Windows 7 deals: harder to find, but still there if you look

One of the most popular posts I wrote last year listed seven perfectly legal ways to save hundreds of dollars on Windows 7. Sadly, some of those deals have since expired. But a handful are still available, and I've turned up two new deals, including a subscription-based plan that could save your business tens of thousands of dollars.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor

One of the most popular posts I wrote last year was Seven perfectly legal ways to get Windows 7 cheap (or even free). If you followed my advice, you could have saved hundreds of dollars on upgrades and special deals for students and IT pros.

Sadly, some of those deals have since expired. The Family Pack, which offered a three-pack of Windows 7 Home Premium licenses for $150, is sold out, and Microsoft appears to have no plans of bringing it back. A deal that offered 50% off an upgrade copy with the purchase of a new PC expired on January 2. And Microsoft's killer deal for college students ($30 for a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional) also ended just after the New Year.

Some of the bargains I turned up six months ago are still available, including the TechNet Plus and MSDN subscriptions. And here's a glimmer of good news: I've found two new deals to add to this list. One is a limited-time offer that might save you some money if you're planning to purchase a new PC. The other is a smokin' deal for Microsoft partners that could save your IT-related business tens of thousand of dollars. Both of these new deals are limited-time offers, so don't delay.

Windows Anytime Upgrade

Expires: Never (discounted prices for new PC buyers in the U.S. until July 3

Who’s eligible: Anyone who buys a new PC with Windows 7 Starter or Home Premium

As I noted last fall, you don't usually get a choice of Windows 7 editions when you buy a preconfigured PC from a retail outlet. Instead, you get whatever edition of Windows comes with it, typically Windows 7 Home Premium for consumer PCs. On a netbook, you might get the wimpy Starter edition.

The Windows Anytime Upgrade option is usually cheaper than a regular upgrade package, and it also installs in 10 minutes or less. The exact price depends on the upgrade path, and for would-be upgraders in the United States, the prices are discounted between now and July 3. This offer is available only with the purchase of a new PC at the Microsoft Online Store and through "participating retailers." Here's the deal for the two most common upgrade paths:

  • Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional You can buy the Anytime Upgrade option for $79.99 (a savings of $10 off the usual $89.99 price). That's an effective discount of 60% compared to the normal upgrade price.
  • Windows 7 Starter to Windows 7 Home Premium The normal price for this Anytime Upgrade package is $79.99. If you pick up a new netbook between now and July 3, you can get the package for $49.99, a discount of 58% off the regular upgrade package.

If you're not buying a new PC, you can still get either of these two upgrades at their regular price. Unfortunately, Microsoft is not offering a discount on the Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Ultimate package, which will set you back $139.99.

Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS)

Expires: Never (price increase effective May 24, 2010)

Who’s eligible: Resellers, system builders, IT consultants, and developers who build, sell, service, or support solutions using Microsoft technologies for independent third-party customers

I deliberately left the Action Pack off my list of great Windows 7 deals last fall, and several readers pointed it out in the Talkback section. As one commenter noted, you get about $40,000 in software licenses for under $400 a year. The current list of products included in the Action Pack (for internal use only) is mind-boggling; it includes 10 licenses for Windows 7 Professional, one license for Windows 7 Ultimate, and one license for Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise and other server products like Exchange, with 10 client access licenses. You also get 10 licenses for the latest edition of Office Enterprise and a slew of other Office products like Visio and Project.

So what's the catch? There are several:

  • You must be a registered Microsoft partner (registration is free), and you have to pass a 10-question competency exam with a score of 70% or better.
  • You pay an annual subscription fee: $299 plus tax for a download-only version or $498 plus tax for a subscription that includes physical media. On May 24, 2010, the download-only price goes up to $329 plus tax, per year, while the option that includes physical media drops in price to $429 plus tax, per year.
  • The licenses are valid for internal use in your business (unlike those included with MSDN or TechNet Plus subscriptions), but those licenses are not perpetual. If you let your annual subscription lapse, you are expected to remove the Action Pack software from all PCs on your premises.

The Action Pack subscription is ideal for system builders, who are prohibited from installing an OEM copy and converting it to internal use. If you meet the requirements and want to sign up, visit the Microsoft Partner Center.

And if you're in the software development or web design business, you might be interested in the new Microsoft Action Pack Development and Design offering, which will be unveiled on May 24. You can get more info and sign up for a promo code that will get you 15% off the full price when the new version is available for purchase.

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