OEM and activation..

If you have a desktop machine, take a look at the front panel. If you bought from Dell, Acer, HP, or any other OEM manufacturer, it will have a manufacturer badge on it. If you look on the back panel, there will be stickers on which are printed serial numbers, model information, service tags etc.

For those of you who have never opened up a case, have no idea what is in there, what do you think decides the make and model of your computer?

  1. The case? You would be wrong. It does not sow up anywhere in the computer configuration. It just keeps the parts neat and tidy, protected from damage by falling/flying objects.
  2. The hard drive? You would be wrong. A hard drive is a universal device which can be moved and re-used in any make or type of computer.
  3. The DVD/CD drive? Read the line above.
  4. The motherboard? Almost right
  5. The motherboard and BIOS combination? Bingo.. 

We will use HP as an example.

HP, I think, generally use ASUS motherboards in their computers, but if you open up the casing, you will not find the ASUS brand name anywhere. What you will find is an HP sticker which has the HP derived model information on it. While Asus is the manufacturer, they will produce motherboards of differing specifications laid down by the OEM manufacturer to fit in with the various ranges of computers sold by HP.

Also, the motherboard will be fitted with a BIOS chip which reflects the OEM name and the specification on the motherboard. If you remove the sticker and reveal the Asus model, and then do a search on the Asus website, you will find little to nothing on the model.

OK so far?

HP have an arrangement to sell their computers with a pre-installed Windows version, and to make it easier for the user, everything is already installed. The HP will be good to go right out of the box. This is because HP customise Windows, including the drivers required for the motherboard specification, and they also include their own support utilities and information.

Microsoft, because they choose not to have to support any customised versions, let HP have Windows at a knock down price, which is passed on to the end user. Everybody benefits.

What happens if your computer rolls over and dies on you?

If the computer is under warranty, HP will fix it. Not a problem, apart from maybe having to pay shipping to get it to HP. Ouch!! If the warranty has run its course, HP will ask you to pay shipping to them PLUS maybe $400 to fix it. Ouch!! For the money, you get a working HP of similar specifications as per the original. HP will NOT replace it with a much higher spec model. They don’t do free upgrades.

So a friend or relative tells you that you don’t have to do that. You are told that local parts retailers and online stores can supply a new motherboard for as low as $60. That sounds better, doesn’t it. Well, yes and no. Depending upon the age and availability of the original parts, you may have to get other parts like CPU, fan and heatsink, memory, IDE to SATA drive adapters. All of these items will bump up the price to around $300.


Now you have the parts and all you have to do is fit them. It is a simple job if you have the knowledge and courage. If you have neither, you may have to pay somebody to do it for you. A friend or relative may do it for free, but others will charge maybe $100 or more. Still, it has been cheaper than the HP route so far. You are now at the point where the HP service cost didn’t look so bad

When it comes to installing the old hard drive and running the contents, you are about to come up against the downside of pre-installed OEM operating systems.

You see, the original installation was supplied by HP, not Microsoft. You got it cheap because support is via HP, and one of the rules of OEM operating systems is that there is a safeguard to prevent the operating system being installed on anything other than an HP?

Remember me mentioning the HP BIOS earlier? Well guess what? Your $60 motherboard doesn’t have an HP BIOS. It is the standard issue for the motherboard when sold as a service part through retailers. Your customised HP operating system does not have the information it requires from the BIOS to enable activation.

HP will not support you because you don’t have an HP anymore. Microsoft don’t have to feel sorry for you and activate it. There are versions known as ‘full retail’ made especially for people like you. OEM versions can be bought for $100 from major computer vendors online and in bricks and mortar stores, but the total price is quickly approaching HP’s service cost, and you have lost their support, and use of the HP recovery partition or recovery disk set which could have recovered your PC to fully working within hours.

Support is down to what you know and your ability to outline problems beyond your technical ability to the guys and gals in forums like MS Answers. One thing is for sure, your computing experience will never be the same again.

Didn’t the salesperson in the store tell you any of this? Would you have bought the HP computer had you known? Why do you think that the salesperson kept ‘mum’?

You bought an HP computer from a store. The contract is with them, not the supplier of the motherboard, hard drive, DVD/CD drive, memory, case OR the operating system.

So now you know all of the facts regarding using OEM pre-installed operating systems in a unauthorised cheap fix for your  home PC or a super duper homebuilt gaming machine.

Winking smile

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