Can I use same MS product code to replace Win7 with Ubuntu-host+Win7-guest?

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QUESTION :

My new laptop came with Windows 7 Home Premium pre-installed.

Ubuntu would have been my preference, but only as long as I could keep a Windows 7 VirtualBox around to get me through those occasional Linux-unfriendly and/or “Windows-only” situations1.

That said, my preference for the Ubuntu host + W7 guest set-up is not so strong that I’d be willing to purchase an additional copy of Windows 7 just for the VirtualBox. (If such a purchase were required, I’d leave things as they are.)

My question now is whether the Microsoft product code for the pre-installed W7 (which I have) will work at the time of installing (re-installing?) W7 on the VirtualBox.

(FWIW, the laptop did not come with any re-installation media, but I made a re-installation flash drive for Windows 7 Home Premium, per the instructions given here.)

1I could have a W7-host+Ubuntu-guest set-up instead, but after having worked with both W7-host/Ubuntu-guest and Ubuntu-host/W7-guest set-ups, and I must say that I prefer the latter. The most obvious/trivial reason for this is that, since I want to work mostly in Ubuntu, the latter set-up eliminates the extra step of starting the guest machine every time I start the computer. Less trivially, I’m generally not fond of the way Microsoft OS’s “run the show”; I prefer Linux/Ubuntu for this.

ANSWER :

It very much depends on how the copy of Windows 7 Home Premium was licensed to your laptop vendor.

Usually, it has an OEM license that is specific to your laptop and its hardware and may not activate when installed on other machines. Your VirtualBox emulates hardware other than your laptop’s and may thus prevent your OEM copy of Windows 7 Home Premium from activating as hardware is one of the Windows activation criteria. The activation server looks at things like the hard drive, memory, and CPU.

Microsoft’s FAQ tells us how little it can take for you having to reactivate. Let alone if you “change”/emulate all new hardware.

Do I need to activate Windows after making a hardware change? Maybe.
When you make a significant hardware change to your computer, such as
upgrading the hard disk and memory at the same time, you might be
required to activate Windows again. For more information, see Activate
Windows 7 on this computer.

Other hardware checks include your display adapter, MAC address, CPU, and optical drives.

If you really need Windows 7, you could always make it a dualboot set-up in which Ubuntu and Windows 7 are installed alongside. You would then be prompted to boot into either of the operating systems during boot but cannot run them simultaneously.

Furthermore, your installation media may not even work in the first place because it is not run on the original rig.

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