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Windows XP is a family of 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, notebook computers, and media centers. The name "XP" stands for eXPerience. Windows XP is the successor to both Windows 2000 Professional and Windows Me, and is the first consumer-oriented operating system produced by Microsoft to be built on the Windows NT kernel (version 5.1) and architecture. Windows XP was first released on October 25, 2001, and over 400 million copies were in use in January 2006, according to an estimate in that month by an IDC analyst. It is succeeded by Windows Vista, which was released to volume license customers on November 8, 2006, and worldwide to the general public on January 30, 2007. Direct OEM and retail sales of Windows XP ceased on June 30, 2008, although it is still possible to obtain Windows XP from System Builders (smaller OEMs who sell assembled computers) until January 31, 2009 or by purchasing Windows Vista Ultimate or Business and then downgrading to Windows XP.
The most common editions of the operating system are Windows XP Home Edition, which is targeted at home users, and Windows XP Professional, which offers additional features such as support for Windows Server domains and two physical processors, and is targeted at power users, business and enterprise clients. Windows XP Media Center Edition has additional multimedia features enhancing the ability to record and watch TV shows, view DVD movies, and listen to music. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition is designed to run ink-aware applications built using the Tablet PC platform. Two separate 64-bit versions of Windows XP were also released, Windows XP 64-bit Edition for IA-64 (Itanium) processors and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition for x8664. There is also Windows XP Embedded, a componentized version of the Windows XP Professional, and editions for specific markets such as Windows XP Starter Edition. Windows XP is known for its improved stability and efficiency over the 9x versions of Microsoft Windows. It presents a significantly redesigned graphical user interface, a change Microsoft promoted as more user-friendly than previous versions of Windows. New software management capabilities were introduced to avoid the "DLL hell" that plagued older consumer-oriented 9x versions of Windows. It is also the first version of Windows to use product activation to combat software piracy, a restriction that did not sit well with some users and privacy advocates. Windows XP has also been criticized by some users for security vulnerabilities, tight integration of applications such as Internet Explorer 6 and Windows Media Player, and for aspects of its default user interface. Later versions with Service Pack 2, and Internet Explorer 7 addressed some of these concerns. During development, the project was codenamed "Whistler", after Whistler, British Columbia, as many Microsoft employees skied at the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort.
The two major editions are Windows XP Home Edition, designed for home users, and Windows XP Professional, designed for business and power-users. XP Professional contains advanced features that the average home user would not use. However, these features are not necessarily missing from XP Home. They are simply disabled, but are there and can become functional. These releases were made available at retail outlets that sell computer software, and were pre-installed on computers sold by major computer manufacturers. As of mid-2008, both editions continue to be sold. A third edition, called Windows XP Media Center Edition was introduced in 2002 and was updated every year until 2006 to incorporate new digital media, broadcast television and Media Center Extender capabilities. Unlike the Home and Professional edition, it was never made available for retail purchase, and was typically either sold through OEM channels, or was pre-installed on computers that were typically marketed as "media center PCs". Two different 64-bit editions were made available, one designed specifically for Itanium-based workstations, which was introduced in 2001 around the same time as the Home and Professional editions, but was discontinued a few years later when vendors of Itanium hardware stopped selling workstation-class machines due to low sales. The other, called Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, supports the x86-64 extension of the Intel IA-32 architecture. x86-64 is
implemented by AMD as "AMD64", found in AMD's Opteron and Athlon 64 chips, and implemented by Intel as "Intel 64" (formerly known as IA-32e and EM64T), found in Intel's Pentium 4 and later chips.
Internet Explorer 6 running in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Windows XP Tablet PC Edition was produced for a class of specially-designed notebook/laptop computers called tablet PCs. It is compatible with a pen-sensitive screen, supporting handwritten notes and portrait-oriented screens. Microsoft also released Windows XP Embedded, an edition for specific consumer electronics, set-top boxes, kiosks/ATMs, medical devices, arcade video games, point-ofsale terminals, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) components. In July 2006, Microsoft released Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs, a thin client version of Windows XP Embedded which targets older machines (as early as the original Pentium). It is only available to Software Assurance customers. It is intended for corporate customers who would like to upgrade to Windows XP to take advantage
of its security and management capabilities, but can't afford to purchase new hardware.
Editions for specific markets
Windows XP Starter Edition is a lower-cost edition of Windows XP available in Thailand, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, India, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. It is similar to Windows XP Home, but is limited to low-end hardware, can only run 3 programs at a time, and has some other features either removed or disabled by default. Each country's edition is also customized for that country, including desktop backgrounds of popular locations, localized help features for those who may not speak English, and other default settings designed for easier use than typical Windows XP installations. The Malaysian version, for example, contains a desktop background of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. In March 2004, the European Commission fined Microsoft €497 million (US$603 million) and ordered the company to provide a version of Windows without Windows Media Player. The Commission concluded that Microsoft "broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players". After unsuccessful appeals in 2004 and 2005, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Commission where it would release a court-compliant version, Windows XP Edition N. This version does not include the company's Windows Media Player but instead encourages users to pick and download their own media player. Microsoft wanted to call this version Reduced Media Edition, but EU regulators objected and suggested the Edition N name, with the N signifying "not with Media Player" for both Home and Professional editions of Windows XP. Because it is sold at the same price as the version with Windows Media Player included, Dell, HewlettPackard, Lenovo and Fujitsu Siemens have chosen not to stock the product. However, Dell did offer the operating
system for a short time. Consumer interest has been low, with roughly 1,500 units shipped to OEMs, and no reported sales to consumers. In December 2005, the Korean Fair Trade Commission ordered Microsoft to make available editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that do not contain Windows Media Player or Windows Messenger. Like the European Commission decision, this decision was based on the grounds that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the market to push other products onto consumers. Unlike that decision, however, Microsoft was also forced to withdraw the non-compliant versions of Windows from the South Korean market. This decision resulted in Microsoft's releasing "K" and "KN" variants of the Home and Professional editions in August 2006. That same year, Microsoft also released two additional editions of Windows XP Home Edition directed towards subscription-based and pay-as-you-go pricing models. These editions, released as part of Microsoft's FlexGo initiative, are used in conjunction with a hardware component to enforce time limitations on the usage of Windows. Its target market is emerging economies such as Brazil, Hungary and Vietnam.
Windows XP is available in many different languages. In addition, MUI packs and Language Interface Packs translating the user interface are also available for certain languages. Windows XP introduced several new features to the Windows line, including:
Faster start-up and hibernation sequences The ability to discard a newer device driver in favor of the previous one (known as driver rollback), should a driver upgrade not produce desirable results
A new, arguably more user-friendly interface, including the framework for developing themes for the desktop environment Fast user switching, which allows a user to save the current state and open applications of their desktop and allow another user to log on without losing that information The ClearType font rendering mechanism, which is designed to improve text readability on Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and similar monitors Remote Desktop functionality, which allows users to connect to a computer running Windows XP from across a network or the Internet and access their applications, files, printers, and devices Support for most DSL modems and wireless network connections, as well as networking over FireWire, and Bluetooth.
Windows XP themes Default (Luna) Blue Windows Classic
Windows XP The new start menu features a new design XP Royale task-based in the "Royale" graphical user theme. interface. The Start menu and search "task grouping" feature capability were The redesigned and introduced in Windows XP. many visual effects were added, including:
• • • • • • •
A translucent blue selection rectangle in Explorer Drop shadows for icon labels on the desktop Task-based sidebars in Explorer windows ("common tasks") The ability to group the taskbar buttons of the windows of one application into one button The ability to lock the taskbar and other toolbars to prevent accidental changes The highlighting of recently added programs on the Start menu Shadows under menus (Windows 2000 had shadows under mouse pointers, but not menus)
Windows XP analyzes the performance impact of visual effects and uses this to determine whether to enable them, so as to prevent the new functionality from consuming excessive additional processing overhead. Users can further customize these settings. Some effects, such as alpha blending (transparency and fading), are handled entirely by many newer video cards. However, if the video card is not capable of hardware alpha blending, performance can be substantially hurt, and Microsoft recommends the feature should be turned off manually. Windows XP adds the ability for Windows to use "Visual Styles" to change the user interface. However, visual styles must be cryptographically signed by Microsoft to run. Luna is the name of the new visual style that ships with Windows XP, and is enabled by
default for machines with more than 64 MiB of video RAM. Luna refers only to one particular visual style, not to all of the new user interface features of Windows XP as a whole. Some users "patch" the uxtheme.dll file that restricts the ability to use visual styles, created by the general public or the user, on Windows XP. In addition to the included Windows XP themes, there is one previously unreleased theme with a dark blue taskbar and window bars similar to Windows Vista titled "Royale Noir" available for download, albeit unofficially. Microsoft officially released a modified version of this theme as the "Zune" theme, to celebrate the launch of its Zune portable media player in November 2006. The differences are only visual with a black taskbar instead of dark blue and an orange start button (instead of very dark blue). Additionally, the Media Center "Royale" theme, which was included in the Media Center editions, is also available to download for use on all Windows XP editions. The default wallpaper, Bliss, is a BMP photograph of a landscape in the Napa Valley outside Napa, California, with rolling green hills and a blue sky with stratocumulus and cirrus clouds. The Windows 2000 "classic" interface can be used instead if preferred. Several third party utilities exist that provide hundreds of different visual styles. Microsoft licensed technology from WindowBlinds creator Stardock to create its visual styles in XP.
Designed for Windows XP computer hardware logo System requirements for Windows XP Home and Professional editions as follows: Minimu Recommen m ded 300 MHz higher or
64 MB RAM1
128 MB RAM or higher
Video adapter Super VGA (800 x 600) and monitor or higher resolution Hard drive disk 1.5 GB or higher free space
CD-ROM drive or DVD drive Keyboard. Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device Sound card. Speakers or headphones
Note 1: Using 64 MB of RAM allows the user to complete simple tasks, such as browsing the web or reading email. The user's experience would be "equivalent or superior to that of Windows Me running on the same hardware." In addition to the Windows XP system requirements, Service Pack 2 requires an additional 1.8 GB of free hard disk space during installation. Service Pack 3 requires an additional 900 MB of free hard disk space during installation.
Microsoft occasionally releases service packs for its Windows operating systems to fix problems and add features. Each service pack is a superset of all previous service packs and patches so that only the latest service pack needs to be installed, and also includes new revisions. Older service packs need not be removed before application of the most recent one. The service pack details below only apply to the 32-bit editions. Windows XP Professional x64 Edition was based on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 and claimed to be "SP1" in system properties from the initial release. It is updated by the same service packs and hotfixes as the x64 edition of Windows Server 2003.
Service Pack 1
Set Program Access and Defaults was added in Service Pack 1. Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Windows XP was released on September 9, 2002. It contains post-RTM security fixes and hot-fixes, compatibility updates, optional .NET Framework support, enabling technologies for new devices such as Tablet PCs, and a new Windows Messenger 4.7 version. The most notable new features were USB 2.0 support, and a Set Program Access and Defaults utility that aimed at hiding various middleware products. Users can control the default application for activities such as web browsing and instant messaging, as well as hide access to some of Microsoft's bundled programs. This utility was first brought into the older Windows 2000 operating system with its Service Pack 3. The Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, which was not in the RTM version, appeared in this service pack. IPv6 support was also introduced. On February 3, 2003, Microsoft released Service Pack 1a (SP1a). This release removed Microsoft's Java virtual machine as a result of a lawsuit with Sun Microsystems.
Service Pack 2
Windows Security Center was added in Service Pack 2. Service Pack 2 (SP2) (codenamed "Springboard") was released on August 6, 2004 after several delays, with a special emphasis on security. Unlike the previous service packs, SP2 adds new functionality to Windows XP, including an enhanced firewall, improved Wi-Fi support, such as WPA encryption compatibility, with a wizard utility, a pop-up ad blocker for Internet Explorer 6, and Bluetooth support. The new welcome screen during the kernel boot removes the subtitles "Professional", "Home Edition" and "Embedded" since Microsoft introduced new Windows XP editions prior to the release of SP2. The yellow or green loading bar used in Home Edition and Embedded was replaced with the standard blue bar, seen in Professional and other versions of Windows XP, making the line of operating systems resemble each other. Service Pack 2 added new security enhancements, which include a major revision to the included firewall that was renamed to Windows Firewall and is enabled by default, Data Execution Prevention that takes advantage of the NX bit that is incorporated into newer processors to stop some forms of buffer overflow attacks, and removal of raw socket support (which supposedly limits the damage done by zombie machines). Additionally, security-related improvements were made to e-mail and web browsing. Windows XP Service Pack 2 includes the Windows Security Center, which provides a general overview of security on the system, including the state of anti-virus software, Windows Update, and the new
Windows Firewall. Third-party anti-virus and firewall applications can interface with the new Security Center. On August 10, 2007, Microsoft announced a minor update to Service Pack 2, called Service Pack 2c (SP2c). The update fixes the issue of the diminishing number of available product keys for Windows XP. This update will only be available to system builders from their distributors in Windows XP Professional and Windows XP Professional N operating systems. SP2c was released in September 2007.
Service Pack 3
Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) build 5512 was released to manufacturing on April 21, 2008 and to the public via both the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update on May 6, 2008. It began being automatically pushed out to Automatic Update users on July 10, 2008. A feature set overview which details new features available separately as standalone updates to Windows XP, as well as backported features from Windows Vista has been posted by Microsoft. A total of 1,174 fixes have been included in SP3. Service Pack 3 can be installed on systems with Internet Explorer versions 6 or 7, and Windows Media Player versions 9 and above. Internet Explorer 7 is not included as part of SP3. New features
• • • • • •
Turns Black hole router detection on by default  Network Access Protection client Windows Imaging Component  Credentials Security Service Provider  Descriptive Security options in Group Policy/Local Security Policy user interface An updated version of the Microsoft Kernel Mode Cryptographic Module that is FIPS 140-2 certified 
Installing without requiring a product key during setup for retail and OEM versions
Slipstreamed retail and OEM versions of Windows XP with SP3 can be installed and run with full functionality for 30 days without a product key, after which time the user will be prompted to enter a valid key and activate the installation. Volume license (VLK) versions still require entering a product key before beginning installation. Although service packs have, until now, been cumulative, installing SP3 on an existing installation of Windows XP requires that the computer must at least be running with Service Pack 1 installed. However, it is possible to slipstream SP3 into the Windows XP setup files at any service pack level—including the original RTM version—without any errors or issues. Slipstreaming SP3 into Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 is not supported. Service Pack 3 does contain updates to the operating system components of Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE) and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and security updates for .NET Framework version 1.0, which is included in these Windows XP SKUs. However, it does not include update rollups for the Windows Media Center application in Windows XP MCE 2005. SP3 also omits security updates for Windows Media Player 10, although the player is included in Windows XP MCE 2005. The Address Bar DeskBand on the Taskbar is no longer included due to legal restrictions. Support lifecycle Support for Windows XP without a service pack ended on September 30, 2004 and support for Windows XP Service Pack 1 and 1a ended on October 10, 2006. Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be retired on July 13, 2010, almost six years after its general availability. As per Microsoft's posted timetable, the company stopped general licensing of Windows XP to OEMs and terminated retail sales
of the operating system on June 30, 2008, 17 months after the release of Windows Vista. However, an exception was announced on April 3, 2008, for OEMs installing to subnotebooks or UMPCs either until June 30, 2010, or one year after the availability of the next client version of Windows, code-named Windows 7 — whichever date comes later. On April 14, 2009, Windows XP will begin its "Extended Support" period that will last for 5 years until April 8, 2014. Common criticisms
Windows XP has been criticized for its susceptibility to malware, viruses, trojan horses, and worms. Security issues are compounded by the fact that users of the Home edition, by default, receive an administrator account that provides unrestricted access to the underpinnings of the system. If the administrator's account is broken into, there is no limit to the control that can be asserted over the compromised PC. Windows, with its large market share, has historically been a tempting target for virus creators. Security holes are often invisible until they are exploited, making preemptive action difficult. Microsoft has stated that the release of patches to fix security holes is often what causes the spread of exploits against those very same holes, as crackers figured out what problems the patches fixed, and then launch attacks against unpatched systems. Microsoft recommends that all systems have automatic updates turned on to prevent a system from being attacked by an unpatched bug, but some business IT departments need to test updates before deployment across systems to predict compatibility issues with custom software and infrastructure. This deployment turn-around time also lengthens the time that systems are left unsecure in the event of a released software exploit.
User interface performance
Critics have claimed that the default Windows XP user interface (Luna) adds visual clutter and wastes screen space while offering no new functionality and running slower. Users can easily switch back to the Windows Classic theme.
Integration of operating system features
In light of the United States v. Microsoft case which resulted in Microsoft being convicted for abusing its operating system monopoly to overwhelm competition in other markets, Windows XP has drawn fire for integrating user applications such as Windows Media Player and Windows Messenger into the operating system, as well as for its close ties to the Windows Live ID service.
Some users switching from Windows 9x to XP disliked its lack of DOS support. Although XP comes with the ability to run DOS programs in a virtual DOS machine, it still has trouble running many old DOS programs. This is largely because it is a Windows NT system and does not use DOS as a base OS, and that the Windows NT architecture is different from Windows 9x. Some DOS programs that cannot run natively on XP, notably programs that rely on direct access to hardware, can be run in virtual machines, such as DOSBox, VMware, Microsoft Virtual PC or VirtualBox. Windows Genuine Advantage
A Windows Genuine Advantage notification indicating a failed validation. While product activation and licensing servers are common for business and industrial software, Windows XP gave many casual computer users their first introduction to it, under the
name "Windows Genuine Advantage" (WGA). The system was introduced by Microsoft to curb unauthorized distribution of Windows XP. Activation requires the computer or the user to activate with Microsoft within a certain amount of time in order to continue using the operating system. If the user's computer system ever changes — for example, if two or more relevant components of the computer itself are upgraded — Windows may refuse to run until the user reactivates with Microsoft. WGA comprises two parts, an activation/verification system based in part upon the computer's hardware, and a user notification system. WGA for Windows was followed by verification systems for Internet Explorer 7, Windows Media Player 11, Windows Defender, and Microsoft Office 2007. Recently Microsoft removed the WGA verification from the installer for Internet Explorer 7 saying that the purpose of the change was to make IE7 available to all Windows users. If the license key is judged not genuine, it displays a nag screen at regular intervals asking the user to buy a license from Microsoft. In addition, the user's access to Microsoft Update is restricted to critical security updates, and as such, new versions of enhancements and other Microsoft products will no longer be able to be downloaded or installed. Common criticisms of WGA have included its description as a "Critical Security Update", causing Automatic Updates to download it without user intervention, its behavior compared to spyware of "phoning home" to Microsoft every time the computer is connected to the Internet, the failure to inform end users what exactly WGA would do once installed (rectified by a 2006 update), the failure to provide a proper uninstallation method during beta testing (users were given manual removal instructions that did not work with the final build), and its sensitivity to hardware changes which cause repeated need for reactivation in the hands of some developers.
Strictly speaking, neither the download nor the install of the Notifications is mandatory; the user can change their Automatic Update settings to allow them to choose what updates may be downloaded for installation. If the update is already downloaded, the user can choose not to accept the supplemental EULA provided for the Notifications. In both cases, the user can also request that the update not be presented again. Newer Critical Security Updates may still be installed with the update hidden. However this setting will only have effect on the existing version of Notifications, so it can appear again as a new version. As of 2006, Microsoft is currently involved in a class action lawsuit brought forth in California, on grounds that it violated the spyware laws in the state with its Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications program.
Product key testing
In addition to activation, Windows XP service packs will refuse to install on Windows XP systems with product keys known to be widely used in unauthorized installations. These product keys are intended to be unique to each boxed (or bundled) copy of Windows XP and are included with the product documentation, but a number of product keys were posted on the Internet and were then used for a large number of unauthorized installations. The service packs contain a list of these keys and will not update copies of Windows XP that use them. Microsoft developed a new key verification engine for Windows XP Service Pack 2 that could detect illicit keys, even those that had never been used before. After an outcry from security consultants who feared that denying security updates to illegal installations of Windows XP would have wide-ranging consequences even for legal owners, Microsoft elected to disable the new key verification engine. Service Pack 2 only checks for the same small list of commonly used keys as Service Pack 1. This means that while Service Pack 2 will not install on copies of Windows XP which use the older
set of copied keys, those who use keys which have been posted more recently may be able to update their systems. Currently Microsoft provides security updates to Windows XP without validating if it is legal. For all non-security updates, a user must have a verified copy of Windows.
"Key generator" programs, commonly called "keygens", exist to randomly generate Windows XP product keys (thus, there are no longer any commonly used keys to block) and then activate Windows without contacting Microsoft. These may or may not allow the user to receive updates although Microsoft has allowed major security updates to be downloaded and applied through Windows Update and its downloads site, even in pirated or non-genuine copies of Windows. In addition, a range of cracks and cracked versions of WGA exist, enabling a computer running a non-genuine copy of Windows to be detected as a genuine Windows system and access all Microsoft updates and enhancements.
License and media types
There are three main types of Windows XP licenses: Retail, Volume (VLK), and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). All three types of licenses are available for Windows XP Professional (32-bit and 64-bit) and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. Windows XP Home Edition is limited to Retail and OEM licenses whereas Windows XP Media Center Edition is exclusively available through OEM licenses. Each type of license has a different installation CD. For customized or retail media, there is a very tiny difference on each type of disc that will only allow that installation disc to accept one type of product key. Only retail and volume licenses include support for end-user installation scenarios from Microsoft. OEM software is preinstalled on systems and is supported by the system
manufacturer rather than Microsoft. The price of such software is reduced to aid computer manufacturers in reducing costs of their computer system production. The cost of OEM software products bundled with systems is not disclosed by Microsoft or by its partners as each system manufacturer will define its own bundling price. Microsoft does not support OEM licenses because it cannot guarantee compatibility with every system configuration possible and it is the responsibility of each system manufacturer to ensure that its hardware is compatible. Microsoft recommends that system manufacturers have their systems tested, for a fee, as part of the Windows Quality Online Services (Winqual) which includes extensive testing so that no component will cause instability in the Windows operating system due to incompatibility with the Windows operating system or with other system components or their respective drivers. Having a system tested and approved will allow the manufacturer to bear the "Certified for Windows" logo sticker on the exterior of the system, and there are additional benefits for having a tested product. This includes the product's being listed on the Windows Marketplace. Because of the fees and extensive requirements, Microsoft acknowledges that smaller system manufacturers may not opt in to the program until they produce computer systems at a modest rate and on recurring designs.
Retail licenses, those purchased from a retail store in full packaging, are of two sub-types: "Upgrade" and "Full Purchase Product", often abbreviated by Microsoft as FPP. FPP licenses are transferable from one computer to another, provided the previous installation is removed from the old computer. Although upgrade licenses are also transferable, a user must have a previous version of Windows even on the new computer to which they are moving the installation. Retail licenses include installation support for end-users, provided directly by Microsoft.
A Volume License is the license given to a software version sold to businesses under a direct purchase agreement with Microsoft, and is sold as an upgrade license only, meaning that a previous license must be available for each new volume license. Volume license versions of Windows XP use a Volume License Key (VLK) which is a product key that does not require Windows Product Activation. The term "Volume License Key" refers to the ability to use one product key for multiple systems, depending on the type of agreement. Since Windows XP Volume License versions do not require product activation, this led to leaked copies of VLK media and product keys from businesses leading to piracy of Windows XP which quickly spread across the internet upon early release. Beginning with Service Pack 1, Microsoft's active attempts to search out and blacklist known pirated VLK product keys became well known due to the inability to install the service pack on a system with one of the blacklisted keys. Later, this led to the Windows Genuine Advantage program.
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) licenses are preinstalled on, and sold with, pre-assembled computers from system manufacturers. There are two types of OEM product types: those used for "Direct OEMs" (major name brands that buy through a direct contract with Microsoft and produce and brand their own media from a Microsoft "Gold Master Copy" by using an Authorized Microsoft Duplication Partner), and those used for "System Builders" (local computer shops that buy generic, unbranded kits through Authorized Microsoft Distributors). Direct OEM product keys will often not activate with System Builder installation media because Direct OEMs are now required by Microsoft to pre-activate their copies in the factory using their own internal mechanism before delivery to the customer. It is recommended that System
Builders also pre-activate their systems before delivery, but this is not mandatory. OEM installations can be customized using the Microsoft OEM Preinstallation Kit with branding, logos, additional applications, optional services, alternate applications for certain Windows components, Internet Explorer links, and various other customizations. All OEM customers must include support and contact information for the initial installation of Windows because it is the responsibility for the OEM to support the Windows installation, and is not provided by Microsoft to the end-user. Direct OEMs must create their own media, but have the option of creating their own custom recovery solution, which may or may not be similar to a generic installation. OEMs may provide a recovery partition on the hard drive as the custom recovery solution rather than providing disc-based media with the computer. Some end-users have found this to be a troublesome option, because in the event of an out-of-warranty hard drive failure, they may not have access to reinstall Windows on a new hard drive. System Builders are not allowed the option to create a custom recovery CD/DVD media. The only deliverable media available for a System Builder to give to the end-user is the unbranded OEM System Builder hologram media kit. Because of this, when end-users reformat their hard drives and re-install from the installation media, they lose all the custom branding and support information that the System Builder would have included. As a supplemental recovery method to a CD/DVD-based installation, a System Builder may employ a fully customized recovery solution on the hard drive. Whether utilizing a recovery partition or not, a System Builder must still include the original generic OEM System Builder hologram CD/DVD media kit. OEM licenses are not transferable from one computer to another. Every computer sold/resold with an OEM license must include all of the original installation media or recovery solution, documentation, Certificate of Authenticity, and product key sticker with the sale. Microsoft
requires that all OEM system manufacturers include as part of the configuration the Windows Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE), which is the initial setup wizard encountered the first time Windows boots-up. It is also required that ValueAdded Resellers (VAR's), retailers, and general resellers not tamper with the OEM's customized OOBE mechanism unless under permission by the OEM, and it is a recommended configuration for systems that are privately resold so that a customer will have a like-new computer experience upon first boot-up. OEM licenses are to be installed by professional system manufacturers only. Under Microsoft's OEM License Agreement, they are not to be sold to end-users under any circumstance, and are to be pre-installed on a computer using the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) before shipment to the customer, and must include at the very least the manufacturer's support contact information. They are therefore designed for installation only on a single computer and are not transferable, even if the original computer is no longer in use. This is not usually an issue for users who purchase new computer systems because most preassembled systems ship with a pre-installed operating system. There are few circumstances where Microsoft will allow the transfer of an OEM license from one nonfunctioning system to another, but the OEM System Builder License Agreement (SBLA), as well as the OEM End User License Agreement (EULA) do not contain any allowance for this, so it is entirely up to Microsoft's discretion, depending on the situation.