How can I make pirated Windows 7 legal?
January 4, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I have remote staff in a dozen different countries, and many of them have installed pirated copies of Windows 7 on organizational laptops. We're trying to make sure all organizational computers are using legal licenses. What's the best way to do this?

I'm a dunce who uses a Mac and doesn't understand how to explain this properly, nevermind do it. This whole process is kind of confusing to me.

I'm using TechSoup Canada to order software. When it comes to Windows 7, I have access to Windows 7 Professional Upgrade. I also have access to ordering XP Professional and Vista.

If members of my team are running pirated Windows 7, can I order the Windows 7 upgrade and have them just use the new license key? Or will they have to revert to Vista or XP and then install the upgrade? If that happens to be the case - that they have to revert & then upgrade - how can I make it easy for them?

I'd like to find the simplest solution to getting them all legal, since I'm dealing with distance, language barriers, and my own technical ineptitude.

Help, and thank you!
posted by drycleanonly to Technology (7 answers total)
Call Microsoft sales. Ask "for a friend".
posted by empath at 12:25 PM on January 4, 2011

It's fairly easy to install an upgrade edition without a preceding edition. At least in the technical sense, you won't need to install any previous edition of Windows. Is that legal though? Well, it's more legal than running outright pirated editions. Goggle around to get the specific details on clean install of Windows Upgrade editions.
posted by chairface at 12:32 PM on January 4, 2011

I asked my supplier once about Microsoft auditing your licenses - and one of our divisions went through it themselves.

They send you a letter and ask that you provide proof of your licensing. You run around and gather up all your details and send it to them. If you discover something amiss (and apparently everyone usually does!) then you purchase valid licenses and correct the situation. Done.

If you act in good faith, it seems they do too. The sheriffs didn't knock anyone's doors down and forcibly audit them for piracy... at least in the 3 instances I was told about.

In your case, having X copies of Windows 7 Upgrade (assuming you have legit OEM copies that came with the laptops) should satisfy them if they do come asking - even if they're not (yet) installed.

MAK keys, as mentioned, are also a wonderful way to go - BUT! - if they are pirating the copies, you better be sure they don't share their key. The 'M' stands for multiple, not unlimited activation keys after all.
posted by Fat Elvis at 1:07 PM on January 4, 2011

Also note that it is trivial to extract the licensing key from an existing install, and reuse it elsewhere for the piracy inclined.

Also -- are all the computers on the same VPN network? Do you have admin rights to all of the computers?
posted by benzenedream at 1:30 PM on January 4, 2011

benzenedream - No and no... we're pretty low-tech. These are all computers that staff have purchased on their own and been reimbursed for. So we also have to consider that it's (very) possible that some of the machines themselves are from back-alley dealers in, say, Sudan, and didn't come with any sort of legal OS to start with. We have an IT manager in each country who has admin rights to each computer (at least, I think most of them have set that up), but no one is on any kind of network.
posted by drycleanonly at 1:45 PM on January 4, 2011

If there are a lot of unlicensed copies you need to replace you can look into volume licensing, which kicks in at 5+ licenses, I think. Discounts and such. Resellers and vendors will help you out. It doesn't really matter what your current license situation is; just mention that you have W machines that need licenses for Windows 7 X edition, with Y of W machines currently (legally, but don't actually say that, this is in parenthesis after all) running Windows Z. Whoever you're buying from should be able to set you up.

(I do third party work for MS if that needs to be disclaimed. I also accidentally wrote a word puzzle there, sorry.)
posted by truex at 3:02 PM on January 4, 2011

You don't say what the computers are used for. If there are no Windows-specific programs (and your on a Mac, so I figure chances are reasonable), you might find that jumping to Linux is a good option e.g. Ubuntu. It has the benefit of being free, and avoids any future piracy issues. Of course, the switch in systems might require training etc., and be more hassle than it's worth, but maybe something to consider.
posted by djgh at 5:00 PM on January 4, 2011

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