UPDATE February 13:
Representatives at Microsoft HQ Redmond has acknowledged that (use case 1) customers might have a legitimate reason for using Windows 7 Ultimate instead of a direct transition – migration – to Windows 10 due to timed legislation. The next step is to investigate if, and how, a legal Windows 7 Ultimate license can be obtained. When we have further information we will update on the case on this webpage. Might you have any questions or remarks in between, please do reach out to one of our software licensing experts.
Let’s start with writing to you that the Windows 7 desktop operating system is end of life, maybe a little old fashioned and mainstream support ended January 13, 2015. Today we have got the all new desktop as a service operating system Windows 10, so why bother? Well, here are two good reasons why and the big question is: ‘can you obtain a legal Windows 7 Ultimate license today?’
Windows 7 Ultimate use case 1
With the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) getting into force May 25, 2018 organizations are working hard to get compliant. One of the important parts of GDPR is protecting privacy sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands. Encrypting of data is a good way to do so (when you will keep the encryption key secure …). Encrypting data stored on a local hard drive in a PC or laptop can be done by the Microsoft Bitlocker technology. Bitlocker is a standard feature in Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise. But in the days of Windows 7, it was not a standard feature of Windows 7 Professional, only on Ultimate and Enterprise.
Today, a lot of organizations are still standardized on the Window 7 Professional desktop OS platform. When they want to enable Bitlocker technology these organizations must either migrate to Windows 10 or change to Windows 7 Ultimate. This last option has some advantages, because it does not require a reinstall of the operating system. Just changing they licensing key will enable the Bitlocker technology. When you are running 500 computers in your organization, by doing so, you will save yourself 500 reinstalls for those computers and 500 new Windows 10 Pro Upgrade licenses. An estimate of $ 120,000 in savings for licensing and labor. Worth wile thinking about, especially when upgrading 500 computers within an organization will not be completed within matter of weeks.
Windows 7 Ultimate use case 2
Some manufacturing firms ‘attach’ personal computers to their high tech industrial machines and production lines for ‘production line automation’ or simply ‘to run’ the machine. When we look at desktop operating systems Windows 7 Ultimate is Microsoft’s only desktop operating system which is multi language and has a multi-language user interface. When you as an industrial production firm are based in Germany, you will be able to set up your entire machine and PC in the German language. Before shipping your machine to Argentina you simply change the multi-language user interface to Spanish and off you go.
You will not be able to perform this action with Windows Professional or Enterprise in any version.
How to obtain a legal Windows 7 Ultimate license
We have seen that there are still reasonable use cases for Windows 7 Ultimate today. But when we take a look on how to obtain a legal Windows 7 Ultimate license, there are none.
Even when customers would buy a Windows Professional upgrade license through volume license (with an existing Windows Pro OEM as a legal base to do so) you will not be able to run Windows 7 Ultimate. Simply because Microsoft has no down-edition – or better up-edition – rights within their volume license program to Windows 7 Ultimate.
You cannot buy Windows 7 Ultimate retail anymore because the product is end of life. Even a ‘get genuine kit’ is not available, only for Windows Professional.
The answer to the question ‘how to obtain a legal Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate license’ is therefore ‘you cannot’.
A possible solution is to include ‘up-edition’ rights from Windows 10 Enterprise to ‘Ultimate’ editions within Software Assurance. This doesn’t force Microsoft into changing their entire Windows Desktop operating system license motion, but simply ‘adding’ this into the Product Terms under SA benefits for the Windows desktop OS.
When Microsoft would do so, customers would be able to buy a Windows Upgrade license with Software Assurance through Volume License, assign that license to a PC or laptop with a base Windows Professional OEM license and install and use Windows 7 Ultimate.
Case Owners GSLSEC.org:
Nic Fillingham – Windows and Devices Team