Seven perfectly legal ways to get Windows 7 cheap (or even free)

Seven perfectly legal ways to get Windows 7 cheap (or even free)

Summary: You don't have to pay full price for Windows 7. I've researched the best deals out there, and can help you save 58%, 70%, 85%, or even get Windows 7 free. Keep reading.


Annual subscription: TechNet Plus

Expires: [Update: Microsoft ended the TechNet subscription program in 2013]

Who's eligible: Anyone (international)

If you're an IT pro, technical professional, journalist, or hobbyist, Microsoft has a program called TechNet Plus designed to give you access to a wide range of evaluation software for a single annual subscription fee. The price varies by country, and also by whether you're purchasing as an individual or on behalf of an organization. In the United States, the price is $349 for the first year and $249 annually for renewals. (Both of those prices are for download-only access; if you want DVDs shipped to you, you'll need to pay a higher price.)

What you get for that price is access to a staggering amount of software, including just about every version of Windows (desktop and server) ever made, along with past and current editions of Microsoft Office, developer tools, servers, and much more. You get multiple activations for most products – typically 10 product keys for every Windows and Office edition. [Update: The number of allowed activations has been reduced to 2 per product for the most popular TechNet subscriptions.] You also get access to premium Microsoft support: two complimentary incidents per year.

The software and accompanying product keys don't expire. So if you decide next year not to renew your subscription, you can continue to use the software and keys you downloaded.

So what's the catch? Read the license agreement carefully! This software is NOT for use as a replacement for licenses on PCs you use at home or work. Here's what the FAQ says:

The license grants installation and use rights to one user only, for evaluation purposes, on any of the user’s devices, this may include devices at home. Keep in mind that you may use the evaluation software only to evaluate it. You may not use it in a live operating environment, a staging environment, or with data that has not been sufficiently backed up. You may not use the evaluation software for software development or in an application development environment.

For technical professionals who evaluate hardware and software professionally, or for hobbyists who want to play around with new technologies, this is a tremendous deal.

Annual subscription: Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN)

Expires: No expiration date

Who's eligible: Anyone (international)

The terms and benefits of an MSDN subscriptionare generally similar to those offered to TechNet subscribers, with a few crucial differences. The biggest difference is that MSDN is specifically intended for professional software developers. An annual subscription gives you access to a wide range of professional developer tools and pre-release products.

Every MSDN subscription includes access to the latest version of Windows with multiple activations. You can choose from different levels of MSDN subscriptions. The cheapest is the MSDN Operating Systems subscription, which costs $699 for the first year and $499 for renewals. It offers full access to Windows, toolkits, and SDKs. Prices go up for other editions: $999 ($649 renewal) for an Expression Professional subscription, for example, which is intended for designers and web developers and includes Windows, Office, Expression Studio, and Visual Studio Standard Edition.

Unlike TechNet licenses, which are strictly for evaluation, an MSDN Premium subscription specifically permits you to install and use one copy of the latest edition of Microsoft Office (currently Office Ultimate 2007), Project, SharePoint Designer, Visio Professional, and Office Communicator "for General Business Use … on one machine for any purpose."

The MSDN license agreement is detailed and worth reading in full. There's an excellent summary of your rights as a subscriber here. This paragraph is especially noteworthy:

Many MSDN subscribers use a computer for mixed use—both design, development, testing, and demonstration of your programs (the use allowed under the MSDN Subscription license) and some other use.  Using the software in any other way, such as for doing email, playing games, or editing a document is another use and is not covered by the MSDN Subscription license.  When this happens, the underlying operating system must also be licensed normally by purchasing a regular copy of Windows such as the one that came with a new OEM PC.

If you're a professional developer or designer who uses Microsoft products, MSDN subscriptions can be a bargain. If you just want cheap access to Windows 7, you have better options.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Legal, Microsoft, Software, Software Development, Windows

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  • Always a laugh when MS license conditions attached

    TechNet Plus
    "Keep in mind that you may use the evaluation software
    only to evaluate it. You may not use it in a live operating

    Wow a demo subscription.

    "Using the software in any other way, such as for doing
    email, playing games, or editing a document is another use
    and is not covered by the MSDN Subscription license."

    For users that don't edit documents or email.

    Highlights the licensing hoops one is confronted with as a
    MS user. Enjoy;-)
    Richard Flude
    • The license is vague.

      Let's say, for example if you want to evaluate windows 7 for play a game, then it is allowed and disallowed at once. -><-

      So, for a small office you can buy the technet plus and to use for such purpose, just the admin must have present to "evaluate" the performance of windows regularly (may be documenting it). And, in the case of caught, MS, at most, can ask you for upgrade your license. Since piracy is still a ambiguous term, then to overuse a license is even more ambiguous and hard to prosecute.

      The technet plus give WINDOWS 7 ULTIMATE + OFFICE , so it is a BIG discount.

      Other thing is that you can obtain a free technet plus.. but it is a bit hard to obtain the way. Also is the option to be a MS MVP (free zealots of microsoft), they obtain the MSDN (msdn is a superset of technet) for free.

      • A bag of chips at one pound is a big discount

        compared to a bag of chips at one hundred pounds.

        What a saving. How clever am I. Thanks Mr friendly chip shop owner, you're the best.
      • At most?

        Ummm... the penalties for being caught using software illegally are often considerably higher than just being required to pay for the license. One local example was a small company that was using about 10 copies of Vista and Microsoft Office plus two copies of Server 2003. Total fine was $51,000. Just slightly above the standard Microsoft licensing fees.

        You also seem to miss or willfully misunderstand the part about operating and/or production environment.
    • What does Apple's license state?

      Talk about having their users jump thru hoops:

      [i]2. Permitted License Uses and Restrictions.

      A. This License allows you to install and use one copy of the Apple Software on a single <b><font color="#FF0000">Apple-labeled </font></b>computer at a time. This License does not allow the Apple Software to exist on more than one computer at a time, and you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be used by multiple computers at the same time. You may make one copy of the Apple Software (excluding the Boot ROM code) in machine-readable form for backup purposes only[/i]

      Now [i]that[/i] is funny
      • I Cannot Confirm Seeing NetCraft and Beastie Together

        If you buy a family license, that increases to 5 computers.

        There is no OEM variant of the OS X license, if you uninstall from one
        (for instance, perhaps a G4 running Tiger from purchase that will be
        switched over to YDL) you can then install on another, a right
        Microsoft grants only to licenses bought via retail.

        Upgrades are allowed as long as it's Apple hardware (of proper speed
        or architecture) and there is no entering or referring to a prior
        version's activation key. No activation key on client versions. No
        genuine advantage stuff either, so far.

        OS X doesn't license virtual use and Microsoft does, but again retail
        versions only and, well this is interesting, there must be some
        restriction to the same license being used more than once, but
        whether that's per-image or per-processor or per moment, I don't

        But let's take a moment and indulge our inner adult.

        Software companies restrict use for the things they sell because they
        want their money.

        The maximum rights, minimum cost license point on the quadrant
        belongs to FreeBSD. You may have to wrestle a tad to get the pretty
        pretty, you can't run Office, and you may have to compile some
        source code. But you can't beat the price or license. Give me an hour
        to do some updates and then I'll get out of the way as all you pure
        license mavens stampede over to Oh, one more
        bonus, they are prepping 8.0 (btw, congrats on getting up to OS X 6.1
        and Win 6.1 everyone!)
    • MSDN

      It stands for Microsoft DEVELOPER Network for a reason.

      I assure you, 99.9% of the people on here wouldn't have a clue about software development, therefore wouldn't even qualify for the subscription, therefore wouldn't have any problem with that kind of license.

      You obviously don't understand the purposes of those subscriptions, so do yourself a favour, move to another topic. You're just embarassing yourself in front of those who do.
      • Who cares

        That fact that those clauses [b]exist[/b] speaks volumes and shows how ridiculous their restrictions are.
        Wintel BSOD
    • What's even more fun...

      Is seeing how long it takes for your worthless posts to be flagged as Spam.
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • Yours already has been


        Wintel BSOD
        • See, stoopit, the thing is...

          I didn't flag his post as Spam.

          If I had, what would be the point of "seeing how long it took for someone to flag it"?

          Sometimes you trolls aren't all that sharp.
          Hallowed are the Ori
          • Hey it's ok to lie after the fact

            No problemo, shill...

            Touche' again!
            Wintel BSOD
          • @UAC nanny screen

            I trust you mean 'touche', not 'touch'!
            'touch' could lead to misunderstandings!
          • You trust right

            Learn some French, k?

            Wintel BSOD
          • Wow.. you really are stupid...

            I haven't flagged anyone's comments.

            I don't give three squirts of hot yellow liquid if you believe me or not.
            Hallowed are the Ori
          • Sure ya do, pal

            Otherwise you wouldn't keep responding with more stupid comments.

            Touche' again!
            Wintel BSOD
    • Or you could..

      ..visit a Microsoft Reseller such as
      Katie Tio
  • Thanks for the advice.

    $30 is about all W7 is worth, so I may be able to pick up a copy in order to learn how to use it to help others. That's the downside of being tech support.

    If I wasn't helping others, I'd be purely Linux based, and tell MS where they can port their products.

    - Kc
    • A career-shift perhaps?

      So you wouldn't have to help others with the thing you so loathe?
    • Well if your only willing to invest $30 towards your

      professional maybe your in the wrong professional. Maybe try some Linux tech support for free.