Where can a college student buy an inexpensive (and legit) Windows OS license?
August 31, 2010 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Where can a college student buy an inexpensive (and legit) Windows OS license?

I've got a MacBook Pro, and I'd like to install Windows on a BootCamp partition. The university sells Windows 7 upgrades for a song, but without a full license to start with, I'm nowhere. An XP, Vista, or 7 Starter license would all work equally well. What's the best price you've seen for a legit license?

The best deal I've seen is from third-party sellers on Craigslist who are selling old (usually Pentium 4) computers that are coming off business leases. I bought one for a family member, around $150. Legit. But there's no point paying for a box you don't need. Ideas?
posted by fishpatrol to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
You're welcome :)
posted by 2oh1 at 9:25 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's the better link. Windows 7 Professional edition for $29.99!
Geez, if I were a student, I'd buy it in a heartbeat (for my netbook).
posted by 2oh1 at 9:28 PM on August 31, 2010


Many universities have site licenses separate from what the bookstore sells where you can get a license-only for a full copy of windows for next to nothing - like $20 in some cases. You typically swing by the license admin's office to get a CD-R. My old school has a site-wide MSDN-AA subscription that all students can access which includes a full copy of Windows 7.

So check with your school's IT dept vs the bookstore.
posted by GuyZero at 9:30 PM on August 31, 2010


@2oh1 I've been there already. It's an upgrade license, no help for my case.

@GuyZero Thanks, I'll give it a run. I don't even need a disc; just a key.
posted by fishpatrol at 9:35 PM on August 31, 2010


Be careful, both of the first two links are for upgrade versions, even if they don't state it outright, it's in the finer print.

HOWEVER, there are a number of loopholes that allow you to use an upgrade version as a full version.

Here's a good place to start.
posted by gzimmer at 9:36 PM on August 31, 2010


"It's an upgrade license, no help for my case."

D'oh!!! Sorry!
posted by 2oh1 at 9:43 PM on August 31, 2010


Yeah, a clean install is the way to go, and it's a supported use of the disc. But a clean install isn't worth an animated paperclip if there's no license to let you use it.
posted by fishpatrol at 9:45 PM on August 31, 2010


You can do a clean install with the upgrade disk! -- I've had to do it myself from an install that got stuck halfway through (yay crappy dvd-r's) and required the HD to be reformated.

Instructions are here: specifically, workaround 3 is what the Microsoft tech-y support people walked me through doing. It's really easy to pull off.
posted by Chionophilia at 10:04 PM on August 31, 2010


(or gzimmer posted it as well. oops!)
posted by Chionophilia at 10:05 PM on August 31, 2010


I did already buy the Win7 upgrade and did a clean install to a new partition. It works fine, but the license key only works as an upgrade and won't validate by itself. Hence, the search for a license that can be upgraded to Win7.
posted by fishpatrol at 10:17 PM on August 31, 2010


I'm just thinking out loud here... but if I were you, I'd post an ad on craigslist looking for a dead laptop that comes with an XP CD/license.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:39 PM on August 31, 2010


Install it a second time using the same disk. The second time you install it, it will let you use an upgrade key to register.

(I successfully installed Windows 7 this way on my own computer.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:50 PM on August 31, 2010


Oh, and for more explicit instructions, look at method #3 on gzimmer's link.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:52 PM on August 31, 2010


Well, I bought that Win7 Pro per the lifehacker site this morning, and I was worried about the upgrade part of it, but I deleted everything on my C drive, did a clean install, and validated my copy just fine. I'm not sure what the problem is here.
posted by supermario at 10:56 PM on August 31, 2010


You did the right thing by purchasing the $30 upgrade! All you have to do is:

-Install it as a clean install (as you did), no need to enter any license #s.

-Once windows is up and running, with the cd (or whatever) still in, run the install program again (from within windows).

-This time, select upgrade

-Enter your license (you may have to wait until windows finishes installing and activate by phone)

BAM you should be good to go, now windows thinks it has been "upgraded" from another version of windows. ive done this with both 64 and 32 bit versions, works fine.
posted by Esefa at 10:57 PM on August 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your cheapest legit readily available source is likely Newegg.

Your suggestion of getting a license from a seller on Craigslist is almost certainly (I would bet [insert preferred reasonably priced adult beverage here] on it) not legit. Those license are almost certainly OEM or system builder licenses which are only valid for the hardware they are sold with. They are very specifically non-transferable without some license agreement with Microsoft that gives you additional rights (the type of agreement most businesses sign with Microsoft that give them permission to downgrade to previous versions and the like). This goes for pretty much all license keys that are affixed to computers.

Often suggested is the purchasing of OEM licenses (Newegg again being a good source). Now if you wished to read the OEM license in a liberal enough way, that would work. My own research on the matter says that this is not acceptable from the spirit or the letter of the license, but it is certainly better than just pirating a copy, and my opinions may certainly be wrong as I am not your lawyer let alone a lawyer (I am an IT professional that reads these licenses every year or two).

All that said, I certainly know plenty of people that use OEM licenses for this type of thing (and virtual machine use) with no troubles.
posted by fief at 11:53 PM on August 31, 2010


My old school has a site-wide MSDN-AA subscription that all students can access which includes a full copy of Windows 7.

It could be worth looking your school up on the MSDNAA School Search.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:52 AM on September 1, 2010


sellers on Craigslist who are selling old (usually Pentium 4) computers

If those computers came with Windows on them originally from a major manufacturer like Dell then they are likely OEM versions of Windows, and the OEM license is specifically bound to the hardware that it was installed on and isn't legally transferable to another machine. I'm not saying that the process wouldn't work, but if you are looking for strict legal compliance with the law then this isn't legal.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:28 AM on September 1, 2010


I should have skimmed more carefully, sorry fief.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:28 AM on September 1, 2010


Buy a USB memory stick and an OEM licence at the same time.
posted by Biru at 3:34 AM on September 1, 2010


Esefa's technique worked for me.
posted by jefeweiss at 4:28 AM on September 1, 2010


I've had good deals for my student son from Software4Students, but (a) I don't know whether it's only valid in the UK, and (b) I don't know where you're located.
posted by aqsakal at 5:10 AM on September 1, 2010


Would FREE work? Not technically Windows7, but you can make Windows Server 2008r2 into a more performant desktop OS pretty easily.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:38 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


"the OEM license is specifically bound to the hardware that it was installed on and isn't legally transferable to another machine."

Ah, I didn't know this. I also didn't know that an OEM/System Builder license would be so restrictive. That looks like a dead end.

My university is part of the MSDN program, but I'm not in the IT/Engineering department, and it looks like they're very strict on eligibility. That's based on statements made by those departments.

Software4Students appears to work with students in the UK and Ireland only. I'm in the U.S. Thanks, though.

I'd like to stick with Win7 instead of a server package. I don't know if it'd play nice with BootCamp, and the less time I spend keeping an OS installation happy, the happier I'll be.

A couple years ago, you could walk into the campus bookstore and buy a full license of XP for $10 or $12. (There were a few other fees involved in being a student, don't worry.) That's still true of MS Office, for example, but it looks like Microsoft has sealed the OS well.
posted by fishpatrol at 7:43 AM on September 1, 2010


Nthing Esefa's trick. It works and is standard reinstall for users who legally upgraded but need to reinstall or install from scratch. I've used it on a VMWare install and a Bootcamp install with Windows 7 Pro Upgrade edition.
posted by chairface at 12:19 PM on September 1, 2010


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