Windows XP licensing and VMWARE
July 13, 2009 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Windows XP licenses and VM Ware, can I reuse the same XP instance?

I work for a small company that has deployed Macs to all our 35 employees. Each Mac has VMWare Fusion installed. I want to install XP once and then give all the employees the same VM. We have purchased 30 copies of XP, but I don't want to install it 30 times.

Can I legally give all the employees the SAME VM instance?

If not, what is the easiest way to carry off what I want to do?
posted by cowmix to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Microsoft itself doesn't know the answer. At my last two employers we used VMWare extensively, and were never able to get a straight answer on the licencing implications, beyond the salesperson trying to sell us a licence for every active instance.

Really, the licencing worry here is that if the Business Software Alliance audits you, they'll seize on any irregularity at all to threaten you with an expensive lawsuit that causes you to settle and pay for their licence tracking software. But the odds of an audit are vanishingly small, and really, if the BSA sets their sites on you, you're fucked no matter how diligent you are at licencing your software.

Morally and practically, I'd say you're in the clear here: You have 30 licences, and 30 instances. If you didn't purchase a volume licence key, then logically each instance should have its own key. Find out how to change the key of an already-installed copy of XP, copy the image 30 times, and update the other 29 instances to have their own key.
posted by fatbird at 9:26 AM on July 13, 2009

Short answer: Yes. As long as you have the licenses for VMWare and XP fully paid for, distribute it any way you like. Ultimately, the companies just want to be paid.

The vmware forum is a good place to start poking around. A lot of small businesses do this same sort of thing.
posted by Citrus at 9:26 AM on July 13, 2009

the answer Microsoft want's to sell you volume licensing. you could have one corporate key used all on the installs.

another option they support is changing the key at time of activation
posted by jrishel at 9:32 AM on July 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've tried to figure this out and, frankly, gave up. I'm sorry to say that I think you might need a VLK to do what you're trying to do. IANAL.

@Citrus - That sounds like a moral argument, not a legal one. I think we all agree that it's morally right to use 30 installs of XP if you bought 30 retail boxes. But it may well be the case that you're technically committing 29 cases of copyright fraud.

Crazy how it's so much easier to pirate the software than to pay for it.

Do you go through a reseller? I know CDW has people who deal with Microsoft licensing full-time.
posted by meta_eli at 11:19 AM on July 13, 2009

Like jrishel said - Give them the same instance, but change the key at time of activation. Or use another utility to change the key yourself then reactivate. WGA will probably popup eventually if you have multiple instances with the same non-volume licensed key.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:49 PM on July 13, 2009

WGA will probably popup eventually if you have multiple instances with the same non-volume licensed key


You can train your people not to accept WGA related automatic updates (these have their own licencing terms that must be agreed to, so they won't just go in on their own) or you can search for wga*.dll and wga*.exe and add Deny Execute for Everyone NTFS permissions to every copy you find, but both of these are more work than just re-keying your installs as you roll them out.
posted by flabdablet at 3:26 PM on July 13, 2009

What you could also do is to install your VM template with XP SP3 media which will let you go through the install without putting in key. Then, configure the image the way you like and sysprep it using a non fully automated install (and, again, no key). As you deploy each image, on first boot it will run through the mini setup and you can put in a key and join it to the domain and whatever. This is a lot more hassle than using a lite touch or zero touch install, but for ~35 installs it's definitely doable. Plus, I think using sysprep or WSIM is the only officially supported way to deploy Windows images anyway (also if you are not using domain joined images then it's critical, since if you don't then all the VM's will have the same SID's, which is a security and administration nightmare. If you do have a domain network then it's not such a big deal, but still a bit of a hassle I have discovered.)
posted by tracert at 8:05 AM on July 15, 2009

Sorry, just to clarify, sysprep is for XP, WSIM (a tool included in WAIK) is for Vista up.
posted by tracert at 8:16 AM on July 15, 2009

To avoid the duplicate SID thing on the (volume licenced) XP image rollouts I do at school, I use NewSID. It's rather less work to set up than Sysprep (all I do is save NewSID.exe on the image's Administrator desktop), and allows you to generate a new SID and a new computer name in one hit. All you have to do afterwards is join the computer to the domain.

One of these days I will get around to scripting the process of generating new machine names and joining them to the domain. For the time being I just do both those jobs by hand.
posted by flabdablet at 6:06 PM on July 16, 2009

Oh, and as for the business about Microsoft not supporting images created by anything other than Sysprep: I don't think I've ever had any useful support from Microsoft for any issue ever, apart from what's in their online knowledge base and occasionally phoning them to activate Windows when doing so online fails. So "no support" is no loss.
posted by flabdablet at 6:11 PM on July 16, 2009

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