How Do I Upgrade from Windows XP? The Licensing Issues

upgrade from Windows XPIt should not be news to anyone that support for XP is ending soon — April 8, 2014 to be exact. So for those of you who have a Windows XP machine (or several) at your workplace that you need to get upgraded, here are the licensing issues you need to be aware of. You have two options: buy new PCs to replace the old ones or upgrade the operating system on your existing PCs. We’ll look at each of these options in turn.

Our engineer Drew Haney explores what it takes to actually transition from Windows XP from an operational standpoint.

Buy New PCs

Most new PCs will come with Windows pre-installed and will have an Original Equipment Manufacturer license (a.k.a., an OEM license). In some ways buying replacement PCs is the better option, although it may not be the cheapest. As we are all aware, technology continues to progress. Buying a new PC gives you a chance to not only update your operating system but also your processor, your memory, your hard drive, your wireless card, etc., etc.

If you go this route, make sure you purchase a device that has Windows pre-installed. I once had a client who decided to purchase some new PCs without an operating system, thinking they could get Windows licenses through volume licensing. Then they called me to get a quote, but I had to break the news to them that they had blown their chance to get Windows the cheapest way possible. If you purchase a Windows license through volume licensing, you are getting an upgrade license and you can’t use it on a box that doesn’t already have a Windows license. You could purchase a full license of Windows as a boxed product, but apples-to-apples it is much cheaper to pay the hardware manufacturer for an OEM license of Windows than it is to purchase a full license in a boxed product.  (For more info on OEM and boxed product licenses, see my previous post here.)

Another thing to be aware of when you are purchasing new PCs is what kind of Windows license are you buying. You can still purchase PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed and of course you can now buy PCs with Windows 8 or 8.1. And there are various versions of each: Windows 7 Home, Windows 7 Pro, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise.

So pay attention to the version you are buying. Which version is the right one for your business? That depends on your needs and, to some degree, your preference. You can compare the feature sets of the Windows 8 versions here, and you can download a product guide here that includes a feature comparison of the Windows 7 versions (see page 15). For what it’s worth, Windows 7 is currently the most widely used operating system that is out there (see here and here).

One last thing to note about purchasing new PCs is that a pre-installed license of Windows 8 Pro includes some downgrade rights. In other words, you can buy a new PC with a license for Windows 8 Pro but install and run Windows 7 Pro. So if you’re not ready to move to Windows 8 yet, this would be a strategic move: you can run Windows 7 Pro for a while and then upgrade to Windows 8 Pro when you’re ready. For more information on Windows downgrade rights, see here.

Upgrade Existing PCs

Your other option is to stick with the hardware you have and purchase upgrade licenses. Microsoft has provided step-by-step instructions for this option here.  First, you will need to make sure the old hardware meets the specification requirements of Windows 8. Make sure you have enough memory, hard drive space, CPU power, and video card strength to handle the awesomeness of your new operating system. The system requirements for Windows 8 and 8.1 are available here, and the requirements for Windows 7 are available here.

Next you will need to purchase an upgrade license for Windows 8. If this is for your business, then the most cost-effective way to get upgrade licenses is through volume licensing. An upgrade license of Windows 8.1 Pro is $187 through volume licensing. You can also add Software Assurance to that purchase to get version upgrades and the right to upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise (see my previous post on that topic for more details). A volume license of Windows provides you with electronic tracking of your license key though Microsoft’s licensing portal and downgrade rights so you can run Windows 7 Pro. (Please note that the “Home” and “Starter” editions of Windows cannot be upgraded through volume licensing.)

Another important thing to note about the upgrade volume license is that it will be tied to the machine you assign it to. Most volume licenses include transfer rights: for example, if you buy a volume license of Office, you can use it on Computer A and then transfer it to Computer B when Computer A is retired. But (again) Windows licensing is a strange duck and is an exception to the rule. When you buy a volume license of Windows and assign it to Computer A, the license cannot be transferred to another machine ever again. That lovely “feature” of Windows volume licensing is covered in a licensing brief available here (a Microsoft account login may be required to access that link). But if you buy a new PC, that will still be the case: The license lives and dies with the machine, whether it is an OEM license or a volume license.

I think that covers all the important licensing issues for your XP upgrade project.  No matter which route you decide to go for your upgrade, Mirazon is available to help. We would be happy to quote you some new PCs or upgrade licenses of Windows 8, and we have skilled engineers available to help guide you through the project.

Give us a call at 502-240-0404 or send an email to sales@mirazon.com to start your transition from Windows XP today!