM) Ultimate key yet our standard image is business. When I install it and try to use the key it complains that the key doesn't match the image.

Just thought I'd ask before I go and make a new install specially for ultimate.

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You cannot use an OEM key for any other install on that computer except for the OEM image. The only downgrade rights that you have with an OEM version of Vista Ultimate or Business is to Windows XP Pro and NOT to other versions of Vista.

See Royalty OEM Reference Sheet (pdf) and Downgrade Rights Chart (.doc)

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Fair enough, kinda sucks though. – Sam Oct 23 '09 at 2:40
Thats why most people by office computers without a license, then purchase a MVL license so that they can image with what ever they like (or purchase the machines with MVL licenses instead of OEM licenses). – mrdenny Oct 23 '09 at 2:50
That's true, but for moderately sized businesses buying OEM licenses is a fair bit cheaper. I've been told that the difference between ultimate is business is only two bytes in the registry, is there any way I can take advantage of that fact? Would be great if I could install a trial of Business, change a registry key then active with my ultimate key. (So that all the programs etc are there from the image). – Sam Oct 23 '09 at 3:13
Note that doing what mrdenny suggests is a violation of the volume licensing terms. For client operating systems (XP, Vista, 7), Microsoft only supplies full licenses via OEMs or as full package product (FPP) (e.g., retail box). Volume licenses for client operating systems are upgrade licenses only; the computer onto which the product is installed must have an existing OEM or FPP license of a qualifying product. Other volume-licensed products have different terms. – Jay Michaud Oct 23 '09 at 4:07

For anyone interested I was able to solve this issue by installing business without a CD key (so it's in trial mode or whatever), popping the Ultimate DVD in and upgrading through windows.

As a result of doing that an interesting thing I noticed was that once the upgrade was installed Windows was activated even though I hadn't entered a key in the whole process? I changed the key to the proper OEM one anyway and reactivated but maybe its possible bug or something?

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With Vista you've got 30 days to enter a key - you don't have to do it upon installation. – TRS-80 Oct 23 '09 at 8:58

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