I want to buy a new laptop. Can I transfer the programs from my Dell desktop
to the new laptop, things like Microsoft Office, Windows Media, etc., or do I
need to buy this software again?
As with so many questions here, the answer starts with “it depends”.
It depends on what you mean by “transfer”, and it depends on what the
license is for each of the software packages.
You may have to re-purchase some, but I’m guessing that for most, you
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
First let’s define “transfer”. If by that you mean “move” –
removing the software from your old machine, and installing it on the
new – then the answer is typically yes. As long as you have the original CDs to
perform the install, or the original downloads, in the case of downloaded
software, it’s typically quite alright to install the software on your new
machine, and delete it from your old.
All that simply relies on the fact that most (though not all)
software is licensed to be installed and run on only one machine at a time. It
doesn’t matter what machine, just that there’s only one.
run on only one machine at a time.”
Which leads us to the other possible definition of “transfer”. If
you mean “copy” – where you would keep your old machine and have the same
software installed on both – then you need to check the terms of the license
for the software you’re talking about. Many, perhaps most, are per-machine.
Others, however, are per-location, or per-person, or allow you to install on
some fixed number of machines (perhaps 2 or 3), or keep it installed on a
machine as “backup”.
There are obviously many possibilities, many confusing possibilities, and
the only real answer to staying totally legal is to check that license
agreement for each software package.
Note also that this only applies to software that you’ve purchased and that
isn’t freely available. Windows Media Player, which you’ve asked about, is a
free download, and you can install that on as many machines as you wish.
Microsoft Office, even if pre-installed with your computer, is subject to
And in all cases, this is one another of the many reasons I strongly
recommend you insist on installation CDs for all the software that comes with
your machine. If you ever need to move, or reinstall to that same machine, you
may simply be out of luck without the CDs. There are PC-to-PC settings and
applications transfer utilities out there … sometimes even drive imaging
software can be used to perform this function … but it doesn’t always work
reliably. The safest is always a clean install from the original media.