OEM Licenses vs Retail Licenses on Windows 11

OEM licenses and retail licenses for Windows 11 are available for end-user purchases. However, there is a lot of confusion in regard to the type and attributes of the OEM and Retail licenses.

We look at OEM licenses and Retail licenses of the Windows 11 operating system below.

Windows 11 for PC


OEM licenses are cheaper than retail licenses. In fact, there is a substantial difference in OEM license pricing as it is considerably cheaper than the retail licenses for Windows 11.

A retail license of Windows 11 Home costs $139 and Windows 11 Professional costs $199. An OEM key on a 3rd party website could be lower than $9.99. In most cases, these keys are stolen OEM keys from one of the large volume licensing deals.

OEM licenses are a form of volume licensing mode of Microsoft.

For example, when you buy a notebook computer or desktop computer from Dell or HP, it may come preloaded with Windows 11 operating system. Such installations of Windows 11 use OEM keys or OEM forms of Windows 11 licenses.

When you buy a license directly from Microsoft (through the website of Microsoft or one of the business partners of Microsoft), you will be buying a retail license of Windows 11.

The retail license for Windows 11 is more expensive than the OEM license. However, the additional costs also come with additional benefits for the user. We discuss the main benefits of retail licenses of Windows 11 below.

License transfer

The main point of distinction between OEM and Retail licenses of Windows 11 is the ability to transfer licenses from one computer to another.

An OEM license is tied to the hardware of the computer it is installed on. The OEM install of Windows 11 uses a hardware identifier to tie down the application to a specific computer.

So, basically, OEM license gets tied to the motherboard of the computer. There may be additional hardware identifiers that may be used by Microsoft to tie the installation of Windows 11 to a single specific machine.

You cannot transfer OEM license to another computer.

The retail license is fully transferable. This means that you can transfer Windows 11 license from one computer to another.

At any given point in time, only one Windows 11 computer will be activated and usable.

When you transfer the retail license from one computer to another computer, the license gets deactivated on the old computer before it can be activated on the new computer.

You can make as many transfers of the retail license from one computer to another computer. The only underlying condition is that at any point, the retail license will be activated and valid on a single Windows 11 installation.

Should I buy a Windows 11 license from 3rd party website?

This is a very tricky question. In our experience, the 3rd party sites that are selling Windows 11 licenses at a fraction of the cost of the original Windows 11 retail license may be actually selling you cheap stolen keys.

Most of these keys are part of stolen keys of volume licensing deals. For example, a company buys hundreds of computers. Some of the OEM volume licensing keys may end up in online marketplaces.

You may get the Windows 11 keys very cheap from 3rd party websites. However, promoting such keys is unethical. You are encouraging the theft of volume license keys.

For an original retail license key of $139 for Windows 11 Home, the OEM keys on 3rd party websites could be as low as $9.99.

These OEM keys work fine for the computer on which you install them. It all boils down to whether you want to encourage the malpractices associated with OEM license keys of Windows 11 computers.

Rajesh Dhawan

Rajesh Dhawan is a technology professional who loves to blog about smart wearables, Cloud computing and Microsoft technologies. He loves to break complex problems into manageable chunks of meaningful information.