What are OEM keys? vs Retail...

When it comes to purchasing Microsoft software, such as Windows or Office, users come across two main terms: OEM keys and Retail keys. Often, the choice between one type of key and another can cause confusion. This article aims to clear up those doubts by explaining what Microsoft OEM keys are, how they differ from Retail keys, and what considerations to take into account when choosing between them.

What are Microsoft OEM Keys?

OEM stands for "Original Equipment Manufacturer." Microsoft OEM keys are designed to be installed and activated on a single computer, typically pre-installed on new computers by manufacturers such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, among others. These keys are permanently linked to the device's motherboard and cannot be transferred to another machine.

Main Features of OEM Keys:

  1. Hardware Binding: Once activated on a device, they are locked to its specific hardware.
  2. Price: Generally, they are cheaper than Retail keys.
  3. Technical Support: Technical support is provided by the computer manufacturer and not directly by Microsoft.

What are Microsoft Retail Keys?

On the other hand, Retail keys (also known as "boxed version") are product keys sold directly by Microsoft or authorized retailers. They are intended to be more flexible than OEM keys.

Main Characteristics of Retail Keys:

  1. Transferability: They can be uninstalled from one computer and reinstalled on another.
  2. Microsoft Technical Support: They offer direct access to Microsoft technical support.
  3. Price: They are more expensive compared to OEM keys.

OEM vs Retail: Which One to Choose?

The choice between an OEM key and a Retail key will depend on the user's specific needs. If you plan to keep your computer without significant hardware changes and are looking for a cheaper option, an OEM key might be appropriate. However, if you prefer the flexibility of being able to transfer your software to different devices and need direct technical support from Microsoft, a Retail key would be the best option.


Understanding the difference between Microsoft OEM and Retail keys is crucial to making an informed decision when purchasing software. While OEM keys are more affordable and device-specific, Retail keys offer greater flexibility and support. The choice will depend on your particular needs as a user and how you plan to use your software in the future.

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