Microsoft Open License/CSP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the three main types of Microsoft Software Licenses?

The three main types of Microsoft Software licenses are Volume License Retail License (also called a box license or package license), and an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) license from a computer manufacturer. Volume Licenses are significantly more flexibilty and options than either a Retail or OEM license and are meant primarily for business and organizations. Retail and OEM licenses are sold as perpetual licenses meaning they never expire. Most Volume Licenses are perpetual, however, Microsoft does offer subscriptions licenses under the Volume License program. These subscription licenses, as the name implies, are for a set period of time and expire if the subscription license is not renewed (very much like a magazine or newspaper subscription).

Is there a mininum number of licenses that must be purchased under a Volume License Agreement?

Yes. The minimum number of licenses required for a Volume License Agreement is five (5). However, the five licenses can be made up of any combination of products. Quantities of less than five can also be purchased economically by making up the additional license using an inexpensive "make up" product SKU.

Once the initial Volume License Agreement is in place, additional licenses can be added to the Agreement in quantities of less than five. For example, if a company purchases five Office 2010 Professional Plus licenses under a new agreement, three months later the same company can purchase one additional Office 2010 Professional Plus license under the same agreement. The minimum license number therefore only applies to the initial Volume License agreement.

What are the advantages of purchasing a Volume License over a Retail or OEM license?

The most significant advantages of purchasing a Volume License over a Retail or OEM license include the following:
  • Unlike a Retail or OEM license a Volume License includes "portable use rights," the ability to use the same license on a laptop computer at no additional cost.
  • Unlike a Retail or OEM license, a Volume License includes "downgrade rights," the ability to use a previous version of a product rather than the current version for software application compatibility issues, or any other reason. Downgrade rights come with the Volume License and Sofware Assurance is not required exercising downgrade rights. For example, if you have an application that is compatible with Office 2007 but not Office 2010, you could purchase a Office 2010 license and use the downgrade rights to install Office 2007 instead. When you application becomes compatible with Office 2010, then you can upgrade to Office 2010 at no additional cost. There are a certain number of OEM licenses with downgrade rights. These are generally limited to server and client operating system products.
  • Volume licenses can be purchased with Software Assurance,a Microsoft program that provides additional benefits beyond the core Volume License including software version upgrade rights at no additional cost, a home use purchase program providing a significant discount for purchasing an additional license for home use (e.g. Microsoft Office), online e-Learning, training vouchers, an Employee Purchase Program, and many other benefits.
  • A Volume License can be transferred to another computer or server whereas an OEM license cannot. For example if you were to purchase an SQL Server OEM license with your server, and two years later you decide to upgrade your server hardware, you cannot transfer the SQL Server OEM license to your new server hardware, but must purchase the SQL Server license again. If you purchase a SQL Server Volume License, then the SQL Server license can be transferred to the new server hardware. The same is true for a Microsoft Office OEM license that comes with a new desktop or laptop.
  • Volume Licenses can be more cost effective than a Retail license because you are only purchasing the media (DVD) once and there are no packaging costs.

From where do I download the Microsoft software and can I purchase a DVD of the software?

All volume license software is made available for free download through the Microsoft Volume Licensing web site ( The your login to the Volume Licensing web site will be the Windows Live ID associated with the email address you gave to Microsoft when purchasing the software. From the web site, you can download software including previous versions of the software you purchased (downgrade rights), manage licenses, obtain license keys, etc.

A media kit is simply the installation DVD or CD for the software that is purchased under a Volume License. Since there is no retail package with a Volume License, the DVD or CD can be purchased separately from the licenses in the form of a Media Kit. Therefore, the Media Kit is only required where an organization wants to have a physical DVD copy of the software and does not have the capability to downloaded media to a DVD, CD, USB key drive, etc.

Can you explain Downgrade Rights in more detail? How far can I downgrade a license? Can I downgrade to another edition of the same product?

Downgrade rights allow you to downgrade to a previous version of a software license you currently have. You can downgrade as far back as the product goes provided the edition of software existed in previous versions. Microsoft makes the distinciton between versions and editions. You can downgrade to a previous version of the same edition of a software package but not to a different edition.

For example, you can downgrade Office 2010 Pro Plus to Office 2007 Professional but not to Office 2007 Standard Edition. So downgrade rights pertain to previous versions of the same edition. A new product will therefore have no downgrade rights since the software did not exist in a previous version.

Generally on the Volume Licensing web site you will see downloads the current version of a product and the next most recent version of a product. This is why you will see many different downloads available on the Volume Licensing web site. You not only see the current version of a product but also previous versions to which you have downgrade rights. If you have the media (CD/DVD) to previous versions of a licensed product you are entitled to downgrade to these older previous versions. In addition to download, media kits (DVDs) are available at a nominal cost. Lemington can order a media kit for you if you require it.

It is also important to note that downgrade rights are in lieu of running the most current version. You cannot run both Office 2010 and Office 2007 through downgrade rights. One license equals one version so you can run one or the other but not both at the same time. If you use the downgrade rights to run Office 2016 you can upgrade to Office 2019 in the future.

Can I downgrade my Windows 7 Professional OEM license to a previous version of Windows?

Yes, you can downgrade an OEM license of Windows 7 Professional to Windows Vista Business or Windows XP Professional. A Windows 7 Ultimate Edition OEM license is also available for downgrade. The usual downgrade stipulation applies that you can run one Windows version OR the other, but not both at the same time.

What is Software Assurance?

Software Assurance (SA) is an optional set of benefits that you can purchase with a Volume License to enhance the value of the software purchase. Software Assurance can also be purchased on OEM licensed software within 90 days after purchase. For example, your organization purchases new computers with Office already installed (an Office OEM license. You have 90 days from the date of purchase of the computer to purchase Software Assurance.

The most important benefit of Software Assurance is New Product Version Rights, the entitlement to a new version of the software when it becomes available. For example, you purchase Office 2007 with Software Assuarnce six months before Office 2010 is set to release. When Office 2010 is released you are licensed to use Office 2010. If you had purchased Office 2007 without Software Assurance, you would have to pay the full price of Office 2010 to obtain a license.

In addition to New Product Version Rights, Software Assurance can also include other benefits such as:
  • Home Use Program - The right to purchase a copy of a product (e.g. Microsoft Office) at a significantly discounted price for use on a home computer.
  • Training Vouchers
  • E-Learning Courses - free online courses to help train users on the software.
  • Step-Up Licensing Availability - the ability to migrate from a lower level edition of a product (e.g. SQL Server Standard Edition) to a higher level version (e.g. SQL Server Enterprise Edition) at a low cost.
  • Extended Hotfix Support - extended fixes for products beyond the normal support period.
  • Cold Backup for Disaster Recovery - for server products, the right to install software on other machines as a cold backup solution.
  • Numerous other benefits.

What is the grace period for renewing Software Assurance after the license agreement expires?

The grace period depends on the licensing program under which you purchased the software originally. For Open Business licenses (also referred to as Open Licenses) the grace period is 90 days from the expiration of the agreement. For licenses purchased under the Open Value licensing program, the grace period is 30 days from the expiration of the Open Value agreement.

How and why would I want to renew a Microsoft open license agreement?

An Open Business license agreement has a two year term and an Open Value license agreement term. At the end of the agreement term, you can renew the agreement. Generally you will receive a renewal notice from Microsoft at least 45 days prior to the end of the agreement. Once the agreement expires, you have a 30 day grace period to renew the agreement for Open Value and a 90 day grace period for Open Business. Once the grace period has expired, you cannot renew the agreement and you must enter into a new agreement.

Many times you will want to renew the agreement to extend the Software Assurance. Unless your agreement contains subscription licenses, the licenses are perpetual, however, Software Assurance is not perpetual. Software Assurance is only available as long as you have an active agreement with Microsoft. Lemington Consulting can provide you with a quote on renewing an existing Open Business or Open Value agreement that is about to expire, or has expired and you are still within the grace period. Please contact us for a quote or for more information.

Can Software Assurance be purchased on Retail or OEM licenses?

Yes. Software Assurance can be purchased on Retail or OEM licensed products if done within 90 days of acquiring the Retail or OEM license. For example, you purchase a new computer with a Microsoft Office OEM license. You have 90 days from the date of computer purchase to acquire Software Assurance for this OEM license. This option is also available for other system and server licenses OEM licenses as well.

If I purchase Software Assurance, how long do the Software Assurance benefits last?

Software Assurance is optional under the Open Business Volume Licensing program. Software licenses and Software Assurance purchased on the Open Business program last two (2) years. Under the Open Value Volume Licensing program, Software Assurance is automatically included. Open Value licenses are for a period of three (3) years. Under both the Open Business and Open Value license programs, purchasers have the option, but not the obligation, to renew their Software Assurance at the end of the respective terms (two years for Open Business and three years for Open Value) for the same term again.

Do I own the licenses obtained through Software Assurance, and if so, what is the license term?

Yes, licenses obtained through Software Assurance are the same as a standard Volume License and belong to the purchaser. Licenses acquired through Software Assurance are perpetual licenses just like Volume Licenses, meaning the user has a perpetual license to use the software (i.e. the license does not expire).

Can we purchase an upgrade license through Volume Licensing?

Generally no. In Volume Licensing the concept of an upgrade license does not generally exist. For example, if you own a volumne license for Office 2007 and want to upgrade to Office 2010, you will have to purchase a full Office 2010 license. There is no upgrade license in Volume Licensing as there is with a Retail License. The New Version Product Rights of Software Assurance provide the equivalent of an upgrade license. Therefore, if you know you want to upgrade to the next version you should purchase a Volume License with Software Assurance.

What is a software subscription license and how does it different from purchasing a perpetual Volume License?

A subscription license is a non-perpetual license to use the software for a given period of time, usually one year. At the end of the year if you do not renew your subscription you no longer hold a license to use the software. The advantages of sofware licensing are that it can be less expensive than purchasing a standard perpetual Volume License and that the subscriber is entitled to software upgrades (version upgrade rights) when new products are released. The downside is that, like any other subscription, you do not actually own the software license.

Take for example two business, one purchases a subscription for Windows 7 licenses the other purchases a standard perpetual Volume License. The subscriber company with pay an annual fee each year that they intend to use the licenses (in perpetuity). The other company pays to purchase the perpetual license and once this payment is made they own the license and no further payments are required, unless they decide to upgrade to a new version of Windows and do not have Software Assurance.

The choice between a software subscription and a standard perpetual Volume License depends on your specific needs and goals.

What are my options for licensing Windows virtual desktops?

Currently there are two options available for licensing Windows virtual desktops. One is to have the desktop operating system licenses covered by Software Assurance. As of July 1, 2010, Software Assurance rights were expanded to include virtual desktop access rights. Therefore, if your desktop operating system licenses were licensed under the Volume Licensing program and includes Software Assurance, you can virtualize the desktop licenses at no additional costs.

The second option is what is called Virtual Desktop Access or VDA. VDA licenses are the equivalent of a device -based subscription licenses and came into effect on July 1, 2010. VDA licenses require an annual payment to maintain the subscription license (at last check the VDA subscription costs were $100/device/year).

More information on virtual desktop licensing can be found in the virtual desktop licensing whitepaper here, including information on the additional benefits that are included in a VDA license.

What is the difference between Per Device and Per User with regard to Client Assess Licenses (CALs) and it what cases is one better than the other?

Client Access Licenses, or CALs, are generally licensed either Per Device or Per User. Per Device CALs are better when you have more users than devices (computers, printers, etc.) connecting to a server. The classice example where Per Device licensing is appropriate is orgranizations which have shift workers. For example, a company has eight computer and three shifts of eight people using these same eight computers. This company would purchase eight Per Device CALs rather than purchasing 24 Per User CALs. Per User CALs are most appropriate where the number of devices exceeds the number of named users using the devices. For example, a sales team with multiple sales offices. Rather than purchasing a Device CAL for each computer at each location, the company would license on Per User basis purchasing one license for each sales representative.

Microsoft Office is licensed per device only. Other Microsoft software offers either a choice between per device or per user licensing, or per user licensing only. And yes, for software which offers both Per Device and Per User licensing, you can mix Per Device CALs and Per User CALs.

Can we use downgrade rights when purchasing a Windows 7 machine to install Windows Vista or Windows XP on a new computer?

Yes, Windows 7 downgrade rights include the option to downgrade to a previous operating system (Windows Vista or Windows XP). The user then can upgrade to the Windows 7 operating system at a future time of their choosing. This downgrade right is available "through the sales lifecycle of Windows 7 which is up to two years after the launch date of a new version. Normally, you would contact the hardware OEM to request that the new computer be installed with a previous operating system version."
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