Microsoft Windows

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Microsoft Windows, commonly referred to as Windows, is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families, all of which are developed and marketed by Microsoft. Each family caters to a certain sector of the computing industry. Active Microsoft Windows families include Windows NT and Windows IoT; these may encompass subfamilies, (e.g. Windows Server or Windows Embedded Compact) (Windows CE). Defunct Microsoft Windows families include Windows 9x, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone.

Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985, as a graphical operating system shell for MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal computer (PC) market with over 90% market share, overtaking Mac OS, which had been introduced in 1984. Apple came to see Windows as an unfair encroachment on their innovation in GUI development as implemented on products such as the Lisa and Macintosh (eventually settled in court in Microsoft's favor in 1993). On PCs, Windows is still the most popular operating system. However, in 2014, Microsoft admitted losing the majority of the overall operating system market to Android, because of the massive growth in sales of Android smartphones. In 2014, the number of Windows devices sold was less than 25% that of Android devices sold. This comparison, however, may not be fully relevant, as the two operating systems traditionally target different platforms. Still, numbers for server use of Windows (that are comparable to competitors) show one third market share, similar to that for end user use.

As of October 2020, the most recent version of Windows for PCs, tablets and embedded devices is Windows 10, version 20H2. The most recent version for server computers is Windows Server, version 20H2. A specialized version of Windows also runs on the Xbox One video game console.

As we transition to OA3, this will become more relevant and important to follow.

Windows Versions

Windows 10 Pro (Business and End Customer)

  • Windows 10 Pro High End
  • Windows 10 Pro Value

Windows 10 Home (End Customer)

  • Windows 10 Home High End
  • Windows 10 Home Value
  • Windows 10 Home Entry
  • Windows 10 Home Single Language Edition High End
  • Windows 10 Home Single Language Edition Value
  • Windows 10 Home Single Language Edition Entry

Windows 10 S (End Customer Entry Level ONLY RUNS MS STORE APPS)

Windows 10 Internet of Things Enterprise (Embedded single app use for Business)

Windows 10 Internet of Things Core (Free for personal use, but licensed in business. Has no desktop)

Windows N Series (European Union Edition that removes the media player and Edge for Anti-Competition)

  • Windows 10 Pro N High End
  • Windows 10 Pro Value
  • Windows 10 Home High End
  • Windows 10 Home Value
  • Windows 10 Home Entry

Windows 10 Server (Business usage for remote management and databases)

  • Windows 10 Server Essentials (Cloud-Connected first server for 25 users and 50 devices)
  • Windows 10 Server Standard (Physical or minimally virtualized environments)
  • Windows 10 Server Datacenter (Highly Virtualized Datacenters & Cloud Environments)

Windows 10 for Workstations (Business High-Performance machines with Multi-CPU and Large Qty of RAM)

Windows 10 Enterprise (An upgrade from Pro to give Enterprise features for large scale businesses)

Windows 10 Education (An upgrade from Pro to give Enterprise features for Schools at a discount)

Windows Licenses and how we license them

These are the different terms that you will see.

  • PKEA (Product Key (entry) Application)
  1. This is the known manual activation. You need to remove the security layer – scratch-off layer – from the product activation key on the license (COA) and type it in manually and let the system finish the activation via the internet. The activation key can be used once for the device, the license is affixed to.
  • ePKEA (Embedded Key Entry Activation)
  1. This is an activation key from Microsoft assigned to the CLA of the OEM, which needs to be built into the image. No manual activation and internet connection is needed. All images have the same key.
  • MAK (Mass Activation Key)
  1. This is a key only issued directly from Microsoft to license multiple units within a business and give a discount based on the volume purchased for the business. This is a manual entry key that is managed by a web interface to control key usage.
  • VLK (Volume License Key)
  1. The Volume License Key is used for a KMS (Key Management Server) which is hosted on the network. Every machine boots up and contacts the server to obtain a license at the time of boot. Like the MAK it is only acquired from Microsoft directly and is discounted by volume.
  • OA3 (OEM Activation 3)
  1. This is an embedded key that is stored in the EFI BIOS of a machine. Unlike the ePKEA which is stored in the image, these grant end-users the ease of auto-activation at the time of OOBE (Out of Box Experience)
  • CAL (Client Access License)
  1. These are grants of usage to a Windows Server. Specific CAL’s are used for specific purposes to get the extra money needed for development for that area.
  • ALP (Additional Licencing Provisions)
  1. This is the term used for the Embedded world. It is the package that contains the specific COA (Certificate of Authenticity) for Windows 10 IoT. Within the package is what is called a Thumbnail COA.

COA’s today are called GML’s (Genuine Microsoft Labels) by Microsoft. They are required in 3 instances.

  1. OA3 Windows 10 Pro
  2. Any Windows 10 Pro upgraded to Enterprise, Education, or Workstation.
  3. Windows 10 IoT editions.

These are some examples to give examples of what you will see.

Which editions are an OEM allowed to sell?

The baseline of what Microsoft expects OEM’s to sell are listed here.

  1. Windows 10 Home
  2. Windows 10 Home Single Language
  3. Windows 10 Home N (European Areas only)
  4. Windows 10 Pro
  5. Windows 10 Pro N (European Areas only)
  6. Windows 10 S
  7. Windows 10 Server
  8. Windows 10 IoT (Gray Area)

With this said, we have talked with representatives and we can get some more details. We ARE allowed to sell these in specific instances.

  1. Windows 10 Enterprise
  2. Windows 10 Education

These should be built by the customer and sent to us for examination to ensure it can be mass distributed. We MUST obtain written consent by the customer to provide IT services to them to distribute. Unlike other editions, these are upgrades in the licensing world Windows 10 Pro is the baseline NOT Home.

Workstation seems to be an area that is recently added by Microsoft and they have a method for the End-User to upgrade. But not install base. From the documentation, it seems they will need to receive Windows 10 Pro first and upgrade onsite.

When selling servers it is important to note what you are selling. CAL’s are needed to be bundled with services they plan to use. It is also important to note the type of computer you are selling. Server is based on CPU (Central Processing Unit) Cores. So if you have a 2 core unit. A 2 core license is used. We have located the following for purchase.

  1. Server 2 Core license
  2. Server 4 Additional Cores License
  3. Server 16 Core License
  4. Server Additional 16 Cores License

For CAL’s each CAL represents a user. So sell them as many CAL’s as there are users to the server. This MS Server licensing guide is based on Windows Server 2019.

What are all these Channels?

A channel is a way of saying the type of updates they will be receiving for their product. There are 3 Channels.

  1. Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) For end customers who will receive all updates even if it breaks something.
  2. Semi-Annual Channel for businesses and people who want to defer updates for a while.
  3. Long Term Service Channel (LTSC) for customers who want the stable ONLY updates every 6 months.

What are the different Channels that Customers reference?

What does it mean when a customer says CBB or LTSB? These are the old terms used for the channels. They mean Current Business Branch and Long Term Service Branch.

These affect all editions of Windows, even IoTe. Windows 10 Home will always be on SACt because they are the testers for regular SAC for people who have Pro. The channels are determined mostly by the installers you use for Windows. However, in some occasions, you can edit the registry to change this. IT IS NOT RECOMMENDED. So advise the customer to purchase it correctly the first time.

Unless the customer brings it up. Let the default image set we use determine this. They may need a 909 BOM.

Why Separate the CPUs?

There is no representative that can give the answer to this. All we can gather is that its a cash grab.

High End means that it is a Core i7, i9 or Xeon processor

Value means that it is a Core i5 or i3

Entry or Low End means that it is an Atom, Pentium, or Celeron.

Overall this means that the price of the license will be determined by the processor in it. We will be required to meet this standard as we transition into OA3.


  • Can we use a customer’s MAK?
    • Yes, provided we attain the permission in writing by an official representative.
  • Can we use a customer’s VLK?
    • No, a VLK is an on-site server issued license only.
  • The customer is complaining that they cannot create an offline account.
    • This is because of Microsoft's choice to force it on Windows 10 Home users. Simply tell them to disconnect from the internet while going through the OOBE process.
  • The customer wants a specific version of Windows Server. We no longer stock it, but we have the image still?
    • There exists an option for Downgrade Rights. The end customer will need to call Microsoft to use it.
      • What about the CALs?
        • They are backwards compatible and are simply slips of paper with nothing to activate.
          • Note: They are not forwards compatible.

More to be added as we receive questions.