Can you help me with my software licensing question?
I've come by some older laptops and want to re-install windows on them. (See my related question on an easy way to do so.) I want to do things in a legal and ethical manner. My thought was that if a computer has a Windows XP Pro COA sticker on it, then I'm allowed to (re-)install Windows XP Pro on it. [And, it seemed to me, it should be reasonable to download a disc with the OS and all the latest updates on it for that purpose, so I don't endlessly reboot or get hacked while installing the OS. This statement, I think, made people think I was interested in piracy, and I'm not.]
Anyways, it appears that there are some subtleties here, and I wanted to know what is legal, what is ethical (if it differs), and if the technology gets in the way of allowing me to do what is legal and/or ethical.
This is my current understanding:
Any computer that has a Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity sticker for a particular version of Windows is licensed to run said version of Windows, and it may be re-installed on the computer.
This is where things get a little hazy for me:
Windows installation media come in (at least) three types:
- Retail CDs, either stand-alone or upgrade disks
- OEM CDs, which were shipped to you by the computer manufacturer in bygone times (but nowadays you are more likely to have a restore partition)
- Volume Licensor CDs (where a large organization uses the same serial code for every machine they install Windows on)
Is it the case that you need an OEM CD to re-install Windows on a machine? Is it ethical, but not strictly legal, to use a retail CD, and use the code on the sticker on the machine (and will the anti-piracy measures in Windows, including Windows Genuine Advantage, reject it)? Can you use an OEM CD for a different computer, provided it is the same edition of Windows? Can I re-install Windows (without paying for another license) on a machine that has a restore partition without using the restore partition? Does one have any recourse if they are licensed to use the software but do not have an installation disc? Is downloading the disc any different than borrowing one [not that I'm confident that I could find a reputable place to download from]?
Is the only real difference between an OEM CD, a Retail CD, and a Volume Licensor CD the license code it will accept?
Let me re-iterate that I have no interest in piracy; I want to do what is honourable. As I need to run Windows software, and I believe the machines are licensed for it, it seems silly to, say, install Linux and run things under WINE. The problem lies in the fact that I don't have the OEM CDs for these computers.