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 Post subject: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:22 pm 
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Hi Scott,

I was wondering if there are any potential problems with upgrading OEM computers such as Dell, HP, etc. that have a version of Windows (either XP or Vista) preloaded on them. I'm planning on installing a new Intel motherboard, CPU and a couple gigs of RAM.
My question is, when the hard drive boots up to an extremely modified hardware environment, will this cause the OS's antipiracy/activation software to kick in and create problems for me?

Thanks,
-Randy


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 4:56 pm 
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There are two problems. One is that systems from large OEMs (i.e. Dell, HP, etc.) install Windows using a feature called SLP (System Locked Pre-installation). The other problem is that all OEM Windows licenses are non-transferable.

OEM systems from large vendors use SLP (System Locked Pre-installation), where the copy of Windows is locked to a special code used in that manufacturer's BIOS. SLP systems use custom files along with a special key (the same key is used on all SLP systems with the same OS from a given mfr.) that causes Windows to check for that code in the BIOS during boot, and if it is found, no activation is required. With SLP, any or all of the other hardware components in the system could change, and it wouldn't matter since the standard activation code is bypassed as long as a motherboard with the proper SLP code remained. See the section "Product Activation and new pre-loaded PCs" in the following document:

Technical Details on Microsoft Product Activation for Windows XP
http://tinyurl.com/ay57c

However, if the motherboard were changed to one from a different mfr., the SLP check would fail, and Windows would then require standard activation. In that case you could enter the key from the COA (Certificate of Authenticity) on the system, and activate Windows using that key. This will unfortunately require a call to the MS activation hotline since on Feb. 28 2005 internet based activation was disabled for COA keys from large OEM vendors: http://www.betanews.com/article/Microso ... 1109293194

But here's the problem. MS considers OEM licenses as non-transferable, that is they are forever locked to the first motherboard they are installed on. This means that if you change the motherboard in an OEM system, the existing license is not valid for the new board.

Consider an example scenario: You have a Dell with an SLP installation of Windows XP Pro. The system was installed using Dell's SLP key, which is the same on *all* Dell systems with XP Pro preinstalled. The system also has a COA with a printed key on the chassis, but that key was *not* used when the system was installed.

One day you decide to replace the motherboard with an aftermarket board (Intel, Gigabyte, Asus, etc.). Upon booting (assuming you get past potential problems with incompatible chipset drivers and SATA mode changes, which can cause the system to bluescreen on boot), Windows will check for the Dell SLP code in the BIOS, and since it won't be there, the pre-activation will fail. Windows will then boot up in an un-activated state, with a 30-day activation countdown started.

Or to avoid potential problems with drivers, you decide to do a fresh install instead. You can't use the Dell restore disc, since it also checks for the mfr. and won't install on a non-Dell motherboard. No problem, you have a copy of an OEM System Builder or Retail XP Pro disc handy, and install from that. When prompted for a key, you enter the key on the COA attached to the Dell chassis, which is accepted. However, upon finishing the installation, just as with the SLP install, Windows is in an un-activated state, with a 30-day activation countdown started.

At this point you decide to activate, and are initially given the option for internet or telephone activation. The internet based activation fails, so you decide to to the telephone activation instead. You explain to the MS rep that you upgraded the motherboard in your Dell, and wish to re-activate using the key from the COA on the Dell. Unfortunately since OEM licenses are deemed non-transferable, and Microsoft considers a new motherboard a new and different system, the activation is denied. You are offered the option to *purchase* a new license instead.

Now let's examine a slightly different scenario: Everything is the same as the first scenario, except that when talking to the MS rep, you inform them that the original motherboard in your Dell had *failed*, and a replacement had been installed in order to *repair* the machine. Since MS considers a replacement due to failure as NOT to be a transfer, the activation is authorized and you are given a new activation code.

Bottom line: OEM licenses are non-transferable from one motherboard to another, unless the change was made as part of a repair. Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:30 pm 
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Thanks Scott,
Boy, Microsoft sure doesn't make it easy to upgrade! You would think it would be to their advantage to not only allow, but encourage upgrades since it only serves to make their product look faster and more efficient to the end user. Well, you've given me alot to think about. Thanks again.

-Randy


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:53 pm 
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Say Scott,

Just as an afterthought, what if I built a system from scratch and installed a regular OEM Windows package. Would I still have to go through the same procedure (as outlined in your post above) later on if I changed the motherboard on my home built computer? Is the OEM versions of Windows that you or I could buy off the Internet different than that used by Dell & HP in their systems in regards to their upgrade limitations?

Thanks,
-Randy


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:35 am 
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There are two main types of Windows OEM versions:

1.) Royalty OEM: http://www.microsoft.com/resources/howt ... laylang=en

2.) OEM System Builder: http://www.microsoft.com/resources/howt ... =en&fid=56

These can be identified via the COA (Certificate of Authenticity). See the examples in the links above, look at what is printed on the COA underneath where the product name is printed. Royalty OEM COAs have the system mfr. name printed where it says "OEM NAME HERE", while OEM System Builder copies say "OEM Software" instead. Royalty OEM versions are normally pre-activated via SLP (System Locked Pre-installation), while the OEM System Builder copies use standard activation. OEM System Builder versions include a hologrammed disc, packaging and documentation from Microsoft, while Royalty OEM versions include system locked recovery media from the system mfr., which may be in the form of a recovery partition (i.e. no disc supplied).

Despite their physical differences, the licensing for each is the same in that OEM licenses are non-transferable, and are married to the first PC they are installed on. This Microsoft document sums it up the best: http://download.microsoft.com/download/ ... SLicQA.doc

Selected quotes from the document:

    9. Can I transfer my operating system license from an old PC to a new one?
    ANSWER. Not unless it was purchased as a Full-Packaged Product from a retail store (i.e., Windows in a box). Current OEM licenses for all Microsoft operating system products are not transferable from one machine to another.

    10. If I "retire" a PC with an OEM license on it, can I use that software on a new PC?
    ANSWER. No. To put it simply, OEM product is "married" to the original PC on which it was installed. Current OEM licenses are not transferable from one machine to another. The software cannot be moved from PC to PC, even if the original PC it was installed on is no longer in use. This is true for all OEM software - operating systems and applications.

    11. Rather than purchase completely new PCs, my organization performs in-place upgrades to the hardware on many of our computers. We often times only replace the motherboard, processor, and memory. Since the COA is still on the case and the OS is still installed on the hard drive, this computer is still licensed, right?
    ANSWER. Generally, you may upgrade or replace all of the hardware components on your computer and maintain the license for the original Microsoft OEM operating system software, with the exception of an upgrade or replacement of the motherboard. An upgrade of the motherboard is considered to result in a "new personal computer." Microsoft OEM operating system software cannot be transferred from one computer to another. Therefore, if the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons other than a defect then a new computer has been created, the original license expires, and a new full operating system license (not upgrade) is required. This is true even if the computer is covered under Software Assurance or other Volume License programs.

    12. If I upgrade some of my PC components, do I have to purchase a new operating system?
    ANSWER. The answer depends on the components that are upgraded or changed in the PC. The operating system licenses must remain with the device that retains the motherboard, chipsets, and chassis that include the serial number of the device. The operating system may be installed on a new/replacement hard drive as long as the operating system is first removed from the old hard drive.

As you can see, for licensing purposes Microsoft considers the MOTHERBOARD to be the PC, not the hard drive or the chassis with the COA. Also, note in question 11 where it states "...if the motherboard is upgraded or replaced for reasons *other than a defect* then a new computer has been created...", which was my basis for the two different activation scenarios in my previous post.

Note that what is "legal" in terms of the MS license agreement vs. what is ethical and/or possible are completely different things. If I replace a working motherboard in a PC, Microsoft's terms state that I must purchase a 2nd copy of Windows for the system since the 1st license "expires" with the original board. I have several PCs on which I've replaced motherboards multiple times, and I believe that it is rediculous that I should have to literally throw the previous copy away and buy a new copy of Windows each time. So, do I violate the agreement and break the law? I don't have to! Microsoft has provided me with a completely legal loophole, in that as long as my reason for motherboard replacement is "a defect", I can continue to use the same license on the replacement board. Ethically I have no problem conjuring up "a defect" every time I replace a board, such that I only ever have to buy *one* copy of Windows for any *one* system, no matter how many different motherboards it might ever contain. Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:59 am 
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Gee, I hope I don't forget to strap on my anti-static wristband when I start poking around my customer's motherboards. Does Microsoft put up a fuss if the replacement motherboard is more modern than the original or don't they ask?


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:11 am 
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I've replaced motherboards with "a defect" such as a missing or mis-placed jumper or a missing or dead CMOS battery. After replacement due to these defects, I was able to legally reinstall the existing copy of Windows.

Later, upon examining the boards, I was able to discover the causes of the defects and correct them, which in no way invalidated the original reason for replacement. Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:30 am 
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When you replaced the MB, was it the same brand or have the same BIOS as the original?


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:39 am 
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I've done it both ways, that is with boards from the same mfr. as well as different ones. If the system was from a royalty OEM that used SLP, and you replace the board with one from the same mfr. (i.e. replace an older Dell board with a newer one), then the system can remain pre-activated. Scott.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 4:35 pm 
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Thanks Scott. That helps alot.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:35 pm 
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Randy wrote:
snip....Does Microsoft put up a fuss if the replacement motherboard is more modern than the original or don't they ask?


I have never had them ask. They have always been courteous with me, with one exception. That gentleman did try to get me to "admit" the motherboard had not gone bad...you could hear irritation in his voice as if he was on some kind of quota system ...but I stuck to my replaced a dead motherboard and eventually he read off my activation number and that was that.

To be quite honest, many of my reactivations are due to frequent pulling drives and cards in and out of machines which eventually tips the bogey (read a detailed account of the point system in Scott's PC Upgrade & Repair) and requires either an online or phone activation. Just one of the many added features that makes Microsoft so beloved. But truthfully, I doubt whether it matters whether you claim I just swapped out my DVD burner, or video card and this demand for activation just popped up or my motherboard failed. I doubt Microsoft, nor the person answering the phone at their activation center knows different.


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:30 pm 
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Scott, in the eyes of Microsoft, what would qualify as a "defective" motherboard when it comes to activating a Windows 7 installation? What if a certain motherboard runs Windows 7 very poorly? Would that motherboard qualify as "defective" in the eyes of Microsoft?


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 Post subject: Re: Upgrade pitfall?
 Post Posted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 9:59 pm 
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Unfortunately I cannot speak for Microsoft on that account, I recommend you ask them directly. Please let us know what they tell you. Scott.


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