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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

I have Windows 7 Ultimate running on my computer, and I thought I would set up a few virtual machines to help me when I develop so I don't mess up my main system with various installations of SQL Server, Visual Studio versions, etc.

Is it allowed (or even possible) to use the same product key for the virtual machines? Or would I need to get a new product key for each virtual machine?

Is Windows 7 Enterprise different when it comes to this matter?

(Maybe this belongs on stack overflow or super user, but felt virtualization and licensing issues like that belonged more on server fault. Please move if not =)

  • This being on SF works for me
    – squillman
    Aug 12, 2009 at 19:10

5 Answers 5


No, only one XP instance for the XP Mode feature is normally allowed on Ultimate. But if you have Software Assurance, it comes with virtual OS rights for Enterprise and Ultimate which allow you to run four virtual instances of the operating system on the same hardware.

For reference see this post.

Also check out Windows 7 modifies license rights. And Enterprise is a benefit of Software Assurance, so you can't get Enterprise without Software Assurance - hence Enterprise is by default covered by Virtual OS rights.

***Even windows 7 ultimate can be used. The only difference is you can install it on only one virtual platform and cant setup 4 machines like software Assurance

  • Do you have a reference or link that confirms this?
    – Zoredache
    Aug 12, 2009 at 20:11
  • Added a link. Of course, nothing is official until Ultimate hits retail and we can see the final EULA.
    – Doug Luxem
    Aug 13, 2009 at 2:52
  • So would that mean you can use the same product key for four windows 7 virtual machines running on that computer?
    – Svish
    Aug 13, 2009 at 9:10
  • That's what it looks like (for Enterprise and Ultimate). It will be interesting to see the details on this when it is released.
    – Doug Luxem
    Aug 13, 2009 at 14:23
  • What does is Software Assurance coverage? How do I know if I have that? - "Use up to four instances of Windows in virtual OS environments for each license that has active Software Assurance coverage."
    – Svish
    Sep 28, 2009 at 10:25

From the windows 7 ultimate Software licence terms:

Use with Virtualization Technologies: Instead of using the software directly on the licensed computer, you may install and use the software within only one virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed computer.

This seems to mean that a virtual machine is exactly like a separate physical machine when it comes to licencing. ("Instead of...").

The deal where you get to run 4 VM's on one licence seems to be part of a separate add-on licencing deal (software assurance), not the standard licence.

  • Aha... yeah, that seems logical.
    – Svish
    Feb 15, 2010 at 14:03

It depends on how long you need the VMs for. If you don't need them for too long, or don't mind re-installing every once in a while, just use a trial version and don't activate it.

See this little gem from Microsoft. Specifically this line.

In development and testing environments that use retail editions, take advantage of the grace period.
  • The grace period route is the best if you are not using a VM regularly. I backup a particular base install using Acronis, and when I restore it for a project, I run OutOfBoxExperience and this allows me a fresh grace period technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc766514%28v=ws.10%29.aspx You can reset the clock three times, so be careful to only backup once or twice to be able to restore and reset this period. This means planning base VMs well.
    – VoteCoffee
    Nov 14, 2014 at 15:17

I believe you need a new product key (legally), and I believe this to be the case with all flavours of the product - even with VLP.

If what you were suggesting is possible, all a large organisation would need to do is purchase a single 7 license, create countless virtual instances, and deploy to their users (VM-View etc). Not a business model for Microsoft that's conducive to staying in business.

  • I use other software (like AutoDesk Inventor) where the licensing is managed by a server and borrowed against a machine. When you have a development environment, you might use a paticular VM once in a blue moon. It doesn't make a lot of sense to assign a license to it. It would be nice to have a borrow and return windows licensing system.
    – VoteCoffee
    Nov 14, 2014 at 15:02
  • Also, I'm aware of VAMT and KMS, but KMS is for large organizations and VAMT requires MSDN licensing
    – VoteCoffee
    Nov 14, 2014 at 15:09

You must obtain a license for each install, regardless of how many are virtual, and regardless even of how many of the installs are on one computer. Look into the Windows 7 Family Pack or Volume Licensing if you need many.

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