The case, the motherboard or what?

I’ve asked this question on the Ubuntu Forums, hoping to get a better idea of licensing for Vista and maybe other versions of Windows. I’ve worked with plenty of Windows machines in the past and I have a rudimentary understanding of the EULAs, but I reversed the question yesterday and posed it to myself and I haven’t got an answer.

In short, let’s suppose you buy a preassembled desktop computer with Vista preinstalled (I’ll go with Vista, since it’s the newest and most pertinent; I suppose the answer could be different for other versions). As with other Windows releases, there’s (probably) a sticker on the outside of the case, with your serial number assigned to the machine.

Now let’s suppose you don’t like the case, and you want to put the entire machine, as it is, into a different case.

Are you beholden to keep that original case, since it has the serial physically attached? Or can you, for instance, sell it on ebay?

In essence, is the serial number assigned to the motherboard, the hard drive, the case or what? Which component satisfies the license, and why? And if it’s not the case, are you supposed to peel the sticker off and put it on the power supply? (Okay, I’m being facetious, but the question is an honest one.)

Perhaps I’ve been using Linux too long. Or perhaps it’s just been too long since I accepted the EULA, and I need to brush up. But I’m having trouble rationalizing this one to my own satisfaction.


2 thoughts on “The case, the motherboard or what?

  1. Luke Maciak

    Interesting question. It can’t be the motherboard because it can be replaced. In fact, some of the laptops at my company went through pretty much a complete overhaul:

    1. replaced all the ram
    2. replaced mobo on warranty
    3. installed new lcd display
    4. replaced 80% of the laptop casing due to wear and tear

    The only piece in that machine that can be traced back to the original is the bottom part of the case which actually holds the sticker.

    I’m guessing the OEM license is not really for the specific computer you bought but for “a computer” originally manufactured by that company. Or something like that.

    For example, Dell OEM Windows CD’s wont boot on if your mobo has a non-Dell BIOS effectively preventing you from installing it on another machine. But you could theoretically buy a replacement Dell motherboard and rebuild the computer with all other parts and OEM would still hold. So Dell OEM license requires that you own a Dell brand motherboard but it does not directly tie it to a specific piece of hardware…

    Then again, IANAL and I might be totally wrong here. 😛

  2. Danny

    When I first started the Free Geek Central Florida thing (originally I called it Bossman), I was trying to use a regular Windows disk to reinstall on systems that had a key code. Even if I tried to put the code from the case in, it wouldn’t accept it. I called Microsoft for help, and was told, “You have to use the CD or installation disk specific to that company. The license covers that company.”
    “But I have a Windows disk right here,” I replied.
    “No, it has to go with that computer. The disk you have doesn’t go with that computer,” she said.
    “This isn’t a company disk. This is a disk I have that I purchased myself. I wanted to reinstall Windows on this computer, and use the license key that was printed on the case.”
    “It doesn’t work that way,” she said.

    Evidently, there’s some part of the key code that is specific to the OEM license. Needless to say, I’m glad I discovered Linux, especially Ubuntu, shortly thereafter.


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