Most of us have purchased the latest pre-installed operating system, for example, Windows XP or Windows 7 at some time in the past, but without being supplied with a separate CD or DVD of the OS. Now, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be allowed to install the OS purchased with a previous PC on to a new PC. What advice would you offer to avoid duplicating the payment for an operating system to get running on a new PC? I can see that there are good reasons for not installing an OS from a recovery disc intended for a previous PC, even if that were possible, bearing in mind the uniqueness of each IP address. A further query: is it feasible to purchase a new PC and the Apple OS CD separately for installation with a view to ending up with an Apple computer?
In this excerpt from Answercast #77, I look at how Windows operating systems are distributed and why one copy will only work on one machine.
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Moving Windows to a new machine
So there are a number of interesting issues in this question.
First all, I’ll say I’m not a lawyer; this is not legal advice… yada, yada. The issue with, “You don’t see why you shouldn’t be allowed”… guess what? When you purchased that computer with a pre-installed operating system on it? My belief is you purchased not the “operating system,” but rather a license to use the operating system. That license is valid only for the machine on which you originally purchased it.
What that means is: ultimately, legally, you may not be allowed to transfer that copy of the operating system to a different machine. Like I said, it’s legal tap dancing in my opinion.
License agreement terms
But the bottom line is that: when you buy software, you’re not actually buying a copy of the software that is yours. What you are purchasing is the right to use it under the terms of the license agreement that is included with that software.
Typically, that means one machine for an operating system.
Some licenses are different. Some licenses, like the retail license if you buy a copy of Windows off the shelf, may let you use it on one machine at a time – which means you can use it on one machine, stop using it on that machine, move it on to the next machine, and so forth. Which sounds like exactly what you’re trying to do here.
The problem is that most OEM machines (in other words, the machines that come with the operating system pre-installed) have a different license. That license actually says you can’t do what it is you’re trying to do.
In fact, what you’ll often find is that any operating system discs that may come with that system won’t have drivers for any other systems – so they won’t actually install on other systems.
One time use
There are definitely impediments or barriers to doing what it is you want to do – if you’ve purchased something that has a pre-installed operating system.
And to be honest, we don’t like the way that this works. I get that this is frustrating. But the reason it’s this way is to keep the price down. In other words, it’s how the pricing is structured.
By restricting it to that one machine only, the vendor, and Microsoft in turn are able to give you the operating system for a significantly lower price than if you go out and buy a retail copy which you can install on any machine, you want.
So, ultimately from a legal perspective, I don’t believe you can do what it is you’re trying to do with a pre-installed operating system.
The practical matter of it is you may be able to find discs for your second machine, your new machine. You may even be able to try and install the operating system on that machine – if they are the correct OEM discs for that machine. The problem here is that the product key that you have for your first machine (which really is the thing that identifies your ownership of that machine) and your rights to that license of Windows? That probably won’t work on anything but a disc from that same OEM – and possibly it could even be restricted further to discs specifically for that original machine.
So, things get dicey; things get tough.
Buy a retail copy of Windows
The only solution that I’m truly aware of that works and works 100% of the time is to get yourself a retail copy of Windows that you can then put on one machine at a time – and install it on that second machine. Then, when that second machine dies, you’ll be perfectly within your rights to install it on a third machine.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t meet your criteria of not spending any money, but like I said, what happened here is you didn’t spend the money up front for a copy that you could install on multiple machines. It saved you money up front.
The downside is that when it comes time to get a new machine, you have to spend some money again to get the operating system.
Switch to Linux
The other advice I have (if money really is the problem here) is to not use Windows.
Go grab a copy of one of the many variants of Linux: Ubuntu Linux, Linux Mint. There are several out there that are good base operating systems for many, many things. And these days, especially if all you’re really doing is browsing the web and reading email, those operating systems will do just fine.
Yes, there’s a learning curve. Yes, things will work a little bit differently. You can’t just go out and buy a random game off the shelf and have it necessarily work in Linux.
But for basic operations, it works and it’s completely free. You don’t have to pay a penny.
So, that’s really about the only advice I can give you on that particular topic.
Putting Apple on a PC
Now on the last question, “Can you get a new PC with the Apple OS CD?”
The short answer is no, actually.
The problem is that the Apple operating system is not (I believe) available on a disc for a random machine. Even if it is available, it does not work on the PC hardware.
It’s actually not possible to install Apple’s OSX on PCs. They assume you’re running Apple hardware.
Now, I do have to throw out a huge caveat. There is a project, which is called “Hackintosh.” It’s an attempt to make what you’ve just described. It’s not nearly that simple, but it is apparently a way to get the Apple operating system running on your PC.
Now, realize you have to buy the Apple operating system. I don’t think there’s a way around that. Certainly not a legal way around that. So, you’re still spending money on the operating system. But if you’re trying to get it running on the PC, what I would recommend you do is go out and do some searches for “Hackintosh” and you’ll be able to find a whole group of people who are doing this on a fairly regular basis. You can see what steps it’s going to take and how much effort it might be for you.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)
Next from Answercast 77 – Can I get my Windows 7 unsupported hardware to work by using Windows XP in a virtual machine?