What is OEM software and can I buy it legally?
I keep getting offers in my email for "OEM" software at incredible discounted prices. According to the deals it's legit software from the manufacturers, just without all the usual packaging, and that's why it's so cheap. I am skeptical, though. Dave, what's the scoop?
You are right to be skeptical: by definition, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) software is not something that can be resold. And yet, I also get these spam messages in my mailbox, messages where their definition of OEM is:
"OEM software means no CD/DVD, no packing case, no booklets and no overhead cost! So OEM software is synonym for lowest price. Buy directly from the manufacturer, pay for software ONLY and save 75-90%!"
That'd be nice if it were true (though I wonder how you would get the OEM software if it's not on CD or DVD), but here's how OEM software works... Imagine you invent a cool new type of laptop and want to sell it with Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Office and Adobe Premier pre-installed. You could call up a software reseller like PC Mall and ask for some sort of discounted price for a bulk purchase, but that'd be daft. Far better to call Microsoft and Adobe and buy the software direct from them for your product line.
What Microsoft and Adobe would sell you would be "not for resale" (you see this as NFR sometimes) original equipment manufacturer (that's you, the original manufacturer of the equipment) versions of the software, versions that are digitally bit-for-bit identical to the software included in the retail package that's sold through vendors like PC Mall, but at a very difference price point.
You would then pre-install legal copies of Windows, Office and Premier on your laptops and perhaps ship them with CDs of those applications in case customers had problems. You wouldn't include the original software boxes and documentation because, well, you never had those in the first place.
Now let's say that you buy 10,000 units of Premier and only sell 200 laptops. If you were willing to break your license agreement, you could then try to sell the OEM version of Premier on, say, eBay for 25% of regular retail and recoup some of your original investment in the bulk license. That's one way that OEM software makes it into the channels illegally.
More common, however, is that someone gets an OEM disk and simply clones it with some basic CDROM or DVDROM duplication software. Heck, you can probably duplicate the OEM disks that came with your own computer before you finish lunch today, and sell that as a "legit copy" on eBay if you don't mind that you're breaking the law and, yes, can ostensibly be arrested and thrown in jail or fined big bucks.
From the vendors perspective, OEM software -- legal or otherwise -- is bad. If they're expecting to make, say, $200 on the sale of each retail copy of Adobe Premier, then they can handle some channel discounts (y'know, the 10% grand opening sale of the local computer outlet) but having those units not sell at all because of competition from illegal OEM alternatives can really screw up their financials and, ultimately, the business itself.
Whether or not you care about the financial health of software companies, however, it should be clear that OEM software cannot be sold to customers directly; if a vendor is selling software, it's not OEM because it's violating the basic terms of that license with the software vendor. And yet, oh, so much of these OEM goods do make it into the channels anyway. Search for OEM on eBay, for example, and you'll see that there are over 65,000 matches at any given time.
OEM hardware can be a different situation, however, because so many well-known brands actually subcontract for individual hardware components. Apple Computer doesn't actually build its own power adapters for MacBooks, for example, so the factory that makes those could also introduce its own line of "MacBook-compatible adapters" that would be legitimately referred to as OEM units. Of course, most large companies add a level of quality control that the original factories in China or similar geographic regions don't offer, so it's also the case that saving 20% might not be a smart move with your hardware purchases either.
As we say in the Internet world, there really ain't no such think as a free lunch...
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Reader Comments To Date: 32
A couple of times, out of pure curiosity, I've checked out the "OEM software" sites for which I've received literally hundreds (if not thousands) of spams. I was amused to discover a bit of "truth in advertising" on those sites. In addition to not including the box, pretty packaging, media, and the like, the site said that you don't get a license, either. (It's a sneaky way of saying "you're buying pirated software", without directly saying so.)
I bought A OEM of Windows XP Home Edition From Tiger Direct before..
Does that mean it was Illegally Done??
I have gotten lots of the OEM e-mails recently too, and just felt leery of them. Your article has validated my discomfort. However, I am trying to find legit copies of Adobe CS2 for two PC computers for my work site. I don't need version CS3 nor can I afford it. Is there any legitimate source to still get the CS2 version of Adobe. Thanks.
From Ars Technica Article: "You can buy OEM versions of Windows online almost any place that sells software, such as NewEgg. Companies keep compliant with Microsoft's rules by bundling OEM versions with a token piece of hardware, like a cable." http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070130-8730.html
Is that true Dave? Are companies like NewEgg really compliant by bundling with hardware?
Brandon, I have to say that there's an old adage that applies here: "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch". Do you really think that if you buy a $1 cable from a company that they can legally include an OEM version of a multi-hundred dollar operating system free without violating license terms? I wouldn't touch that with the proverbial ten foot pole....
kindly send me ur answer 4 my confusion?
what is the main difference between microsoft windows proffesional XP OEM and XP OLP GENIUN?
Oem software now a days is just a term thrown arround to mean cheap. It seems the definition of oem has changed to just cheap software without packaging.
Interesting comment, Mike. I assure you that the software *vendors* have a very distinct difference between OEM and commercial distributions. As I said earlier in the thread, if it seems like too good a deal, it is.
I am exceedingly happy to belong to this club, just as get myself ready to learn from the experiences of others.
Thanks for the info. You explained it perfect.
I get that this is an old log, but really, just as the last poster said - so I buy OEM for my Company - I install it on my PC's and I support it myself. When the cost is literally 1/3 less than any where else, why wouldn't I? If I did not, I would not be getting the best deal I could for my company to save them money. Plus in doing so, how can it possibly be that I was the one breaking the law? The vendor would be the one selling the product. And all in all truth be told, even at that cost (1/3rd of what you can get it from CDW) it is too much and honestly I dont see why it would be illegal for me to buy it.
OEM Works great I have been using it for some time now. Saves hundreds of dollars, excessive upgrades in today's market, there is no way you could justify the retail cost of software especially when it is monopolized by one company. ROI is not in their vocabulary for their creative business clientele. Downside no manuals no backup and no tech service your on your own. At least it lets the small studio keep up with current technology.
I am thinking of buying Adobe Dreamweaver from a website called "Cheapest Legal Software". Do you know if it is actually legal?
Thanks for your help,
Florence, what do you think? Of course it's not legal. When you see software for a fraction of the price that it costs through a legit outlet like Amazon.com, that's a sure bet that there's something fishy or illegal going on...
What if the software is a completely legit Upgrade kit for Windows 2000 Profesional.... complete with manual 1-2CPU CD Key and disk. Would that be legal to resell? I bought 2 Upgrade kits from a County Auction (state of CA auction sale) Would I be able to re-sell these on ebay. They do say For Distribution only with a new PC. There is no manufacturer specified on the packaging they are straight from MS, the County just did not use them they are still shrink wrapped etc brand new.
I bought cheap OEM software and still use them without any problem. I am tired of paying my money to MS. The last shock I had was buying the useless Vista and won't be able to upgrade it to windows 7 after a year..
These are really hard times for me, as I am currently unemployed and I'm trying to start a home-based business. There are certain things that are required to start your own business. It's not cheap, in a nutshell. I really don't understand why certain Microsoft products, like Office 2000 are still $100! It's been 11 years! When is going to go down!? I don't have the funds to spend thousands of dollars. Maybe one, at the most! Sincerely, broke.
S'Chalana, you're in luck. For most everything you need to do with office software like MS Office, you can probably do quite well with one of the free alternatives like Open Office or Star Office. Poke around a bit on Google with those search terms and you'll see what I mean. Good luck!
I purchased my OEM Windows directly from the manufacturer. For less than $20.00. You usually get drivers and other items that came with your computer by entering the sn on the manufacturers website. I find it hard to believe this would be illegal. From my understanding oem means your computer is, in a sense, licenced to use said software. When oem Windows is installed on a ligit computer, it won't require activation. But if not ligit, you must supply a serial number or activate within 30 days. As is the case with non-OEM Windows.
You know that sticker on your computer that has the serial for Windows? That's OEM. OEM software detects that you computer is OEM. Thus you don't have to enter the serial. But only the OEM software from the manufacturer of you OEM computer will work. Otherwise, as I said in my last post, OEM software will act just like non-OEM. For the most part(there are some minor differences) So, if you think of it in that way, it suggests companies selling OEM discs may NOT be breaking any laws. You still need to either have an OEM computer or a serial number to activate. And if you're going to steal, why steal OEM? Wouldn't you rather steal the full version? Either way, you're stuck trying to get a valid serial number.
BTW- I wasn't suggesting to steal anything, just making a point.
I recently bought Office 11 for my Mac off a site, on the basis that $60 was about all I thought it was worth having bought entirely legit copies for a lot of money and then finding that because I had not upgraded every time a new version came out, that there was no cheap upgrade path. I last bought Office back in 2000.
I did not really expect it to work or that I would receive any support, imagine my surprise when on completing the installation, onto an old hard drive just in case,I was taken through to the MS site to complete my registration, I receive regular update notices from MS and have detected no malware on the drive.... Is it legal? I don't know, there seem to be no problems from the MS end, very strange indeed.
I get between 10 and 15 spam emails from agents promoting OEM. They all usually end up in my junk mail folder, but it's still seriously irritating. Is there a way to have them remove your email address from their data base?
A few days ago I bought photoshop on one of oem software stores and it works great, without problems. i think it isn't so bad as many people say.
Romashen, that might be true, but it's still an illegal copy of the program, not sanctioned by Adobe and not eligible for upgrades or discounts for major version changes, etc. Plus it defrauds Adobe out of the money it needs to earn to offset the cost of development and distribution. If a lot of people go down that route, they'll just stop making Photoshop (etc) because they need to pay their programmers, etc. It's an entire economic chain that you're disrupting by buying illegal OEM software...
FOR OEM SOFTWARE PURCHASE COST?AND HOW TO APPLY IN SYSTEM?
Let me solve your doubt, what you said OEM Software is fake software
And most of these products are come from China
If you only buy this software for yourself, there is no problem at all, Microsoft will not go to your home at check if you use original software
If you are company or goverment, I suggest you buy original software key from OEM software supplier, I am sure the Original is legally, you also could check it by call Microsoft
You could check gtqsoftware.com to learn more about OEM software
Will your chocie so called OEM software or Original software, it all by yourself
You got it all wrong... I think of it this way, I am just one guy and I keep on buying computers and keep on buying OS (software for example). Why the heck when I buy a new comp have to rebuy the software??? I mean didn't i just buy it with the last comp, was it mine?? what did I get, where is it?? Hey Dave get real. The MS's and Adobies of this world compensate for theft in their prices like all sellers.
Most of the guys who buy NonO good would never buy the real thing. So they ones who do will always pay for the other. the whole issue is not as simple as you make it. At the end of the day it's about how you feel morally and how you justify it.
But here I go I just bought a new Mac and paid 200 USD (600 MR for MS office 2012... but at least I got a box and a serial number. Maybe I own this for every??
Sure you can BUY it legally! But you do not have a valid license if you purchse OEM software for your own use. You might as well find a friend who will allow you to borrow their disk instead of sending money to some scammer. What you end up with either way is precisely the same, an unlicensed pice of software.
Here's the deal. The OEM license states that OEM software can only be sold bundled with a computer system (no, "bundling" it with some broken video card or memory stick does not qualify!). So the only way to get a valid OEM license is to purchase a computer system along with the software from a reseller. The license does not become "valid" until that computer and software bundle is sold. Further, it can never be transferred to another computer.
Now that you know the score, here is how to get around it. There are no restrictions on who can resell computers. Have a friend with a business? Just get them to buy the computer you want and the OEM software. Now have them sell both to you as a bundle. Be a good guy and kick in a few bucks to cover their time for the tax paperwork this will generate. You just purchased a computer with a fully licensed version of the software!
George -- your logic is fuzzy. It DOES NOT MATTER how you think things should be. It matters what the license says. The license you accept when you first use the software. Hey, I think I should be able to drive 100MPH on the open highway. But if the cop pulls me over, I'm still going to get a ticket even if I don't agree with the speed limit.
You CAN puchase a full retail version of your OS or any software and move it to other computers. OEM software comes with more restrictions. Why? Because it's much cheaper. Duh.
This article is really only semi accurate.
It neglects to mention OEM software being sold with small pieces of hardware that are less than a whole computer.
Then there's the selling of legitimate (or not) additional product keys that allow you to install windows (for example) to additional computers in the household, from a disk you originally purchased with only one license key.
Okay, maybe it is illegal, but I came into possession a a few computers courtesy of a company that downsized. Each computer had the OEM # for the original installation taped to the back of each computer (so I guess that counts as a bundle). Good deal right? Well some of the info on some of these computers was confidential stuff which required a complete re-install, Microsoft didn't recognize not one of the authorization codes that would allow me to do a re-install. Also you can't upgrade XP pro to Vista, and the co. no longer had the recovery CD's. A good deal just became a lousy deal if I have to pay the full price for Original software on six computers. So I threw Ubuntu on one for fun and went the OEM route for the rest. My conscientious is not bothering me in the least. After all I only wanted the comps for a render farm in the first place, and no amount of guilt-trip is going to change that.
Now I've never been spammed by OEM sellers. I went on my own and found people on ebay that had good ratings from dealing squarely with people. Like I'm saying I'm not condoning anything, but I did pay for computers with an existing OP that I only wanted to reinstall. So from my perspective some of these dealers are doing a service.
I do have a lot to say, and questions of my own for that matter, but first I'd like to say thank you, Dave, for all your helpful information by
buying you a cup of coffee!||
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