How to Get Windows XP After June 30

After the Cutoff?

After June 30, OEMs can no longer order new licenses of Windows XP. (The deadline is January 31, 2009 for white-box PC makers, who have what Microsoft calls a System Builder license. Other than the date, the limitations and options for installing XP are the same as for Direct OEM licenses.) So how do you get XP on PCs you buy after these cutoff dates?

After the cutoff, OEMs may still install Windows XP Pro (not Home) on users' systems, but only for orders of 25 or more PCs. In this case, the systems must come with a Vista Business or Ultimate license, which is then transferred to the XP Pro install. Essentially, you're buying a Vista PC that the OEM can then put XP Pro on instead, using the Vista license to activate XP Pro. (Again, the OEMs don't have to provide this option.)

If you buy fewer than 25 PCs in an order, the OEM can install only Vista. You can still get XP Pro on those PCs, though, if they came with Vista Business or Ultimate. Those two Vista versions include the "downgrade rights" that let you apply the Vista license to your XP Pro installation. You can use your existing XP Pro install discs or get an XP "downgrade" disc from the PC maker (if it wants to supply it). Remember that "downgrade rights" are not available in OEM licenses for other versions of Vista, and they do not let you install XP Home.

Enterprise Licenses

Businesses that have volume Windows licenses can also install XP Pro after the order cutoff deadlines. If you have a volume license for any version of Vista (not just Business and Ultimate), you may install XP Pro on your Vista PCs using the "downgrade rights" granted in the volume license.

To downgrade, you can use your existing copy of the XP Pro installation images. Microsoft will also supply an XP Pro "downgrade" installation disc or disk image after the cutoff dates. As noted earlier, OEMs can also do the "downgrade" for you in some cases.

"Most small businesses, enterprises, government agencies and educational institutions purchase their software through volume license agreements. As part of those volume license agreements, they get downgrade rights as part of the license," noted a Microsoft spokesperson. Volume licenses are available for as few as five seats.

"Subscription" Licenses

Some businesses don't directly license Windows, but instead "rent" it from IT support companies such as CenterBeam that provision Windows, Office, and other software on a per-user, per-month basis under Microsoft's Service Provider License Agreement. The service provider actually owns the license. If your business gets its Windows OSes this way, any XP licenses acquired through the provider will stay active, said Karen Hayward, executive vice president at CenterBeam. For new users after June 30, however, it's not clear if CenterBeam can offer XP, she noted. The service provider license does not forbid provisioning of XP after that date, but neither does it specifically allow it. CenterBeam hopes to have a clarification from Microsoft in February.

The Microsoft spokesperson said that such providers' license agreements with Microsoft would specify how long each provider could offer XP, but that the June 30 and January 31 cutoff dates should have no effect on them.

What Happens to Existing Licenses?

Organizations can continue to use any Windows XP licenses they have indefinitely, even after the OS is no longer available for new licenses.

For technical support and updates, Microsoft will end mainstream support for XP on April 14, 2009, for most editions, and it will end extended support on April 8, 2014 for most editions. (Extended support is not available for consumer licenses.) Both support mechanisms include free security updates. Hot fixes for other issues are free only during the mainstream support period; non-consumer users wanting hot fixes must buy a hot-fix update plan from Microsoft before July 14, 2009.

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