Despite the ever-present ‘death of the desktop’, PC building is alive and well, even as Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system nears release. MS has recognized that fact for the first time by offering a special version of the Win 8 license targeted directly at users who put together their own PC at home.
It’s true that system builders have been putting Windows on their home builds for decades now, but many have taken an unofficial path toward acquiring the OS. Copies of Windows 7 Home Premium, for example, have sold for $199 – or $80 more than the price of an upgrade. Companies like Newegg have made available special OEM licenses of Windows, originally targeted at businesses that sell pre-built desktop and laptop PCs to the public.
The upside to doing it this way is clear. Copies of this version of Windows sell for just $99, which means a full $100 savings over the regular retail version of the OS, or $20 over an upgrade price. Originally these sellers skirted the rules of the program by selling a random piece of hardware along with the software – this could have been an old network card, optical disk drive, or power cable. That practice seems to have gone by the wayside, however, as now builders can freely buy the software without being inundated with antiquated hardware.
Newegg, however, does offer the following disclaimer:
“Disclaimer: Use of this OEM System Builder Channel software is subject to the terms of the Microsoft OEM System Builder License. This software is intended for pre-installation on a new personal computer for resale. This OEM System Builder Channel software requires the assembler to provide end user support for the Windows software and cannot be transferred to another computer once it is installed. To acquire Windows software with support provided by Microsoft please see our full package “Retail” product offerings.”
That disclaimer basically means that Microsoft will let you purchase the software, but they won’t support it – ever – and you’ll only ever be able to install it on a single computer. Change too many components, and your license will be invalidated. It’s tricky and messy and really just a hassle.
Fortunately, it looks like that’s all in the past.
The new version of Windows 8 is called a Personal Use License (System Builder). Its EULA states that users will be able to install the Personal Use License on any PC that they build, as long as they operate it only on that PC.
PERSONAL USE LICENSE (SYSTEM BUILDER) FOR WINDOWS 8 PRO
We do not sell our software or your copy of it – we only license it. Under our license, we grant you the right to install and run that one copy on one computer (the licensed computer) as the operating system on a computer that you build for your personal use, or as an additional operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition, subject to the restrictions outlined under “Are there things I’m not allowed to do with the software?”
In addition to guaranteeing the right of home builders to buy these special licenses of Windows, Microsoft has substantially clarified the language used in their EULAs, or end-user license agreements (that pop-up text that we generally just mouse through and don’t read when we install new software). No longer do they read like something that only a bar-certified lawyer is capable of fully comprehending. The agreement is also notable for directly referencing virtualization by consumers on PC they build and operate all on their own.
How much will this Personal Use or System Builder License cost? We aren’t yet sure, but it looks like the software itself won’t be available until late October, when Windows 8 will formally launch. As mentioned above, current versions of Windows 7 that seem to follow similar (albeit more restrictive) rules currently run around half off of retail, or $99. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Microsoft follow a similar guideline for Windows 8, though they may decide to follow recent trends and discount the software by an even larger amount.
It’s also unknown whether Microsoft will offer similar, possibly cheaper, licenses for its Windows 8 non-Pro versions.