What is OEM in Windows (Everything you need to know about)

If you are a regular Windows user, then we are sure that you might have heard about the term OEM, but never got a perfect explanation about it. So, what is OEM in Windows?

Well, let’s have a look at it in this article.

What is OEM in Windows?

The Windows operating system by Microsoft is by far one of the most used OS in the computer world. And guess what, when you purchase a brand new PC or laptop this operating system comes pre-installed with it, thus saving you from the process of purchasing and installing. 

However, there is a technical term that goes by OEM that is often heard by Windows users. 

So, what is this OEM all about?

Well, if we go by the technical definition, then OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) is nothing but a licensed version of the Windows operating system that comes bundled with a brand-new Windows PC or laptop so that you don’t have to purchase it separately. 

Microsoft, sells this version of Windows to PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer, Asus, etc, so that the consumers don’t have to take the extra step of purchasing a retail version of Windows and then installing it.

Although, is the OEM version of Windows the best when it comes to user experience?

Let’s take a look at it, in the form of advantages.


  • If we see it from a normal user point of view, then yes, it is the best license type, because a user doesn’t need to purchase it separately. 
  • Secondly, the OEM version of Windows is much cheaper than the other versions of Windows. Plus, the cost is generally included in the retail price of the computer system so it gets adjusted automatically.
  • Next up, if a user has this vision that he/she wants to use a computer for a long time then he/she can definitely opt for this licensed version of Windows.
  • Lastly, there is no difference in the functionality part and has support for almost every Windows software available in the market.

However, there are two major flaws that this Windows license type holds. For instance;

  • If you are planning to switch machines, then you won’t be able to transfer your current OEM version of Windows to the new machine because the Windows OEM license is attached to the motherboard, which restricts the transfer process.
  • Another drawback that this type of Windows license holds is that the user cannot get customer support from the Microsoft team. Instead they have to rely on the PC manufacturer for any kind of technical help.

How many different licenses of Windows are there?

After discussing what is OEM in Windows let’s now see other types of Windows licenses that are made available by Microsoft for dedicated criteria.

  • Windows Retail License:

Apart from the Windows OEM license, many users are also inclined towards the Retail version of Windows. A retail version is basically a type of Windows license that can be purchased through either the Microsoft Store or a physical authorized dealer.

The best part about this Windows license is that it can be easily transferred to a different Windows machine after a successful deactivation of the previous one. Plus, unlike OEM, you can also upgrade your hardware, especially the motherboard.

  • Windows COEM license:

Windows COEM license which stands for Consumer Original Equipment Manufacturer is yet another type of Windows license which is sold to the system builders who build assembled PCs.

Although, like OEM, the COEM license also restricts the transfer of the Windows license from one PC to another.

  • Windows Volume License:

Next up is the Windows Volume License, which as the name suggests is shipped to places where there is a group of Windows users, like government organizations, schools, colleges, and businesses.

A single Windows key can activate multiple computers under one hood, without the need to enter a different key for each computer.

However, there are two major drawbacks to this type of license. 

First, the key is limited to only one organization, which means you can’t activate this license on a computer that is not a part of that organization, educational institute, or government agency. 

Secondly, if there is a change in ownership, then you cannot transfer it with the device.

  • Windows MSDN license:

Lastly, the MSDN license which stands for Microsoft Developer Network is an early OS service for people who are into coding and software testing. 

It can be easily activated on the PCs by subscribing to the MSDN license. After a successful subscription part, a user can install copies and use this version to design, test, develop, and demonstrate the program. 

However, they cannot use it in a production environment or for commercial purposes without getting a green signal from Microsoft.

What are the different USPs of OEM and Retail versions of Windows?

After discussing the different types of Windows licenses that  Microsoft provides to its users, let’s now discuss the USPs of the OEM and Retail versions of Windows.

Category OEM licenseRetail license
PerformanceIf a user is using the OEM license, then he/she won’t be disappointed with the performance part as it supports almost each Windows app.If a user is using the retail license of Windows, then the performance part would be equal to that of the OEM license.
FeaturesThe features will be the same as the Retail version.The features will be the same as the OEM version.
Flexibility of License transferA user won’t be able to move or transfer the OEM license to another PC.A user can easily transfer the Retail Windows version between PCs after deactivating it from the previous system. 
Hardware ReplacementA user can easily replace the hardware except for the motherboard because the OEM license is permanently carved on the motherboard.A user can replace all the hardware parts along with the motherboard.
PricingThe OEM is comparatively cheaper than the Retail version.The retail version is costlier than that of the OEM.
Availability It is made available within the manufacturing unit of the system.The retail version is made available for the masses through local official retailers as well as the online market stores like; Amazon or Microsoft store.
UpgradingYou can easily upgrade to the latest version assuming you still have the activation license.You can easily upgrade to the latest version if you still have the license. 
Customer SupportMicrosoft won’t help you with technical problems. Instead, you will need to reach out to your PC manufacturer.You can directly reach out to the Microsoft support team for any technical assistance.

Which one to use – The OEM version or the Retail Version?

Generally, speaking both the OEM version as well as the Retail version of the Windows license work fluidly on any PC.

However, if you are planning to upgrade the hardware part of your computer in the future along with the motherboard, or are planning to switch  systems, then we suggest you choose the Retail license of Windows.

This way you won’t get locked out of the flexibility factor.

Does the OEM Windows copy come with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions?

Yes, like the retail copy of Windows, the OEM version also comes with both 32-bit as well as 64-bit versions. 

How to identify the license type of your Windows operating system?

After discussing the difference as well as the types of Windows licenses to use according to your needs, let’s now hop on to a quick step-by-step tutorial that can help you extract and identify the license type of your Windows operating system.

  • Open “Command Prompt” or “PowerShell.”
  • After that, type in “Slmgr /dli” or “Slmgr /dlv” and press the Enter key.
Command Prompt to know OEM in Windows
  • Lastly, wait for a few seconds for the Windows Script Manager to appear which will tell you the license type.
License type appear showing OEM in Windows


Windows is a very popular and powerful OS that has been in the market for ages, and as discussed in the article there are 5 types of Windows licenses that a user can acquire.

However, in most cases, you will be given the OEM version of Windows when purchasing a brand-new PC/Laptop. 

So, if you are given the option to choose between different licenses, then all you need to do is narrow down your needs and then select the appropriate license for your Windows PC.


  • Ashish Simon

    Hello folks! I am Ashish Pawar – A graduate from the field of Arts but an avid admirer of all things tech; therefore, made a leap into writing technical articles for ‘how-to’ guides and ‘informational content’ with the aim to make tech understandable for the masses. I have been in this field for more than a year now. My ideology is that even a layman should be able to understand tech easily. As a creative individual I am also passionately engaged in activities like photography, music, and dance.

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