Upgrading may make your Windows illegal!

  Eagie 15:06 29 Mar 03
Locked

If you have seen my recent thread you will know that I want to do a clean install of Windows XP but only have a restore disk supplied with my PC. I wrote to Microsoft for info on upgrading my license to do this and they have just e-mailed me with info that may affect a lot of people who upgrade their motherboards.

"If you have changed your motherboard you no longer have the legal right to use the OEM software that came with PC. Once you change the motherboard or chassis of your PC it is considered a new PC."

It may be part of the EULA but is this really fair? I don't agree with the policy that the software is limited to the machine - surely it should be the property of the owner and therefore transferable as long as it is only on the number of machines specified in license.

  A Pound of Sausages 15:21 29 Mar 03

They're trying to keep your version of XP exclusively on that original pc and nothing else.

You can see why they're doing it, they lose millions upon millions in software piracy, but in your case you're just trying to upgrade your machine.

They'll probably argue that you knew and agreed to what the EULA stated before you started using the machine.

It's a bit tricky for all parties corncerned.

  beeuuem 15:51 29 Mar 03

In that case I, along with many others, have a an illegal installation of 98SE. The motherboard on my old (now spare) PC failed, was replaced and the original O/S reinstslled.
Does that make me a criminal?

  Eagie 15:57 29 Mar 03

Not sure if the 98 agreement is the same.

I am in for it big style though as I've changed my psu, graphics card, motherboard, memory and motherboard! All the bits I have removed are up in the loft so it's not like I have two machines with the XP software on it.

At some point I will have replaced everything and will rebuild the original machine and then will buy a new license so I can use both machine but in the meantime maybe I should go into hiding.

  Forum Editor 16:13 29 Mar 03

The rule about reinstalling with a new motherboard applies to the OEM version of WindowsXP, which you bought as part of the original computer. Manufacturers enter into a special agreement with Microsoft, to the effect that they can be licensed to install 'clone' copies of the OEM software at a reduced cost. In theory this saving is passed on to you, the end user whan you buy the machine.

You can request a full CD version of Windows when you order the computer, but there'll be an additional charge. If you take this option you'll be able to reinstall WindowsXP when you upgrade the computer, but you may have to phone Microsoft for a new activation key when you do it.

Contrary to what many people believe, you aren't the 'owner' of software when you buy it - you are buying what amounts to a copyright licence, allowing you to install and use the software on one machine. The only thing you own in the legal sense is the material the CD is made out of. OEM software is different - and that's why Microsoft said what they did in the email.

As to the question of whether this policy is fair or not - well, that's a debatable point. Technically you have, as you admitted, agreed to the EULA , and so are bound by its terms and conditions. Wearing my devil's advocate hat I could say that it's no use complaining about something you've already agreed to - if you didn't like the EULA you had the option not to install the software.

There's a wider issue here though, and it's one that crops up time and again. It's this whole business of people not fully understanding the situation they're letting themselves into when they buy and install Microsoft operating systems. The EULA is all well and good, but it looks intimidating and few people bother to actually read it. I have already offered to write a much simpler version for Microsoft, free of charge, but they don't seem to see that as a good idea - so far they haven't even responded to the offer.

Meanwhile, thousands of people continue to fall foul of the OEM/EULA terms and conditions - so there's obviously room for improvement. I'm not suggesting that we should all be allowed to install the software as many times as we like without let or hindrance - that wouldn't be reasonable - but I do think it's time that Microsoft stopped treating its customers like naughty children, caught with their hands in the sweetie jar, every time said customers want to take the perfectly reasonable step of upgrading a computer.

The problem of course is that upgrading is a bit like the woodman's axe - he's had it all his life, but it's had three new heads and four new handles. When does an upgrade become a complete new computer?

  Eagie 16:24 29 Mar 03

I wasn't given the option to upgrade my OEM license to a full CD when I bought my computer which is why I e-mailed Microsoft to ask them if I can upgrade - the simple answer is no, you have to buy the full license at the full price.

How many people remember (or even read)the complete EULA (which you could reject as you say but that would leave you without an OS)? With software, including games, becoming more demanding surely upgrading a graphics card is a likely event - and microsoft will cash in on this by forcing you to buy software you have already been using legally.

  Forum Editor 16:32 29 Mar 03

would not result in Microsoft 'forcing' anybody to buy a new copy of Windows.

A new motherboard is a a major upgrade, and that's why you got the reaction you mentioned. It's true that some manufacturers don't offer the option of a full Windows CD, but they'll almost always provide one (at additional cost) if asked.

Over the years I have upgraded PC for my own use & passed on my old PCs to my grandchildren. Microsoft have always been helpful . I simply explained what I was doing & without any hassle I was allowed to upgrade.
However I usually upgraded the OS at a time convenient to me before passing on to my grandchildren.
To upgrade OS all you have to do is purchase any ram or hardware with a new OS purchased at the same time.
This is legal with microsoft. One of the reasons I tend to stick with click here for my hardware purchases. Just as competitive as ebuyer in pricing. Forum Editor is correct in the opening statements but it is in the details that microsoft do help customers. I cannot reccommend any PCAdvisor fan to state 98SE is still a valid OS. You cannot obtain the upgrades for all the drivers nor the OS itself. It is relegated to history.
Take the plunge go for XP At least it has been proven to be a stable platform.

  Eagie 16:43 29 Mar 03

No idea why I mentioned the graphics card issue - I have a cold and it's screwing up my head. You are absolutely right that Microsoft have no problem with this and it was the motherboard upgrade that caused them concern.

I am choosing the resolved option on this thread as I am obviously in the minority by thinking that Microsoft are out of line where licensing is concerned.

James

  Forum Editor 17:05 29 Mar 03

and a good way of thinking your way through it (or at least trying to make some sense of it) is to imagine that it was your software, developed and written by you over a long period of time.

Try to think yourself into that situation, and imagine how you would approach the same problem from that different perspective. You have a giant company to run (and fund) and thousands of employees to pay. Forget about the obvious remarks concerning Bill Gates' personal fortune and concentrate on the business angle.

How would you resolve this problem now?

  anchor 17:05 29 Mar 03

No Eagie, you may not be in the minority. I would suspect that the silent majority would agree with you.

Of course Microsoft are in business to make a profit, and wish to put an end to piracy; we can all understand that. However, their virtual monopoly in the market place should not entitle them to be dictatorial in their terms and conditions.

It would be interesting to have a legal opinion to determine if some of their terms and conditions contravene the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. Perhaps one day they may be put to the test of reasonableness.

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