There are two types of licenses (among so many possible way of categorizing licenses e.g. duration, number of users, version of OS and so on) viz. OEM (Original Equipement Manufacturer) and Non-OEM/Retail. Googling for the exact differences between these two only confused me a lot. While software piracy is being taken care of by appropriate authorities in many countries, I was surprised at how much still people are unaware/uninformed about the legal issues concerned with SLA (Software License Agreement). Possibly, even one who pays to purchase a copy of software (in our case, Windows) hardly cares to go through what has been written in EULA (End User's License Agreement).
The distinct differences which I could figure out (either correctly or incorrectly) from the discussion going on several forums are:
- OEM version is cheaper than Retail version.
- OEM comes with more restrictive a license than the Retail one.
- OEM operating system may include vendor-specific applications bundled into it, e.g. DELL Utilities. That's why, those are supposed to be backed up by vendor-specific recovery utilities as it is mostly seen in laptops being shipped with the OS along with. Retail version of an OS is the bare OS itself, out-of-the-box.
- Though the acronym 'OEM' suggests that it has to be supplied by some hardware manufacturer or tied up with major components building the system, especially the Motherboard, BUT many vendors are illegaly selling it just like Retail version at a lower price. Retaile version of the OS is can be installed on to any system, precisely to the limit of the number of systems allowed by the licenses.
- Any major changes in hardware configuration causes the OEM version to be re-activated while a Retail version allows it without needing the activation to be done again.
At this point, here are what my confusions are:
- Is selling 'OEM' operating system without the associated hardware truely illegal?
- If the answer to #1 is 'Yes', then why those vendors selling OEM OS as the Retail one are not being sued?
- Is there any special mechanism built-into OEM software, which is NOT there in Retail version, to detect change in hardware?
- A general question - when someone purchase a multi-user version of Windows, is he/she given that many number of different license keys or simply the EULA allows the usage of same license key on multiple machines?
- My perception is - for even a single user license, if the software (especially Windows) is installed on one machine, un-installed and then re-installed on to a different machine - this series of action is perfectly legal. Am I correct?
- Any other relevant information.