Simon May

Client and cloud

Windows 7 licensing and virtual machines clarified

Windows 7 licensing and virtual machines clarified

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Licensing is a complex subject and to be honest it’s not one that I talk about much because it’s a complex discipline in and of it’s own and there’s too much fun stuff to talk about in the client and cloud world.  This document, Licensing Windows 7 for Use with Virtual Machine Technologies tells you all you need to know about licensing with Software Assurance and Windows 7 on Virtual Machines.  Such nuggets as if you have Volume Licensing, an SA and the Windows 7 Professional Upgrade License (Volume Licensing Upgrade License) or Windows 7 Enterprise then you can run 4 virtual copies of Windows 7 on a server or desktop, just like this:


What’s more there’s a great FAQ in the document, some of which is worth calling out:

If I install and run four additional copies of the operating system, do I have to use Windows 7 Enterprise as the host operating system?

No. You may use prior versions of Windows, including Windows Vista Business and Windows XP Pro. In addition to third-party product to host the four virtual machine environments, Volume Licensing customers have some flexibility in how they can deploy Windows 7 in their organizations.  As a benefit of Software Assurance coverage for Windows desktops, customers may leverage virtualization use rights.  This use right allows running the software in up to four local virtual machines.  While a customer’s right to use Windows 7 Enterprise may survive the expiration of their Software Assurance coverage, the Virtualization Use Right does not.

Can I store my virtual machine in a .vhd file on removable storage media and open the .vhd file on another PC?

Yes, as long as both PCs are licensed for Windows VECD and are not already running more than three copies of the software.

Can other users remotely access virtual machines that I’m not using on my PC while I’m using my PC?

No. The use of the software is limited to one user at any given time.

How do I license my employee and contractor owned PCs so that they have access to my centralized desktop PC environment?

Employee- and contractor-owned devices can be licensed with Windows VECD, which enables them to remotely access your centralized desktop PC environment. Additionally, for devices with a pre-assigned Windows 7 Professional license, they may run the permitted instances locally in a virtual machine on the Windows VECD licensed device.

Go grab the document here (email it to your Licensing dude if you aren’t a licensing dude) and learn about Desktop Virtualisation

  • Useful post, however no mention of OEM licenses.

    I deal with companies between 1-50 users, and even closer to 50, volume licensing is still not always preferred by the client.

    Some feedback on what a typical high end OEM 7 Pro system could handle, as some of my clients require virtualisation for sandboxes.

    Kind regards

    Kieran Donnelly

    MD of F8 IT Solutions Limited

  • Hi Kieran,

    So the issue is that the OEM licenses don't allow for virutualisation to the same extent as Enterprise with SA.  You only get to run 1 XP Mode on an OEM copy of Windows 7, not the 4 guests as in this post.


  • Hello Simon,

    What if I have non-MS server with 3th party virtualization software and I want to emulate one virtual machine with Windows 7 Professional on it. Can I only buy one license for Windows Professional Upgrade trough Volume licensing agreemets?

    Thank you in advance.

    Kind Regards,


  • Hi Luka,

    If you want to run Windows client in a virtual machine and are not using the virtualization rights afforded by Windows 7 Pro w/SA (Enterprise), you will need to purcahse an FPP (boxed) copy of the OS you wish to install in the VM.

    A Volume License upgrade requires a qualifying, underlying OS to be in place already..and that will not be the case in a virtual machine.

    OEM cannot be used as there is no hardware for it to be tied to.

    Hope that helps?



  • Do those VMs have to be Win7? Can I use Vista as one of the 4 guest VMs?

  • So you just copied and pasted the Microsoft document?

  • I use Linux with VirtualBox and run IE8 windows7 that I downloaded from microsoft web site that provides images of IE8 windows7 for virtualization for 90 days. Now, I want to keep that image how can I pay for the license ?

  • If I have Windows 7 Enterprise and want to have 8 separate virtual machines, but only ever run 1 virtual machine at a time, is this complying with the rule of not "running more thant 4 virtual machines? If no, how does one license beyond 4 virtual machines on the same windows 7 enterprise computer?

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