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FAQ: The ins and out of Windows 8 pricing

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 16, 2012
Microsoft and its retail partners revealed a few more details about Windows 8 pricing, clarifying what the Redmond, Wash., developer has purposefully left muddy in the months leading up to its release next week. We try to answer the most-pressing questions.

In other words, just like the $39.99 online upgrade offer, you should strike quickly.

The $30 surcharge for a DVD may seem steep, but Microsoft has actually done a little bit better by customers than rival Apple: In 2011, Apple sold a USB drive with OS X 10.7, also known as Lion, for $39 more than the download price. Apple didn't even bother to reprise the offer this year for Mountain Lion.

[Note: The Windows 8 Pro online upgrade lets you create a bootable installation DVD or USB drive, so unless you have a very slow Internet connection and want the media to save hours of dial-up agony, that's a less expensive way to get a DVD.]

I run Windows in a virtual machine (VM) on my Mac. What's the damage? Looks like $99.99 for Windows 8, $139.99 for Windows 8 Pro, is the cheapest bet for now.

Those are Newegg.com's pre-sale prices for what Microsoft is now calling "System Builder" -- formerly known as "OEM" -- an edition aimed at small-scale or homebrew PC makers, as well as users who want to run the OS in a virtual machine or in a dual-boot setup on a Mac or PC.

System Builder includes a license that allows for installation in a virtual environment, but offers one-time-use only. "We grant you the right to install [Windows 8] ... as the operating system on a computer that you build for your personal use, or as an additional operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition," states the end-user license agreement (EULA) we've seen. "If you want to use the software on more than one virtual computer, you must obtain separate copies of the software and a separate license for each copy."

I already run older Windows in several virtual machines. How much do I pay? For each VM you upgrade -- up to a max of five per person -- you pay $39.99 to migrate to Windows 8 Pro from XP, Vista or Windows 7 through Jan. 31, 2013.

You upgrade the VMs (or partitions, like a second boot partition on a PC, or Boot Camp on OS X) the same way someone upgrades a physical machine: by running the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant on Windows.com.

Any chance that the System Builder SKUs will fall in price after Oct. 26? We don't think so.

The list prices for the Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional System Builder equivalents are $128 and $179, respectively, according to Amazon. Not surprisingly, Amazon's prices are less: $92 and $128, or close to the Windows 8 System Builder prices on Newegg.

 

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