How to Legally Image Windows PC’s With an OEM License

By Ian Matthews   January 22, 2009   

NOTE: The author will not accept responsibility for damages as a result of following the suggestions below.  They are provided “as is” and you need to verify these facts with your Microsoft licence in your country

 Since the new licencing model release in January of 2007 (about the time Vista was released) Microsoft has had several public articles which state you must own an OEM licence AND an Open (or Volume) licence for EACH PC if you want to image (i.e. clone with Ghost, or RIS, or WDS…) a PC.  This was totally unacceptable to me and I argued with my MS rep in Toronto from May through August of 2008 to get this situation corrected. 

Under the old licencing model that existed during XP’s time the Corporate Key had did not activate so there was no tracking.  The new licencing model (which applies to Vista, 7 and XP) requires each machine to activate and Microsoft counts each activation. 

However, the new process is quite acceptable to me and make sense:

  1. You need to have an Open (or Volume) Licence agreement with Microsoft
    • You can buy a minimum of 5 Vista (or XP or 7) Business Upgrade Open Licence licences from any Microsoft authorized reseller, like me… Up & Running Technologies Inc.
    • You do NOT need to buy an Open Licence for every machine you want to image. 
  2. You need a Vista Business (or XP Pro or 7 Business) OEM licences for each machine you want to image 
  3. Use ONLY your Open Licence media to create your images with.  You can not legally make corporate images using the OEM version.

That’s it.

 You may say but if I only have 5 Open Licence activations, how can I image and activate my 250 PC’s… no problem.  You simply call Microsoft’s licencing line at 888-352-7140 (Canada and US… if you live elsewhere, click HERE for the phone number), tell them you have 250 PC’s each with OEM licences of Vista Business, and within 2 hours they will expand the number of activations to fit your need.

Note that I was going to point to brutal articles (like THIS one) explaining that you need to buy BOTH an Open Licence and OEM licence to image Vista PC’s, but as you can see, Microsoft has withdrawn them. 

I also wanted to thank my M.S. rep in Toronto.  At every step he was sympathetic and interested in the issue and worked hard to get the misleading documents removed and to formalize the process specified above.

Questions or Comments?