Licensing issues with cloned OEM Windows 7
March 26, 2011 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Can I clone an OEM windows 7, preactivated install and not worry about cloning the license with it?

I have 3 brand new, identical HP PC's with Win 7 Professional OEM preinstalled and preactivated. Unfortunately, even business class PC's come full of junk (49 different pieces of crapware including 23 games) and of course no Windows disk. I've spent considerable time cleaning up, and I have a lovely clean build with all the apps and utils I need.

I want to clone/restore using Clonezilla, to the other 2 PC's. I have no problem doing that technically but I cant work out what will happen with the key/OEM license. I've looked through a lot of articles and cant find out what would happen if I cloned, and whether or not there would be a problem with licensing.

Ideally I'd like to re-enter the OEM licence key on the other 2 and re-activate them legally so everything is kosher. Any ideas?

I dont really have enough PC's or time to justify volume licensing on this scale.
posted by daveyt to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1- That's what sysprep is for.

2- If it is an HP (or Dell or Lenovo; one of the biggest of the big), you probably don't even have to do that. If you use their install disk on hardware that has their "signature" on it, it may not need activation because of the way their OS installs are licensed. Basically, a key is used that is tied to a piece of manufacturer specific code within the bios of the machine. MS allows this because the big boys buy so much "product" from them that allowing this kind of licensing saves them a significant amount of time during the manufacture of the product, IE, not having to employ someone to enter in a product key into every single machine.

If you use their install disk on a test bed and it never asks for a product key and never asks to be activated, you are good with duplicating that.

You probably should run something like ghostwalker to change the ssid of the machines.
posted by gjc at 9:16 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can second gjc's comment about sysprep -- that's the point of the utility. how to use it
posted by k5.user at 10:27 AM on March 26, 2011

Alas, everything would not be kosher according to Microsoft as OEM licenses do not include the right to reimaging. You would need to be a Volume License Customer and your OEM would need to sell you Volume Licenses and not regular OEM licenses. See the "Reimagings Right" document on the Licensing Briefs.

Now that I have been a party pooper, let's see if I can provide some more realistic advice that should work;
  1. Clone machine 1 (so you can restore it to factory condition if something goes wrong).
  2. Make changes to machine 1.
  3. Run sysprep on machine 1.
  4. Clone machine 1 onto Machine 2.
  5. Boot machine 2 and hopefully be greeted by Windows 7 mini-setup which will hopefully ask for your cd key. If you are not asked for a cd-key, you should be able to change it with the "Change Product Key" link in the System Control Panel
  6. Test Machine 2. If everything is hunky doory, clone machine 1 to machine 3 and make a backup clone of machine 1 for future use.

posted by fief at 11:34 AM on March 26, 2011

Here's Microsoft's unintentionally hilarious volume licensing overview flowchart.

All that being said, this is something that can be done. The worst case is you'd have to activate some or all of them over the phone instead of via the internet.
posted by odinsdream at 4:05 PM on March 26, 2011

odinsdream: that is a glorious document.

As odinsdream said, worst case you will need to activate each individually over the phone.
posted by fief at 3:32 PM on March 27, 2011

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