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Can you help me with my software licensing question?

I want to set up virtual machines to do testing of various applications. I would like to have 6 different virtual machines. My understanding is that this requires 6 separate Windows licenses (unfortunately all my applications run on Windows only).

I am trying to figure out what to do about buying Windows licenses. When I do searches, I see offerings for OEM licenses. Can I use those licenses? If not, do I have to buy straight from Microsoft?

I do not need a server OS, a client OS such as XP or Vista is sufficient.

Thanks Jim and Scott. Both of your answers make sense individually but I am confused if I need to buy 'full packaged' license versions + the VECD license. Is it one or the other or both?

marked as duplicate by Mark Henderson Aug 30 '11 at 21:54

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.


There is a license calculator here. For 6 licenses I would probably pick up a copy of datacenter. It depends on the number of physical processors you have. For a dual procesor machine, datacenter is the most expensive option but allows you to add more vms later without cost. For running multiple vmes of client OSes you need a VECD license (which runs about $23 a desktop) Note that you do not need a license for evaluation copies of windows.


If you are wanting to test software you (or your company develops), get an MSDN subscription, which provides unlimited licenses for testing purposes (they cannot be used in production). If you are wanting to setup a lab for evaluation, get a TechNet Plus subscription (similar to MSDN, but targeted to IT Pros instead of developers/testers):



  • Sean, TechNet looks like a really good, inexpensive fit for my needs. It seems so good, is there some catch I am missing. I only plan to use this to evaluate software, not in production. I would like to run 6 Window host OSes on top of VMWare Server to try out various applications. Is this covered? I really appreciate the help and I just want to make sure I am not missing some limitation in TechNet. – John Dec 8 '09 at 5:35
  • That's totally the purpose of the TechNet Plus. I think the idea is that the evaluation goes so well that you decide to buy a bunch of licences for running in production ;). More on it here: technet.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/bb892759.aspx – Sean Earp Dec 8 '09 at 6:20
  • The catch is that YOU and ONLY YOU can legally use those OSes. Here's a chart here that details exactly what you get: msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/dd362338.aspx – Jim B Dec 8 '09 at 21:53

To follow up on the other responses, here's a broad overview of discounted licensing options for development, testing, evaluation, and support purposes:

If you're looking for OS licenses for software development and testing purposes only, you probably would be better off with an MSDN Operating Systems subscription. The retail price is $700 for the first year and $500 for renewals.

If, on the other hand, you're doing this for product evaluation and compatibility testing purposes, you would be better off with a TechNet Plus subscription than individual OS licenses. This costs $350 for the first year and $250 for subsequent years.

Also, if you are a Microsoft Partner or qualify to sign up as one, the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription is an unbeatable deal for full-version software licensing at $300/year.


Technically, you can't use an OEM license for anything you didn't purchase directly from the manufacturer with your hardware. Since this is VMware, you can't even get an OEM license anymore. History here
You are stuck getting the best price on a full packaged version, if you want to be completely legal.

EDIT: Per Jim's comment, an eval version does not cost you anything. I missed that "for testing" clause in the OP.

  • You are not stuck buying a copy of windows for evaluation purposes – Jim B Dec 8 '09 at 21:54
  • Bleh. I buy OEM licenses all the time, they even come with a virtualization key. Guess I'm "illegal" then. – pauska Dec 9 '09 at 1:29

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