What is OEM in Windows ? OEM Windows OS vs Retail Windows OS

👤 Diwas Poudel    🕒 Jun 19 2021    📁 Fix    📜 0 comment

When you go to a laptop store to buy a laptop. They will show you a laptop and while explaining system features they will say this system has genuine Windows OS.So, my question is: Is this genuine? Yes, it is genuine. Actually, this Windows OS which comes with a new laptop is generally OEM Windows OS.So, boring windows installation and activation setup should not be done from your side, and use the laptop right away.

What is OEM?

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer.OEM is a company that manufactures products(especially: hardware or software)and sells those products to the other company, then this company resells the products under its brand name to the end-users.

In the PC world of Microsoft, Microsoft is OEM and Windows OS is its product which is manufactured by them. Microsoft sells this product with customizable features to other laptop brand companies like Dell, HP, Lenovo, Asus, MSI, Acer. These companies are Value-Added Reseller(VAR) company

This company modified the Windows OS and make them fully compatible with their hardware and sells the laptop to the customer. So, this Windows OS is called OEM Windows OS. Which comes preloaded with your laptop when you buy it.

Not only in the software industry OEM is used, but it is also used in hardware. Companies like iPhone does not develop all the products. They have their software and they brought hardware from Samsung and Sony. The processor of the iPhone is developed by Samsung and TSMC. Sony and OmniVision developed a camera for iPhone.So, Samsung and TSMC are OEM of the processor. And Sony and OmniVision are OEM of Camera device.

OEM is a version of Windows that is already activated.

Why Company developed the OEM version?

In the case of the company world, One company cannot produce everything including hardware and software. The laptop company manufactures hardware and for software, they bought an OEM license from Microsoft and developed an OEM version of Windows. So, from both user and manufacturer perspectives, it is ok. The user gets OS preinstalled with a new laptop and the manufacturer buys an OEM license at a cheap price in a bundle and uses it.

Companies like Lenovo, dell bought OEM licenses from Microsoft and developed the OEM version. They purchase from Microsoft and modified it and add necessary software, drivers and utilities, logo, and brand and load that with their hardware.

What is OEM License Key?

OEM key is a unique digital key bind with your hardware id and written in bios. This Key is embedded in one system.

You will get more about OEM Windows OS from below different.

OEM windows OS vs Retail Windows OS

1 Price: You can buy both OEM and Retail Windows OS in offline and online stores. But OEM Windows OS is cheaper than Retail Windows OS. OEM Windows cost around $110 and retail Windows OS costs around $139 and above. Cost may differ.(visit official site).

Amazon is selling OEM Windows 10 Home licenses for $99 (click here), which is significantly lower than the normal retail price of $129.

2 Activation Key: Generally OEM version of Windows comes preinstalled with OS and is already activated and the Retail Version of Windows has to activate yourself on the Microsoft Server using a key.The retail OS comes separately in a box.

3 Hardware Dependent: OEM versions of Windows are hardware-dependent as the company(termed as VAR company) modifies windows OS makes them more compatible with their system, especially motherboard. So, if you change your motherboard then it is more chance that your current OS will not work.

What Microsoft does is bind the OEM key installed in your current hardware say. the motherboard in the server. And if you change the motherboard, then the OEM key and motherboard do not match and your current OS may not work. And Microsoft request you to get a new key or buy a new copy of windows 10.

Also, you cannot install the OEM key version of an OS installed in Lenovo laptop to an Acer desktop unit but with the retail version of Windows OS can work on any hardware.No problem even if you change hardware.

4 Transfer of License: OEM OS cannot be transferred from one system to another even your PC is no longer in use because the OEM key already binds and is specific to the current hardware to where it is installed. Retail OS can be transferred from one system to another. for this you just have to remove the key from the previous system and use the same key in the new system.

5 License Agreement: The license agreement of OEM Windows OS is between the End User and PC manufacturer.The License agreement of Detail Windows OS is between the End User and Microsoft.

6 Technical Support:  Users with the OEM version only get support from PC manufacturer companies like Dell, Lenovo etc, and not from Microsoft in much of the cases. If you have a Retail version then you will get support from Microsoft over the phone, or online in case of problem happens with OS.

You are not paying any money for OEM windows as they are generally coming with your new laptop. But the cost is actually already included in your laptop.

Everywhere we used the term OEM license for easiness, but there is nothing the term OEM license they are actually OEI(Original Equipment Installation). Var company purchase them and the license is linked and activate to one PC hardware.

How to check whether you are having OEM License Key or a Retail License Key?

If you want to know whether you are having an OEM key or a Retail License Key then there is a simple and easy way to check it. Follow the below step:

1 Press Win + R keyboard combination and type cmd and press Enter.

2 Type "slmgr /dli" or "slmgr /dlv" and prese Enter.

SLMGR is is Microsoft Software Licensing Management tool providing information about the edition of windows, licensing types, expiration date of the license, etc.
slmgr /dli : It provides current OS license information with activation license and partial product key in short form.
slmgr /dlv : It provides details of current OS license information with many information like activation Id, partial product key, trusted time, license status, etc.

If you have an OEM version you will get the below message.

If you have a Retail Version you will get the below message.

Reactivate Windows 10 After a Hardware Change

Although we have said we cannot transfer OEM license, but you can do it suppose you have replaced your hardware(say motherboard) and Microsoft will provide you a replacement OEM key. for this, you have to reactivate your license with the following steps.

If you have an OEM version of Windows 10 preinstall it on your machine.
1 First you have to create any Microsoft account (any outlook, Hotmail, Live, MSN, etc)
and then sign in with it. For this
1 a. Press Win + I keyboard combination to open Windows Settings
1 b. Goto Accounts Section and here you will see "Windows is activated with a digital license".

This means your Microsoft account is not digitally linked with your OEM license.


1 c To add a Microsoft account, click on "Add an Account" under the "Add a Microsoft Account" section . Provide username and password.

If you have signed, then under activation you will get:
"Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account" as shown below.

2 Change your hardware like Motherboard.

Note that it is recommended (or must not sure) to have the same motherboard from the same manufacturer.

 Case 1. ( Changed Motherboard, not Storage Device)

You only changed the motherboard and your OS in your HDD/SSD then boot it from the same device
1) Login with the same Microsoft account
2) Press Win + I > Update and Settings> Activation > Troubleshoot> click on "I have changed my hardware currently"
3) In the next screen check on "This is the device I'm using right now" and click on Activate.
4) Click the Close button.

Hurray, you have successfully activated Windows OS in new hardware.

Case 2 (Changed Motherboard + Storage Device)

Changing on Motherboard and reinstall Operating System in new SSD or in the same SSD
1) DOwnload Windows 10 from the official link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-in/software-download/windows10
2) Install it
3) Login with the same Microsoft account
4) Press Win + I > Update and Settings> Activation > Troubleshoot> click on "I have changed my hardware currently"
5) In the next screen check on "This is the device I'm using right now" and click on Activate.
6) Click the Close button.

Hurray your PC will automatically get activate to genuine windows 10

Some Frequently Asked Questions:

Is OEM Key a legal License? Is it legal to Buy?

Ans: Yes, OEM is a legal license and it is legal to buy. These are licenses provided by Microsoft to the manufacturer like laptops and mobile phones. The only thing is you cannot transfer license between laptops and computers.

How many times Can I install OEM License?

Ans: OEM licenses cannot be transferred between two or more computers.

Do OEM Windows OS provides Updates?

Ans: Yes, Same as Retail Windows OS, OEM Windows OS also provides updates.

Why Windows OS is expensive?

Ans: Actually, Retails OS is expensive but comparatively OEM windows OS is less expensive.

Is OEM Windows OS permanently activate?

Ans: Yes, the OEM version which comes preinstalled with your laptop is activated permanently. You don't have to face a problem with a message like "Your Windows license will expire soon", or "Activate Windows, Go to Settings to activate windows".

How many times we can install OEM Windows OS?

Ans: You can reinstall the same Windows OS on the same PC any number of times unless you have changed the motherboard.