I'm still trying to understand the confusing new licensing terms that affect how and when you can run Windows Vista within a virtual machine. In the interests of clarity, I sent a list of questions to Microsoft and received answers from Microsoft Director Scott Woodgate. I have corrected a few minor typos in both the questions and answers.
These answers contain two surprising pieces of information. One is that Microsoft fully intends that a virtual machine is locked to the hardware on which you first run it. This strikes me as a bizarre restriction on virtual machines, which are encapsulated in files that can be easily moved from one physical machine to another. Indeed, portability is one of the key advantages of VMs. Locking a virtual machine to a single physical device (with the right to move it once and only once) is somewhat like saying that you are not allowed to move your physical PC from the room in which you first installed it.
The second bit of news here is that MSDN subscribers will have the right to run any version of Windows Vista, including Home Basic and Home Premium, in a virtual machine for development purposes. They will also be allowed to make as many copies of those virtual machines as they like, again for development purposes. That certainly makes the $699 MSDN Operating Systems subscription an attractive option for anyone whose work involves development and testing.
Q: If I run Windows Vista Ultimate, and I install virtualization software on my PC, am I allowed to install and activate Windows Vista Ultimate within a virtual machine on that computer with no additional fee?
A: No. A separate license is required for every installation of Windows Ultimate. In this case two licenses would be required.
Q: Am I allowed to access a virtual copy of Windows Vista Ultimate via Remote Desktop?
A: Yes. Given a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate installed on my home computer virtually or otherwise, I am able to access my copy remotely as the primary user of the operating system.
Q: If I have a fully paid for copy of Windows Vista Business or Ultimate Edition, can I install and activate it under Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 running on Windows Server 2003?
A: Yes and no.
- Yes. A retail copy of Windows can be transferred one time to another device. A retail [copy] can be moved one time to a server running Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. In this case the originally installed version must be deleted so only one license is activated at one time.
- No. An OEM copy of Windows is licensed for the device it is installed on. An OEM copy of Windows cannot be moved from the laptop/desktop that it came on to another device. This is not new and has been in effect for many years.
Q: If I have a fully paid for copy of Windows Vista Business or Ultimate Edition, can I install and activate it under Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 running on Windows XP?
A: Yes. I’m assuming you have a Windows XP machine and you buy a retail copy of Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate and then install it on the XP in a virtual machine.
Q: If I have a fully paid for copy of Windows Vista Business or Ultimate Edition, can I install and activate it under VMware running on any version of Linux?
A: Yes. I’m assuming you have a Linux machine and you buy a retail copy of Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate and then install it on the Linux machine under VMWare.
Q: If I create a virtual machine using Windows Vista Business or Ultimate Edition, can I run that VM on another computer running Windows Vista Ultimate Edition?
This is the same answer as the question above asking about Virtual Server 2005 and Windows Server 2003
- Yes. The retail copy of Windows can be transferred one time to another computer running any operating system.
- No. The OEM copy of Windows that comes with new machines can not be moved to another machine. This is not new and has been policy for many years.
Q: Is it legal to make a copy of a virtual machine running any version of Windows Vista?
A: This question is not clear. Only Windows Vista Business, Ultimate and Enterprise are licensed for installation in virtual machines.
Q: If a software developer purchases a retail copy of Windows Vista Home Basic Edition and installs it in a virtual machine so that he can perform compatibility testing with it, is he in violation of the license agreement? AND Will the license agreements that come with MSDN subscriptions have different terms for use with virtual hardware?
A: Developers with MSDN subscriptions are able to run ALL versions of Windows Vista (including Home Basic and Home Premium) in virtual machines for development purposes. In addition, they are also able to make as many copies of those virtual machines as they wish for development purposes. Developers generally do not purchase retail software for development purchases.