In­stall Win­dows on more than one PC

Mar­tyn Casserly ex­plores the chal­lenges of us­ing Win­dows 10 on mul­ti­ple com­put­ers

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

One question we’re fre­quently asked at PC Ad­vi­sor is how to in­stall Win­dows on more than one PC. It might seem per­fectly rea­son­able to ex­pect that an item you pur­chased can be used in ways that you deem fit, but Mi­crosoft doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily see it that way. We’ll ex­plore the op­tions open to those who want to move Win­dows 10 or even our old favourite Win­dows 7 to another PC.

Can I in­stall Win­dows on more than one com­puter?

While there are a few tech­ni­cal ex­cep­tions, which we’ll ex­plain below, the plain truth is that Win­dows can only be in­stalled on one ma­chine. The li­cence agree­ment is­sued by Mi­crosoft is clear about this, and when you en­ter the prod­uct key dur­ing the in­stal­la­tion process Win­dows locks that copy of the soft­ware to that par­tic­u­lar com­puter.

This might seem harsh, but Win­dows in a pre­mium prod­uct that takes a huge amount of work to cre­ate and main­tain, all of which costs money. Some might point to Ap­ple, which for sev­eral years has given away its desktop op­er­at­ing sys­tem for free, but that would be slightly wide of the mark. Ap­ple is pri­mar­ily a hard­ware com­pany that makes its rev­enue from sell­ing the de­vices run­ning its soft­ware, while Mi­crosoft (for the main part) is a soft­ware and services com­pany.

This ar­gu­ment is also less pow­er­ful th­ese days, with Mi­crosoft mak­ing Win­dows 10 avail­able for free dur­ing its first year of re­lease. So if you like Win­dows 10 on your cur­rent PC and want to in­stall it on another, then you can do so as long as you meet cer­tain cri­te­ria.

Those of more du­bi­ous char­ac­ter can also delve into the murky pools of ‘cracked’ copies that fre­quent the darker cor­ners of Red­dit, tor­rent sites and user fo­rums. If you de­cide to take this path, then not only are you break­ing the law but you’re hand­ing over com­plete con­trol of your PC and data to soft­ware that’s been tam­pered with by strangers on the in­ter­net who have no prob­lem with crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. We’re sure that will all end well…

Re­tail boxed copies

If you bought a boxed copy of Win­dows from a store, as op­posed to the OEM copy that comes pre­in­stalled on new PCs, then your op­tions are a lit­tle more open. Mi­crosoft al­lows you to move the soft­ware from one ma­chine to another, but no­tice we said move rather than share, as the op­er­at­ing sys­tem can still only be active on one PC at a time. The one ex­cep­tion to this is a Win­dows 7 Fam­ily Pack, which en­ti­tles users to si­mul­ta­ne­ously have the OS run­ning on three dif­fer­ent PCs.

To move a re­tail copy of Win­dows from one PC to another you first have to unin­stall it from the pre­vi­ous com­puter and then in­stall it on the new one. Be­fore it can be ac­ti­vated you’ll also need to call Mi­crosoft and ex­plain what you’re up to. It’s a sim­ple process which will have you up and run­ning in no time at all.

On the new PC, click Start and right-click on Com­puter. Se­lect Prop­er­ties, then scroll down and click Ac­ti­vate Win­dows Now. You’ll now see a wiz­ard launch which presents you with a menu that in­cludes an op­tion to Use the au­to­mated phone sys­tem to ac­ti­vate. Se­lect this, choose your coun­try from the drop-down list, click Next, and you’ll be given a phone num­ber that you can ring to con­firm your de­tails with Mi­crosoft and ac­ti­vate Win­dows 7 on the new PC.

Al­ter­na­tives to Win­dows Linux:

If you have an old PC, or fancy build­ing one, but don’t have a copy of Win­dows and don’t want to pay for one, there are other op­tions. Linux has a wide range of im­pres­sive dis­tri­bu­tions that looks and feel like high-end soft­ware rather than the clunky, home-brew style that so of­ten per­me­ated the land­scape a few years ago. Ubuntu is the most prom­i­nent and prob­a­bly best for new users, but many peo­ple have a soft spot for Linux Mint, whose lay­out should prove fa­mil­iar to Win­dows user. If you want to re­vive an old com­puter, and plan to use it mainly for the web, some me­dia con­sump­tion, and gen­eral of­fice work, then Linux is a com­pletely free op­tion that war­rants se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion.

ChromeOS:

In much the same way as Linux of­fers a great range of pos­si­bil­i­ties for gen­eral com­put­ing on the cheap, Google’s ChromeOS is another ex­cel­lent choice for those whose needs are sim­ple.

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