> Can someone please explain the actual difference between Retail and OEM
> versions of Operating Systems? I am planning on purchasing Vista
> Ultimate and the OEM is much cheaper than the Retail one.
There are some very important reasons that an OEM license costs so
much less than a retail license. OEM licenses are very limited:
1) OEM versions must be sold with a piece of non-peripheral
hardware (normally a motherboard or hard drive, if not an entire PC) and
are _permanently_ bound to the first PC on which they are installed. An
OEM license, once installed, is not legally transferable to another
computer under any circumstances. This is the main reason some people
avoid OEM versions; if the PC dies or is otherwise disposed of (even
stolen), you cannot re-use your OEM license on a new PC. The only
legitimate way to transfer the ownership of an OEM license is to
transfer ownership of the entire PC.
2) Microsoft provides no free support for OEM versions. If you
have any problems that require outside assistance, your only recourse is
to contact the manufacturer/builder of the PC or the vendor of the OEM
license. This would include such issues as lost a Product Key or
replacing damaged installation media. (Microsoft does make allowances
for those instances when you can prove that the OEM has gone out of
business.) This doesn't mean that you can't download patches and
service packs from Microsoft -- just no free telephone or email support
for problems with the OS.
3) An OEM DVD cannot be used to perform an upgrade of an earlier
OS, as it was designed to be installed _only_ upon an empty hard drive.
4) If the OEM DVD was designed by a specific manufacturer, such as
eMachines, Sony, Dell, Gateway, etc., it will most likely only install
on the same brand of PC, as an additional anti-piracy feature. Further,
such DVDs are severely customized to contain only the minimum of device
drivers, and a lot of extra nonsense, that the manufacturer feels
necessary for the specific model of PC for which the DVD was designed.
To be honest, such DVDs should _not_ be available on the open market;
but, if you're shopping someplace on-line like eBay, swap meets, or
computer fairs, there's often no telling what you're buying until it's
too late. The "generic" OEM DVDs, such as are manufactured by Microsoft
and sold to small systems builders, don't have this particular problem,
though, and are pretty much the same as their retail counterparts, apart
from the licensing, support, and upgrading restrictions.
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