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Why are Microsoft Volume products better for your company than OEM?

  • Licensing
  • Microsoft
  • Product comparison

9. 12. 2021

Many businesses and organizations are confused by Microsoft’s business licensing. In this article we will explain what is the difference between Volume and OEM licensing and why businesses should choose Volume products instead of OEM.

Purpose of Volume and OEM licensing

Volume products provide quick and easy licensing for a large number of devices or users. They are aimed at businesses, government and educational institutions and are usually available via special licensing agreements (OLP, EA, MPSA, etc.).

OEM software is provided by Microsoft mostly to certain equipment manufacturers, such as Dell and HP, and is intended to be part of a software+hardware bundle. The final combined product, e.g. a laptop with preinstalled Windows, can then be bought and used by both businesses and end users.

However, Microsoft’s aforementioned software distribution rules are subject to the exhaustion of rights principle within the EU. This means that after the first sale the software can be sold further without the conditions mentioned in the previous paragraphs: OEM software can be sold without hardware and Volume software without licensing agreements.

Why choose Volume over OEM?

Software from Microsoft’s Volume distribution channel comes with features and technical requirements that are either the same or improved in comparison with its OEM channel equivalents:

Compatible with servers and RDS
If a company wants to use an Office suite through Remote Desktop Services (RDS), it is necessary to obtain a volume-channel Office product – either Office Standard or Office Professional Plus.
Not compatible with network solutions
OEM Office software, such as Home and Business and Professional, is not compatible with RDS.
Full downgrade rights
Downgrading is an end-user right to revert software to an older version, offered by Microsoft for products purchased via their Volume distribution channel. For example, if you have Office 2019 Professional Plus, you can downgrade it to the previous version and make use of the Office 2016 Professional Plus instead (but not at the same time!). Downgrade rights are applicable for all Volume Licensing products (server products, MS Office, etc.).
Limited downgrade rights
OEM-based products have some downgrade rights but they are quite limited.
Quick installation, online activation,
easy transfer
Volume products can be quickly and easily activated online. Transfer of the software from one device to another requires just uninstalling it from the old one, installing it on the new one and entering the activation key – no additional activation procedures needed, thanks to volume keys (MAK) or dedicated services (KMS). In the case of MAK, it’s just necessary to keep track of the activation count – the number of currently activated devices must be equal to or lower than the number of purchased products.
Standard installation, phone activation, slow transfer
OEM products cannot be moved as easily – the OEM key must first be deactivated from the current device through a series of commands in Command Prompt. Then the software must be uninstalled from the old device and installed on the new one, and afterwards activated via a somewhat lengthy phone activation procedure. It can require some IT skills to have it properly installed and activated.
Batch activation
Volume products can be deployed and activated in bulk, quickly and easily – an essential feature for medium and big businesses with many devices.
No batch activation
OEM products have to be activated manually, one device after the other, which slows down deployment tremendously.
Centralized management
Volume products are also the most efficient option for companies with an extensive IT infrastructure with many departments and plenty of users and devices. Volume software can be easily managed through the VAMT tool – a free management tool from Microsoft that allows tracking, activation and deactivation of Volume products.
No centralized management
In the case of OEM products, the IT specialist would need to do everything by hand (deployment, installation, activation), as there aren’t any good management tools available.
Detailed documentation
Volume used software comes with a set of documents that prove it was acquired in accordance with EU law: beside the obligatory minimum consisting of an invoice and a Seller’s Declaration, customers can receive a confirmation of deinstallation from the previous owner and a license agreement number, plus additional documents, if there are any (the bundle differs between different software products, providers, manufacturers etc).
Basic documentation
OEM software is harder to track, as it rarely comes with extensive documentation of its origins. Customers who buy OEM used software products usually receive only the obligatory legal minimum: an invoice and a Seller’s Declaration.
Click on each property in each column for more details.

Beware of sellers who offer Volume product keys without any documentation – legal software sellers provide a software copy (key included) with all of its accompanying documentation! It’s similar to buying only the key for a house – even though you can enter and use the house, it is not yours, so it is strictly illegal to do so.

What’s the price difference between Volume and OEM products?

OEM software products can present a lot of obstacles for companies due to their specifics (as explained previously), and within the EU free market they are often at a similar price with Volume products.

Take a look at the following example comparison between Office 2019 Professional Plus and Office 2019 Home and Business to see how much more beneficial it is to get a Volume product over an OEM product:

  Office 2019 Professional Plus (Volume) Office 2019 Home and Business (OEM)
Suitable for all businesses home users or small businesses
Applications MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, Access, Skype for Business MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook
Installation Office 2019 Volume Installer or Office Deployment Tool MSI (standard ISO file)
Activation easy batch activation with only one product key has to be activated separately (an individual product key for each device)
RDS support can be used with RDS (Remote Desktop Services) doesn’t support RDS
MS account not required required
Languages same for both: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and many more
End of support same for both: October 2025
Price 159,99 € 159,99 €

As seen above, it is highly recommended for businesses to always go for the Volume products when licensing their Microsoft software, especially those with a greater number of devices and users – it is the most economic, efficient and worry-free solution.

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