Vista Enterprise: Licensing FAQ for Virtualization


Q. What does licensing rights to 4 virtual operating systems mean and why is this valuable for customers?

A. Customers who deploy Windows Vista Enterprise receive a new benefit: the ability to install up to four copies of the operating system in a virtual machine for a single user on a single device. This new benefit, coupled with the free availability of Virtual PC provides Enterprise customers with the most economical means to address application compatibility and other scenarios using virtualization. Customers who do not deploy Vista Enterprise and wish to use the operating system in a virtual machine are required to purchase a license of Windows Vista for every copy installed in a virtual machine. Customers who deploy Vista Enterprise receive 4 installs in a virtual machine in addition to the installation on the device as part of only one license.

Virtual PC 2004 is available for download by all customers and the additional operating system right will become available in conjunction with the volume licensing availability of Windows Vista (11/06).

Q. What are the business scenarios of four additional operating systems per user?

A. Business scenarios include:

  • Application compatibility remains a valuable scenario for companies with vital legacy applications during migration to Windows Vista
  • Development and testing – Running several operating systems in virtual machines improves efficiency and cost for testing and developing applications that run on various operating systems
  • Training scenarios – Companies can preset various training scenarios on a variety of operating systems
  • Help Desk scenarios- Help desks will now require only 1 physical machine to solve multiple OS and application issues

Enterprise customers can exercise their downgrade rights to run several different operating systems within virtual machines with Windows Vista Enterprise as the host. The addition of four virtual operating systems is designed to cover a majority of customer scenarios.


Q. What are the requirements for using the licensing rights to 4 virtual operating systems benefit?

A. Requirements are as follows:

  • Customers may run any prior version of Vista Business (XP Pro, 2KPro, or Win98) or even WinFLP on the same PC at the same time
  • The licensed device may only be used by 1 user at a time; the guest virtual machines may not be accessed remotely by another user.
  • You may not play or access content or use applications protected by any Microsoft digital, information or enterprise rights management technology or other Microsoft rights management services or use BitLocker in a virtualized environment.
  • Additionally, Microsoft advises against playing or accessing content or using applications protected by other digital, information or enterprise rights management technology or other rights management services or using full volume disk drive encryption in a virtualized environment.
  • You may use Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, Vista Ultimate or any prior version in any of the 4 virtualized environments
  • Only Vista Enterprise, Ultimate, or third-party product may be used to run the hardware virtualization software and to service the virtual hardware systems

Q. Is this good for Vista Enterprise customers?

A. Yes. With this change customers get the valuable right to install four additional copies of the operating system in virtual machines for one user on one device. For all other Windows Vista customers a license for the operating system is required for every virtual machine installation.

Q. What are the cost benefits associated with the new Vista Enterprise?

A. Customers who deploy Windows Vista Enterprise receive considerable value, the right to install 4 copies of the operating system in a virtual machine, as part of a single license. Customers without Windows Vista Enterprise need to purchase a license for each.

Q. When will Vista Enterprise customers be able to take advantage of their additional rights to 4 installs?

A. Customers will be able to take advantage of the additional install rights with the launch of Windows Vista Enterprise.

Q. Do customers need to deploy Windows Vista Enterprise to take advantage of this new right?

A. The four operating system right is uniquely available to customers who deploy either Windows Vista Enterprise or non-Windows virtualization stacks. For example, this right is not available to customers who deploy Windows XP or Vista Business as the host operating system.

Q. Does this new licensing apply to network centric scenarios?

A. No. This licensing applies to use on a single device by a single user. Network centric scenarios involve installation of multiple virtual machines on a network server or blade pc to support multiple users. Windows is not a multiple user operating system and this new benefit does not apply to these scenarios.

Q. What are you doing for network centric scenarios?

A. We are evaluating various licensing solutions for Windows Vista to further enable support as a guest in network centric scenarios.

Q. Can I use the new 4 VM licensing for multiple users?

A. No. This technology only applies to a single user on a single physical device per Windows Vista license. Window Server is suited for that scenario.

Comments (17)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Vista Enterprise: Licensing FAQ for Virtualization

  2. Anonymous says:

    While I haven’t seen this officially posted at Microsoft or through Microsoft, I found this while reading

  3. Anonymous says:

    James Senior has posted a FAQ of all those tricking licensing questions for Vista Enterprise (So this

  4. Anonymous says:

    James Senior has posted a FAQ of all those tricking licensing questions for Vista Enterprise (So this

  5. Anonymous says:

    Virtualization, on the Windows platform, has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reasons. One

  6. james says:

    @Jarandstakke – Any virtualization technology, Virtual PC Express happens to be free

    @ David –

    Help from support people is covered by remote access technologies

    I) Installation and Use Rights.  Before you use the software under a license, you must assign that license to one device (physical hardware system).  That device is the ”licensed device.”  You may not reassign that license to another device.  A hardware partition or blade is considered to be a separate device.

    a) Licensed Device.  You may install one copy of the software on the licensed device.  You may use the software on up to two processors on that device at one time.  Except as provided in the Storage section below, you may not use the software on any other device.

    b) Number of Users.  Except as provided in the Device Connections and Other Access Technologies sections below, only one user may use the software at a time.

    c) Use with other software.  You may not use the software’s runtime and other files to run applications not running on the software.

    II) Additional Licensing Requirements and/or Use Rights.

    a) Storage.  You may store one copy of the software on a storage device, such as a network server. You may use that copy to install the software on any other device to which a license has been assigned.

    b) Device Connections.  You may allow up to 10 other devices to access the software installed on the licensed device to use File Services, Print Services, Internet Information Services, Internet Connection Sharing and Telephony Services.

    c) Remote Access Technologies.  You may access and use the software installed on the licensed device remotely from another device using remote access technologies as follows.

    • Remote Desktop.  The single primary user of the licensed device may access a session from any other device using Remote Desktop or similar technologies.  A “session” means the experience of interacting with the software, directly or indirectly, through any combination of input, output and display peripherals.  Other users may access a session from any device, using these technologies, if:

    (1) the remote device is separately licensed to run the software; or

    (2) the user or remote device has the appropriate Remote Desktop License (RDL).

    • Other Access Technologies.  You may use Remote Assistance or similar technologies to share an active session.



  7. james says:

    Hi Stephane

    This only applies if you have bought Vista Ultimate under Software Assurance, which for home use isn’t very common!  Depending on the type of license you have with your legacy OS you could be OK.  For instance if you bought XP off the shelf (known as fully packaged product FPP) then you can use this no problems.  If you bought an OEM license of XP (which came with a new machine) the license is tied to that machine and so you can’t use it elsewhere.

    Hope this helps


  8. james says:

    Hi Keith

    No this info isn’t on  Not sure when they are going to be publishing either


  9. Keith Combs says:

    Do you have the direct link on to this information?

  10. Anonymous says:

    IS this only valid when using MS Virtual PC, or also using VMWARE?

  11. james says:

    Hi Andy,

    See my last comment about the licensing of VPCs in Ultimate.  With regards downgrade rights, yes you will need to call the activation line (when you are activating Windows XP in your VPC) and explain that you are running Vista and want to run XP in a VPC.


  12. james says:

    Hey Dave, yes that applies to your scenario


  13. Stéphane says:

    How Windows Vista Ultimate is affect ?

    Could it have the same virtualization right ?

  14. Andy Parkes says:

    Nice info James

    I’m running Windows Vista Ultimate at home…

    Am I right in saying the same information applies?

    I’d like to run an XP virtual machine. Do i just aquire the media and call MS support for the downgrade key?

  15. Dave DiMauro says:

    We will be rolling out both Business and Enterprise at work, and I’ve been told that with Business, we can run 2 VMs under the same rules as Enterprise.  Is this true, and if so, would it apply if I buy a Business Edition PC at home?

  16. David Williams says:

    Does the only one user at a time restriction mentioned ("The licensed device may only be used by 1 user at a time; the guest virtual machines may not be accessed remotely by another user")  mean that tech support cannot remotely connect to an end users VMs to help or diagnose a problem within a VM? Thanks.

  17. Kevin says:

    Hi, I have been reading about virtualization on Windows Vista Enterprise and have been wondering about a same question that nobody seems to care about, that is how to activate the virtualized OS? I mean, doesn’t Windows Vista require an activation after you finished the installation? So about these virtualized Vistas, how to activate them? Using the same license key for the physical machine?

    And for your record, I have a MSDN subscription and hense have access to a license key for Vista Enterprise with 10 activation instances. I wonder if I use this key on all four virtualized OSes, how many instances of activation will they cost?

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