Understanding the Difference between OEM, Retail, MSDN, and Volume Licenses


At DIGITKEYS, we understand the importance of choosing the right software licensing options for your business. In today’s digital landscape, various licensing types are available, each serving different purposes. In this article, we will delve into the differences between four common licensing types: OEM, Retail, MSDN, and Volume licenses. By the end, you will have a clear understanding of each license type’s features, benefits, and ideal usage scenarios.

OEM Licenses

OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer, licenses are typically pre-installed on hardware devices, such as computers or laptops, by the manufacturer. These licenses are intended for system builders and are sold in bulk to original equipment manufacturers. Here are some key points about OEM licenses:

Licensing Restrictions:

OEM licenses are tied to the original hardware they were installed on and cannot be transferred to another device.


OEM licenses are often more cost-effective compared to other license types, making them an attractive option for businesses looking to equip their hardware with software.


While OEM licenses usually come with a limited support period from the manufacturer, ongoing technical support is typically the responsibility of the system builder.

Retail Licenses

Retail licenses, also known as Full Packaged Product (FPP) licenses, are purchased individually by end-users through authorized retailers. Here are some important details about retail licenses:


Retail licenses offer more flexibility compared to OEM licenses. They can be transferred from one device to another, allowing users to upgrade or replace their hardware while retaining the software license.


Retail licenses often come with support from the software vendor, providing users with assistance and updates during the support period.


Retail licenses tend to have a higher price point compared to OEM licenses due to the added flexibility and support they offer.

MSDN Licenses

MSDN, or Microsoft Developer Network, licenses are specifically designed for software developers, providing them with access to a wide range of Microsoft software and tools. Here’s what you need to know about MSDN licenses:


MSDN licenses are primarily intended for developers, granting them access to a comprehensive set of software resources, development tools, and documentation.

Testing and Development Environments:

These licenses are commonly used in testing and development environments, allowing developers to experiment and create software solutions without the limitations of production licenses.

Variety of Software:

MSDN subscriptions provide access to various Microsoft products, including operating systems, server software, and development tools.

Volume Licenses

Volume licenses are designed for businesses and organizations that require multiple software licenses. These licenses offer flexibility, ease of management, and cost savings for larger deployments. Here’s what you should know about volume licenses:

Licensing Agreement:

Volume licenses are obtained through a licensing agreement with Microsoft or authorized resellers. They allow businesses to acquire a significant number of licenses at a discounted price.

Key Benefits:

Volume licenses offer benefits such as centralized license management, flexible deployment options, and the ability to reimage devices easily.

Various Programs:

Microsoft provides different volume licensing programs to cater to specific organizational needs, including the Enterprise Agreement, Open License, and Select Plus.

Choosing the Right License

Selecting the appropriate license type depends on several factors, including your business requirements, budget, and usage scenario. To make an informed decision, consider the following questions:

  • Will the software be installed on new hardware or existing devices?
  • Do you require the flexibility to transfer licenses between
  • Are you a software developer in need of comprehensive development tools and resources?
  • Do you have a large-scale deployment that requires multiple licenses?
  • By answering these questions, you can determine which license type aligns best with your specific needs.


Understanding the differences between OEM, Retail, MSDN, and Volume licenses is crucial when making software licensing decisions for your business. Each license type offers unique features, benefits, and usage scenarios. Whether you require cost-effective licenses for hardware devices (OEM), flexible licenses for individual users (Retail), developer-focused licenses (MSDN), or large-scale deployments (Volume licenses), making an informed decision will ensure you meet your software licensing needs effectively.

Remember, choosing the right license is just one piece of the puzzle in optimizing your business operations. If you require further assistance or expert advice, feel free to contact our team at [your company’s contact information]. We are here to guide you through the licensing process and help you make the best choices for your organization.

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