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Licensing Windows Vista Business and Vista Ultimate in virtual machines

Licensing Windows Vista in virtual machines confuses many customers, and it is reseller's job to make those licensing terms clear.

IT reseller takeaway: Customers who want to run Microsoft Vista Business and Vista Ultimate have to understand that each version of the operating system comes with licensing restrictions. Resellers need to understand these restrictions so they can help customers set up solid infrastructures.

Both Vista Business and Vista Ultimate, in both their retail and OEM versions, can be run in virtual machines. However, there are restrictions.

  1. Each distinct copy of Vista that is run in a VM must have its own license. A virtual-machine installation is treated as a separate device, which in turn requires a separate license.
  2. Virtual machines cannot be copied. You can move a virtual machine to another PC, but you cannot duplicate a VM to another machine.
  3. OEM copies of Vista that are run in VMs cannot be copied or moved to another machine. They are licensed only to run on the same physical device as the host OS, as per the general restrictions for OEM copies of Windows.

This last restriction about OEM copies of Vista is one of the blurrier provisions in the licensing. One would think that a VM itself counts as a device, but evidently Microsoft doesn't see it that way: the "device" that the OEM copy is licensed to is the host PC and not a virtual machine.

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