OEM and Retail Windows licenses are entirely different. Here is how to check if your Windows license is retail or OEM.
Microsoft provides three kinds of Windows licenses. They are the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), Retail, and Volume license. Depending on the license type, you have certain restrictions and privileges. For example, an OEM license is far more restrictive than a Retail license.
Whenever you buy a new Windows device or a copy of Windows from an offline or online store, you get an OEM or Retail license, respectively. Volume license, as you can tell from the name, is generally reserved for organizations and corporates where bulk purchasing is common. Microsoft doesn’t sell Volume licenses to individuals. One of the main reasons is that you have to purchase a minimum of 100 or more Windows copies.
With all the license types Microsoft provides, it is only natural that you might want to check if your Windows license is retail or OEM. Knowing the license type gives you additional info on what you can and cannot do with the license. Thankfully, it is pretty easy to check.
Let me show you how to find your Windows license type without delay. The steps shown below will work in all versions starting from Windows 7.
Difference between OEM and Retail license
Now, you might be wondering about the significant differences between OEM and Retail licenses. Here are some of the major things you need to know about OEM and Retail Windows licenses.
OEM License: An OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) license is what you get when you buy a Windows device. For example, if you have purchased a laptop from Amazon, Dell, Microsoft, etc., you get an OEM license, most probably.
One of the significant advantages of an OEM license is that it is much cheaper than a Retail license.
When it comes to disadvantages, there are a few. Mainly, an OEM license is tied to the device. This means you cannot transfer the license to another computer or user. If something happens to the device, the OEM license becomes invalid. Other than that, OEM licenses get no guaranteed support from free Microsoft Direct Support staff. There are also restrictions on upgrading from older to newer versions (unless Microsoft specifically allowed it).
If you are wondering, most cheap Windows licenses you find in many online stores are OEM keys. As a general rule, you shouldn’t buy cheap keys as they might stop working any time.
Retail License: You get a Retail license when you buy a new Windows copy (in DVD, USB, literal license code form) from the official or a reputed online or offline store. Compared to the OEM license, a Retail license is much more expensive.
The major advantage of a retail license is that it is tied to the user. That means you have full rights to transfer the ownership from one machine to another. You are not locked to a single Windows device. Of course, you can only use one retail license on one machine at a time. Other than that, you are also entitled to free Microsoft Direct Support. You can also upgrade from the older Windows version to a newer one if Microsoft allows it.
If you are wondering, both licenses are similar in terms of the operating system features. They don’t restrict OS features.
That being said, depending on the Windows edition, some OS features might be restricted. For example, the Home edition users don’t have access to advanced tools like the Group Policy Editor, Windows Sandbox, etc.
Now that you know the difference between OEM and Retail licenses follow the below steps to check your Windows license type.
Check if Windows License is OEM or Retail
To find out if your Windows license is OEM or Retail, we can use the SLMGR tool built into Windows. All you have to do is execute the command to show whether your license is OEM or Retail. Here is how to do it.
The steps shown below will work in all versions of Windows, starting from Windows 7. That means, even if you are using Windows 7, 8, or 10, you can follow the steps and get the same result.
- Press the Start key on your keyboard.
- Search for “CMD” in the Start menu.
- Right-click on the “Command Prompt” result.
- Select the “Run as administrator” option.
- Type “slmgr -dli” and press Enter.
- You will see the license type on the second line.
- It will say if the license is Retail, OEM, or Volume.
- Click “Ok” to close the window.
- With that, you now know the Windows license type.
Detailed steps with a bit more info and screenshots:
First, we need to open Command Prompt as admin. To do that, open the Start menu, search for “CMD,” right-click on the Command Prompt result and select the “Run as administrator” option. Windows 11 users can open Windows Terminal as an admin and then open the Command Prompt tab. If you don’t know, you can open Windows Terminal by right-clicking on the Start menu or pressing the “Windows key + X” keyboard shortcut.
After opening the Command Prompt window, type “slmgr -dli” and press the Enter key. This action will execute the command immediately.
As soon as you do that, Windows Script Host will open after a couple of seconds. You will see the license type in the second line. See the below image for quick reference. For instance, I’m using a Retail license key. So, I’m seeing “Retail Channel” in the second line. If you are using an OEM or Volume license, you will see “OEM channel” or “Volume channel” in the second line.
That is all. It is that simple to check if your Windows license is OEM, Retail, or Volume.
I hope this simple Windows how-to guide helped you.
Like this guide? Check out how to find your Windows product key.
If you are stuck or need some help, comment below, and I will try to help as much as possible.