OEM Software

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer - a company that sells products (including OEM software) under its own label that includes technology licensed from another vendor. The original product name may or may not be retained.

One of the most frequently asked questions is OEM Software (Original Equipment Manufacturer software) legal - So i s it legal to install an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) version of software on a computer other than the one on which the software came? OEM software is only distributed when sold with specified accompanying hardware. When these programs are copied and/or sold separately from the hardware, it is a violation of the license with the software publisher, and therefore illegal.

In addition, OEM software generally does not come with user manuals or the original retail packaging. When you buy OEM software you will not be eligible for technical support, software upgrades, service packs, or patches.

Should you buy OEM Software?

OEM software is sold by the software creator to a hardware manufacturer. For example, Microsoft will sell OEM versions of Windows and Office to companies like Dell or Gateway, at volume discounts. Dell and Gateway are then able to sell you the PC, complete with OEM software, at a reasonable price. If you bought a PC from one of these companies, chances are that in the box, you found a handful of CD-ROMs with all kinds of OEM software on them. No manuals, no instructions - just the CDs.

Sometimes, people and/or companies will not use the OEM programs that came with their computer, and so they decide to sell the software, usually very inexpensively. If you need the software, it's a great way to save tens or hundreds of dollars off of the retail, boxed version you would buy in the store.

There ARE restrictions, however. Some OEM software comes with a restrictive license that says it can only be used with the hardware it originally came with. So, if you got an OEM version of CD-burning software, the license may restrict you to using the software ONLY with the CD-burner that came with your PC. These licenses, while restrictive, are also unusual.

Most OEM licenses only require you to buy a piece of hardware with the OEM software - ANY piece of hardware. For instance, you can pick up an OEM version of Windows XP Professional at a high discount, as long as you buy a cheap mouse at the same time. It's a silly rule, but licenses are licenses.

Some OEM software have no restrictions, but those are few and far in-between. You should always find out the license restrictions with OEM software BEFORE you buy.