Understanding your organization’s Windows software licenses can be challenging. Windows licensing missteps are common, but Microsoft and our partners are here to help you. If your organization happens to be the victim of any licensing mistakes, we can offer easy ways to fix them.
If you’re unsure whether or not you're using properly licensed Windows software today, see below for a list of some common licensing issues.
Genuine Windows is published by Microsoft and can help your organization stay competitive and maintain its stellar reputation. When all of your Microsoft software is genuine and properly licensed, your company has:
Protection from the risks that can be associated with counterfeit software, such as viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Genuine Windows gives you peace of mind that your critical business information is safer and more secure.
Reliability you can count on through reduced downtime caused by system failures and security breaches. Only genuine Windows is supported by Microsoft and provides access to all updates and optional downloads.
Performance that is faster and gives your company a leg up. With genuine Windows you save valuable time needed to complete business tasks and don’t need to worry about unwanted licensing interruptions.
Confidence that your company is fully in compliance with Microsoft Software License Terms and is seen as a trustworthy, reputable business partner by your employees, partners, and customers.
Companies like yours want to do the right thing, but some are just unaware of the facts about Windows licensing. Here are some of the most common licensing mistakes:
Windows Volume Licenses are for upgrades only and require a qualifying full operating system to be installed on the PC as a prerequisite. Companies often purchase Windows Volume Licensing Agreements and mistakenly apply them to computers that don’t have a full operating system already installed. Windows Volume Licenses provide the opportunity to extend the life of a previously acquired full Windows desktop license, or other qualifying license, by upgrading to a newer version of Windows.
Next Steps: If your organization fits this scenario, Microsoft and our trusted business partners offer a portfolio of solutions that are easy to implement and can help make sure your company is properly licensed and smoothly running a Professional edition of Windows. See the table in the "How do I correct a licensing mistake?" section on this page.
Windows Volume Licenses require an existing, qualifying operating system installed as a prerequisite on each PC. Companies often acquire PCs with Windows Starter, Home, or other consumer editions preinstalled, and then mistakenly apply a new Windows Volume License to upgrade to a Windows Professional edition. Except in the case of academic institutions, Volume Licensing Agreements can only be applied to Professional editions of Windows operating systems.
Next Steps: If your organization fits this scenario, Microsoft and our trusted partners offer a variety of easy ways to help make sure your company is properly licensed and smoothly running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro editions.
Companies sometimes discover that they are unintentionally using PCs with counterfeit operating systems. This is a common occurrence when PCs are acquired without Windows or other operating systems pre-installed through a trusted PC manufacturer or in a full retail package. Windows Volume Licenses require genuine operating systems as a prerequisite.
Genuine Windows software is published by Microsoft and supported by either Microsoft or a trusted partner. Only genuine Windows helps you reduce downtime caused by system failures and security breaches, and offers you the reliability and performance you expect from Windows.
It's helpful to know what to look for when purchasing a PC. If you feel you might be using counterfeit software, Microsoft can help make sure you’re properly licensed and running the right version of Windows to meet your needs.
For the above scenarios and other licensing issues, Microsoft offers several easy licensing solutions to help make sure your company is using properly licensed, genuine Windows software. All of these solutions are meant for use on an existing PC's previously installed counterfeit or otherwise improperly licensed copy of Windows. Refer to the information in the table to learn more and get genuine today.
In the future, keep in mind that the best and most economical way to get a proper Windows license is typically to buy it preinstalled on your PC.
Note: Pricing information varies by geography and is available via your Microsoft partner.
Get Genuine Windows Agreement for Small- and Medium-sized Organizations *
Volume License Resellers
Small business, mid-market, and government
Get Genuine Windows Agreements for Large Organizations
License Solution Partners (LSPs)
Mid-market, enterprise, and government
Get Genuine Windows Agreements for Academic Institutions
Get Genuine Kit
OEM system builders
Home use or small business
Get Genuine Online Kit or Get Genuine Windows **
Available online upon failing validation
* The Get Genuine Windows Agreement for Small- and Medium-Sized Organizations is called the Get Genuine Solution in Brazil, Russia, China, and India.
** The Get Genuine Online Kit provides legalization rights to Windows 7. Get Genuine Windows provides legalization rights to Windows 8, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10.
Who is it for?
Small business, mid-market, or government organizations
Where do I get it?
From a Volume Licensing reseller
Minimum PC quantity
5 or more PCs
Customer support is available for purchase
Downgrade rights are available
Terms & conditions
Commitment to acquire only genuine Windows licenses going forward for new PC purchases
Large or medium-sized organizations
From a License Solution Partner (LSP) or directly from your Microsoft account representative
Placement of a one-time only order
Customer support is available for purchase from Microsoft or through a LSP
Downgrade rights available
Pre-signed agreement that includes an acknowledgement of compliance and an audit clause
Must legalize all out-of-compliance PCs running Windows
Master Business Services Agreement must be in place or set up
Qualifying academic institutions
From an Academic Volume Licensing reseller
Use only to fulfill the qualifying Windows operating system requirement for purchasing Volume License Windows upgrade
Downgrade rights available after a Windows upgrade license is acquired through an existing academic Volume License agreement
Academic Open License agreement terms and GGWA Supplemental Agreement Academic Addendum
Note that the license acquired with the purchase of a new PC with Windows software preinstalled can't be used to correct an improperly licensed PC. The following table illustrates the differences between the Get Genuine Kit and a license obtained with a new PC purchase.
Customers with existing PCs in need of legalization
Purchasers of new PCs with software preinstalled
Available for sale to customers to legalize existing PCs
Available for sale to OEMs for preinstallation on new PCs only
Customer support provided by Microsoft
Downgrade rights are unavailable
DVD-style case with full packaged product (FPP) media
Customer support provided by the OEM who preinstalled the software
Downgrade rights are available
Media accompanies PC
Generally, no transfers are allowed; however, any exceptions are noted in the program agreement
Can't be transferred from the PC on which it is originally preinstalled
Purchased directly from OEM system builders
Can't be sold to legalize existing PCs
If Windows 7 on your home PC fails online validation, the Get Genuine Online Kit is available worldwide as an online solution. If you access downloads on the Microsoft Download Center or on the Microsoft Windows Update website, you might be prompted to complete genuine validation for Windows, which performs a validation check to verify that Windows installed on your PC is genuine. If validation determines that Windows on your PC isn’t genuine, you’ll see information about why validation failed, helpful troubleshooting tips, and how you can get genuine Windows.
If Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 on your home PC fails online activation, Get Genuine Windows is available worldwide as an online, in-product solution. You can purchase a valid Windows product key right from your PC by going to PC settings, and then tapping or clicking Windows Activation. You also have the option to download Windows and purchase optional back up media.
Volume activation for Windows is a required part of Windows 7 deployment that helps IT professionals automate and manage the product activation process when deploying Windows 7 in the managed IT environment for your business. There are two methods of volume activation: Key Management Service (KMS) and Multiple Activation Key (MAK).
KMS is the default method of volume activation, which provides the capability to host activation in a managed environment.
MAK is primarily for businesses that don’t have the capabilities to host their own activation server; instead, MAK provides the capability to use the Microsoft-hosted activation services to activate each eligible system.
For most volume licensing customers, your IT professional will use volume activation tools and methods to deploy Windows within the IT environment for your business. There are some tools to get you started:
The Windows Activation Technologies in Windows 7 overview guide outlines the activation and validation experience in Windows 7 for customers interested in learning more about volume activation and genuine Windows.
Step-by-step guidance for IT professionals in your business is available in the Volume Activation Deployment Guide.
The Top 7 Things You Should Know About Volume Activation and Genuine Windows 7 overview document.
The Volume Activation Center on TechNet is a great resource for IT Pros to find more information about volume activation, as well as community forums and support. And for additional products, benefits, and subscription information, visit the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center (MVLS).
Learn more about the Windows Optimized Desktop
Build your case for the Optimized Desktop
Implementing Software Asset Management (SAM) to optimize your IT assets
Resolving improper licensing