Getting OEM Windows to work with VMWare Server
October 2, 2006 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Can I force an OEM copy of windows to install in VMWare server on top of linux on the PC the OEM windows copy came with? Failing that, is there a legal way to install a "normal" copy of XP pro (since I have a license?

I have a PowerSpec computer purchased from microcenter in April. It comes with an "OS", that being Windows XP Pro, preinstalled, and a recovery disc.

That being said, we do Linux based devlopment at my workplace (where I bought the computer). I have linux installed on that computer now. I need Windows XP now. I want to run XP inside VMWare server on my machine.

I have installed VM Ware server. Then I try to load off the OEM recovery CD for windows. It refuses to boot, saying this isn't a power spec machine. I put in a "normal" winxp pro cd: It will not accept the microcenter XP code.

Is there a technial way around this boondoggle? A legal way around it?

posted by gte910h to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A legal way around it?

Buy XP Pro at retail. The point of an OEM license is that the OEM gets to buy XP at a significant discount because they can ensure that it will only install on the hardware they sold. (And a VMware virtual machine isn't the hardware they sold.)
posted by mendel at 12:38 PM on October 2, 2006

I don't know how to force the OEM Windows to install under VMWare (I'd guess you can't) but you can do this: shrink the Windows partition to leave space for Linux (or install a second hard disk, whatever). Get Windows running normally on the bare hardware. Now install Linux in a dual-boot configuration. Finally, run VMWare under Linux and point it at your raw disk partition containing the Windows installation -- you can boot that installation pretty much the same way you would if you were transferring the disk to a different machine. Windows will complain that the hardware environment has changed, but it should be able to reconfigure itself to run there.

I've got this working on an IBM box: Windows XP Pro runs in VMWare, which runs under Slackware. I can also boot XP directly on the bare hardware (or I used to be able to do that...I haven't tried it for a while).
posted by spacewrench at 12:42 PM on October 2, 2006

Oh, silly me. One technical way around it is to run VMware Server in XP, and run Linux as the guest OS.
posted by mendel at 12:47 PM on October 2, 2006

I'm not familiar with the details of VMWare, but for the OEM installation to work, VMWare would have to go way out of its way to be really smart about identifying all of the host machine's hardware, and being able to emulate that exact hardware, instead of generic versions. Doing that in the general case would be a pretty impossibly hard problem, whose attempted solution would be so error-prone it'd inevitably result in wide reports that VMWare sucks. Given how often I've heard that VMWare is spiffy, I'd be willing to bet they don't try to do that. (And it's consistent with what you saw.)

If no other instance of an installation of your full XP Pro exists, then installing it is perfectly legal -- not in dispute. But if you'd activated it before, I'd expect activation to fail and require a phone call to Microsoft to plead your case that you really deserve to install the OS you bought.

I don't know what you mean by "microcenter XP code" -- is that the 25 alphanumeric characters on the yellow sticker you enter during installation? What message do you get when it doesn't accept it?

On preview, Spacewrench's approach sounds clever, though I wonder if you might run afoul of activitation data mismatch.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:52 PM on October 2, 2006

The various flavours of XP have incompatible licence keys. If your licence key is for XP Home OEM, you can't use it to install XP Home Upgrade, XP Home Retail or any flavour of XP Professional. You might have trouble getting hold of a generic XP Home OEM installer CD now, because the licence terms have just been tightened. If you have a friend who bought a generic XP box, though, you're good to go.

I bought my Dell laptop with XP Home preinstalled. The very first time I powered it up, I booted from a Red Hat 9 installer CD and blew Windows away.

Later on, I wanted to play with Windows and VMware. So I installed Windows on a VMware virtual machine using a standard XP Home OEM installer CD that a friend had got with a hard disk purchase, using the licence key from the sticker on the bottom of my laptop. It installed fine, but I had to activate it by telephone.

It seems to me that if you run one instance of XP Home OEM on the PC it was originally supplied with, you are doing exactly what you're permitted to do according to the XP Home OEM licence, regardless of whether it's running on the bare metal or under VMware.

If you have trouble activating it, call Microsoft and have them activate it by phone. Explain exactly what you're doing, and promise not to run more than one instance at a time. If the call centre person gives you any shit, don't fight with them; call again later, talk to somebody else, and tell them you're installing Windows on a new hard disk after a crash and now it won't activate.
posted by flabdablet at 4:34 PM on October 2, 2006

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