You Can Now License Windows Per User, Not Per Machine

You Can Now License Windows Per User, Not Per Machine

There’s a big shift coming to Windows town — from 1 December (that’s today!), you can license Windows on a per-user basis rather than per machine. But when does that make sense, and is it really that simple?

Picture: Getty Images/Adam Berry

Firstly: this option is only available to large enterprise customers under the Windows Software Assurance Per User scheme. It’s not being offered to smaller businesses or individuals. The licensing is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 (and its eventual successors) in Pro and Enterprise editions, so you can’t use it if you’re still any older versions. If you want Software Assurance (which offers ongoing upgrade rights), the user’s “primary machine” must be running Windows.

The idea is that if you license per user, those users can access Windows on any machine without having to pay for a separate license. That includes running directly (such as a laptop PC and a tablet), and also being available in virtualised mode (or via USB as Windows To Go) for access on other devices.

In other words: the strategy makes most sense if you’re committing to an all-Windows model, and saves you the hassle of tracking individual licences across multiple devices. If the majority of your users are running only a laptop, and otherwise living in an Android or iOS world, it will potentially make less sense.

That said, some observers see benefits in the approach, even if all it means is someone accessing a virtualised Windows desktop on their iPad. “You can allow employees to buy the device that they believe best helps them battle irate avians, build virtual cities and/ or watch drug-dealing ex-teachers, and then layer a secure, supportable Windows desktop on top, without having to navigate the previous fog of restrictions on device ownership, type and location,” Forrester analyst Duncan Jones noted in a blog post.

The final crucial variant is how much you’ll pay, something which differs depending on the size of your licensing pool and your ability to negotiate a deal with Microsoft. In that context, it’s important to check details carefully. As Gartner’s Michael Silver pointed out last week: “Make sure you get price caps in the contract or your list price will revert to the higher level on renewal.”


  • I was FINALLY, then read the article and GRRRRRR!

    I am sick of Windows licensing hassles everytime I upgrade a platform, Apple doesn’t put you through this crap or treat their customers like criminals.
    Hassling with MS now to get my license of Win7 transferred to the upgraded machine, and in the meantime I have a ‘Windows is not genuine’ screen, which is just great for when clients are in.

      • Same. Even when I change motherboard or whatnot and it wont let me register, I call the number and someone on the other end always fixes it for me pronto.

        • I’ve had success with the automated one almost always. I once got routed to someone and just said I upgraded and they fixed it.

    • Apple doesn’t treat you like criminals because you can essentially only run their software on their hardware as opposed to Windows which is on pretty much every other system and massively pirated.
      Calling up to re-activate once in a while is hardly the end of the world.

        • I think you might have missed what I was saying. The point was that OSX will only run on Apple hardware (unless you screw around hackintoshing). Windows will run on pretty much everything, hence it will run on your MacBook.

    • only have had to call them 2 times in 20 years or whatever!
      first took about 10 minutes, second time however, they were unable to help me, so they gave me a new key to use (i did the windows 8 to windows 8 + media centre upgrade, and it failed)

  • Microsoft has yet again missed the point. As a DaaS service provider, they have not addressed the fact that under MS licensing, it is IMPOSSIBLE to provider a Windows 7/8 desktop virtually on a shared (i.e. service provider) platform. We have been asking the questions ‘why’ and ‘when’ for such a long time but they have failed us again.


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