Understanding Windows 8 Licensing Options: Which One To Choose

Even after Microsoft’s simplified the licensing system for Windows 8, people are still asking themselves what’s right for them. People accustomed to the licensing conventions in previous Windows versions might ask themselves, “Where’d the retail/OEM dichotomy go?” People just starting to buy Windows 8 might wonder why some licenses are cheaper than others. What’s particularly problematic is that Microsoft doesn’t really want to tell you what to buy in a simple way that the layman can understand. So, let’s get to it!

The price of a copy of Windows 8 doesn’t always depend on the quality of the operating system. Pricing also depends on the license itself. Only one license will fit all of your needs, so you must pay attention to which licensing you want to take part in.

It’s in the name: If you want to upgrade from a previous version of Windows, this is the license to get. You must have at least Windows XP to upgrade. This version is also marketed to people building their own computers and is transferable, meaning that you can move the OS installation from one computer (or motherboard) to another. You cannot use this license if you want to do a clean install. You must have another version of Windows previously installed to upgrade your computer to Windows 8 using this license. Do not get this if you’re upgrading from a Windows installation that isn’t genuine, either.

It’s kind of troublesome to install this OS, since you’ll have to install another version of Windows first every time you want to start a clean slate.

This is a pricier license made for people who are upgrading from non-genuine operating systems. A non-genuine operating system is a version of Windows that was purchased illegally, with or without the knowledge of the buyer. If you got your Windows from a torrent website, you’re likely using a non-genuine version and need to get this license. Make sure you get a GGK license and not something else. It’s a bit more expensive, but with this, you’ll be able to keep your data. It’s also transferable.

Nothing really happened to the old retail/OEM division. Microsoft simply did away with the non-transferability of OEMs and made all the OEMs transferable. You no longer need an extra “Retail” version. This is the simplification that Microsoft made. You either get an upgrade, a GGK license, or an OEM license. That’s much better than all the different versions of Windows (i.e. Enterprise, Ultimate, Home, Home Basic, Media Center Edition, etc.). In fact, let’s talk a little bit about versions.

windows 8 boxes

As you can see in the above image, Microsoft distributes two different versions of Windows 8: Windows 8 Pro and, well, Windows 8.

These two operating systems don’t operate much differently, except for a few divergences: Windows 8 Pro has the remote desktop application, network domain connectivity, and a couple of small business features, all which Windows 8 lacks. That’s about it. If you feel like spending a couple of extra bucks, get yourself the “Pro” version to ensure a full experience. If you’re wondering about Windows 8 RT, that’s only exclusively for tablets, not for PCs. You can read all about that here.

Your choice should depend on what kind of situation you’re dealing with and what kind of experience you want. You now have all the information you need to make an educated purchase rather than trembling at the sight of so many options. Please comment below if you still have any questions!