Virtual Vista Q and A

Virtual Vista Q and A

Summary: 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 prompt, direct answers from Microsoft Director Scott Woodgate. If you're interested in virtualization, this is must-read information.

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TOPICS: Windows
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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.

Topic: Windows

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77 comments
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  • They can EULAgize all they want....

    MS can write the EULA in any way they want, running rampant over users more than ever. I suspect, however, that they are using the EULA to restrict moving a Vista VM from one machine to another because WGA may be unable to determine that the VM has moved hardware. Think about it: If the HW is virtualized, won't many of the WGA checks be the same wherever the VM runs? This may mean that technologically, the VM may run just fine on a number of machines (not simultaneously) without tripping a WGA flag.

    OK, I'm just thinking aloud here. I haven't tried this. If I'm right, it means that although you may be in violation of the EULA, MS cannot detect and stop you. I'm not encouraging that your defy the EULA, but I wonder what tools users have to maintain classic "fair use" rights that MS is attempting to take away.
    bmgoodman
    • Also thinking aloud ...

      The ability of WGA to detect whether or not the VM has moved hardware probably will depend on how virtualization is achieved, and whether or not MS has access to how virtualization is achieved in the various solutions.

      It seems possible for a virtualization solution to exist in which the virtualization software would make Windows Vista, and WGA, see the exact same hardware no matter where it runs, but I suspect MS will use its monopoly power to discourage VM vendors from doing this, and force them to reveal details about the underlying hardware and virtualization solution to Vista and WGA. But that does not guarantee that every VM vendor will comply with MS's wishes in this regard.

      An interesting technical challenge is: Will such a VM vendor be able to so perfectly emulate real hardware on which Vista is designed to run that MS will not be able to tweak Vista in such a way that prevents them from running it in their VM without at the same time breaking Windows Vista for other customers?
      error@...
  • One VM case not covered

    Is it legal to run an OEM Vista Ultimate on the device it is licensed for? In other words, I wish to run another OS on the bare metal, but still be able to use Vista.

    I see nothing in the license to prevent this, but I think that there may be trouble with validation.
    mosborne
    • Eactly my question!

      Ed, can you check on this? I am using SLED 10 with XP in my VM. Thanks.
      mtgarden
      • Just wondering

        [i]I am using SLED 10 with XP in my VM. Thanks.[/i]

        Is that XP in the VM an OEM or retail copy? If it is OEM, does it pass validation?
        error@...
        • No, its a volume license / corpoarte version

          Without a OEM copy, I can't test it. (And yes, I use this at work, so I can use the VL.)
          mtgarden
          • Technically, that's not legal

            Your VL/corporate copy of Windows is only valid as an upgrade to an original license. Installing a VL copy as the original copy in a VM is never permitted by thge license agreement, just as it would not be permitted to install that VL copy on a new PC that did not already have an underlying license.
            Ed Bott
          • Agreed

            To my knowledge, Microsoft has never issued a volume license for Windows itself. They have clarified that many times.

            You must have a base license for Windows, either OEM or retail. The VLA can then be used to upgrade it.
            mosborne
          • Let me clarify

            The machine does have an OEM license. I just installed SLED 10 and then used XP in VMware.
            mtgarden
          • The OEM license on the PC itself is irrelevant

            Within the virtual machine, you would need a separate original license, which could then be legally upgraded using the VL copy.
            Ed Bott
          • Ok, mtgarden

            IANAL, of course. :-)

            I think mtgarden is OK.

            He is running an OEM XP, upgraded with a VLA. I see no valid reason he would need another license just for the VM. He is running only one license on the OEM-licensed machine. The VLA should provide any additional rights that might be required to run the VLA software in a VM.

            What license criteria are not being met here? I see none.
            mosborne
          • When you upgrade an OEM license...

            ... the previous license becomes null and void.

            If you're still using the original license on the main hardware, it wasn't upgraded. A VL license always has to *replace* an existing license. That's what's missing here.
            Ed Bott
          • I do have an OEM copy of XP

            But I have not even tried transferring it to a VM - I am almost certain it will not pass validation because I received it as the end user, and the manufacturer has already assigned it to the bare metal of the machine it came with. WGA will certainly detect that it is not running on that bare metal anymore if I run it from a VM.
            error@...
          • It's not validation that's the problem

            Activation is the issue. If you can get it activated, I suspect you will have no problem with validation.
            Ed Bott
          • You are correct

            But I don't think it will pass activation either, because of what MS said in response to one of your questions:

            [i]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?

            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.[/i]

            They are clearly defining running it under Virtual Server as a transfer to another device even though you did not specify that the Windows Server 2003 and Virtual Server 2005 system in which you install and activate the OEM copy of Vista Ultimate are running on the same laptop/desktop that it came with. Is it safe to assume that MS says no to this question even if Windows Server 2003 and Virtual Server 2005 are running on the same laptop/desktop that Vista Ultimate came on? My guess is yes, but why don't you ask them and let us know what they say?
            error@...
          • Different OEM types

            If it's an OEM license that came preinstalled on a computer (from Dell or HP, say), no, it will not activate. It may not even install.

            If it's an OEM copy that came shrink-wrapped - a so-called System Builder copy - and has never been installed on a physical device, it will install and activate. The only way this would not be true is if MS institutes some sort of new check that prevent activation on virtual hardware for home Vista licenses.

            After you install this OEM copy (on a physical partition or a virtual machine) its one activation is used up and you will not be able to reactivate it on different hardware without calling.

            These are well-known principles and the Microsoft answer you quote does not take into account an OEM System Builder license.
            Ed Bott
    • Should be no problem

      As long as you have a separate license key and you don't activate on any other hardware before installing and activating on the VM.
      Ed Bott
      • But it is OEM, not retail

        No problem if it is retail, but if it is OEM that depends on whether or not the MS OEM license agreement allows the OEM licensee to assign and install Vista Ultimate to a VM, rather than to the bare hardware. My guess is they would not allow this for OEM licenses, but I could be wrong.

        I assume the license we have been discussing in the blogs of recent days is the retail license. Has MS released the details of the OEM license anywhere?
        error@...
      • Not what I asked

        I know it's OK if I have a separate license. The question was is it OK if I use the original OEM Vista Ultimate license under a VM on the machine it came with.

        Basically the question is "Is an OEM license restricted to running on the bare metal only?"
        mosborne
        • These two questions are not equivalent

          [i]I know it's OK if I have a separate license. The question was is it OK if I use the original OEM Vista Ultimate license under a VM on the machine it came with.

          Basically the question is "Is an OEM license restricted to running on the bare metal only?"[/i]

          These two questions are not equivalent unless you are the builder of the hardware. The question is, if you buy an OEM copy that has not yet already been assigned to and installed on the bare metal hardware of some computer device, can you install that OEM copy in a VM? If an OEM copy has already been assigned to and installed on the bare metal, the license clearly prohibits transferring it to the VM.
          error@...