Microsoft provides Windows, in this case, Windows 10, with a variety of licenses through different channels, including Retail, OEM, and Volume.
Each channel offers a full version of Windows 10 but has different rules. This article reviews the notions of the three channels and the attributes that make them different from each other.
As mentioned, each license channel offers different attributes, which can determine what can and cannot be done, such as upgrading or downgrading the operating system. This article, therefore, will also review how to check the type of license installed on a device.
✅ Windows Retail
The Windows license from a Retail channel is the simplest, most common, and easiest license to obtain. Users can buy it through online retail stores or local stores, which usually sell Windows with official box packaging. Retail licenses, for information, are also often called Full Packaged Products (FPP).
Retail licenses can only be used on one device and by one user. However, users can move it to a different device, by deactivating it first on the previous device. This license transfer process has no restrictions; users can do it on an unlimited number of different devices.
With a Retail license, users will get full support from Microsoft, including providing solutions to the problems being faced, both related to software and hardware. This license also allows users to upgrade the operating system, but not to downgrade it.
✅ Windows OEM
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, which, if translated literally, is an original equipment manufacturer. Licenses obtained through the OEM channel are usually obtained when purchasing a device that has been pre-installed by Windows by original equipment manufacturers, such as Dell, HP, or Asus.
An OEM license, because it is obtained together with a device, cannot be transferred to a different device. The Windows product key from an OEM license is usually displayed on the bottom of the device using a sticker. However, lately, these keys have usually been linked directly to the device’s hardware, and are only used by Windows when needed.
In addition to upgrading the operating system, users with an OEM license can also downgrade it, with a limit of two versions. This downgrade only applies to the same edition, such as Windows 10 Pro, which can be downgraded to Windows 7 Pro, or Windows 7 Enterprise to Windows XP Enterprise, etc.
The price for an OEM license is also cheaper than a Retail license because it has been bundled with the cost of the device purchased. However, users with an OEM license will not get support from Microsoft, but directly from the original equipment manufacturers that produce and sell the device.
✅ Windows Volume
The Windows license obtained through the Volume channel is different from the two channels previously mentioned. This license is not sold to individuals, but organizations, such as companies, schools, or government. Therefore, these licenses are usually sold and bought in large quantities.
Volume licenses usually cannot be installed on devices that are not part of the organization concerned. Organizations also usually activate all their tools with one product key through a Key Management Service (KMS) server or Multiple Activation Keys (MAK).
Check the type of license installed
Users can easily check the type of license installed on the device. The steps to do this involve the Windows Server License Manager Script (slmgr) which can be run through the Command Prompt:
Step 1: Open Command Prompt through an administrator account.
Users can do this by opening Start, then searching for the keyword “Command Prompt.” Once found, right-click Command Prompt, then select the “Run as administrator” option.
Step 2: Paste the slmgr / dli command code in the Command Prompt, then press Enter.
This will open a dialog box, which then displays the edition of Windows used, as well as the type of license installed. The device I’m using, for example, uses Windows 10 Pro, with a license obtained through the Retail channel, as shown in the screenshot above.
TLDR: Windows Retail is a license that is usually purchased through a retail store, whereas Windows OEM refers to a license that is usually obtained together with the device purchased. Both are for individuals. Windows Volume, on the other hand, refers to licenses that are intended for organizations, and are usually purchased in large quantities.