Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system helps enable flexible workstyles by providing access to Windows instances in a variety of ways across devices. With access to the offerings and use rights listed below, Software Assurance for the Windows desktop operating system provides the maximum value for your investment.
Flexible access to Windows Enterprise
One of the most valuable benefits you receive through Windows Software Assurance and Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) is flexible access to Windows Enterprise. This table outlines those access rights. For full details about the access rights granted, refer to the Software Assurance Benefits section of the Microsoft Volume Licensing Product Use Rights (PUR).
Access Rights to Windows Enterprise:
Virtual Desktop Access
Virtual Desktop Access
Any device licensed for Windows 7/8/8.1 Pro or Enterprise and any Windows tablet with a diagonal screen size of 10.1 inches or less
The licensed device only
The licensed device only if also licensed for Windows 7/8/8.1 Pro or Enterprise
Remote Access Through Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) or Windows To Go
Noncorporate devices while away from the office (through Roaming Use Rights)
Software Assurance benefits
Whether you license Windows Software Assurance or Windows VDA on a per device or per user basis, you receive a number of benefits specific to Windows. Learn more about the unique benefits of Software Assurance for Windows.
To learn about your options for acquiring Windows Software Assurance, see How to Buy.
Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 8.1 Enterprise
Volume Licensing is the most cost-effective way for commercial customers to upgrade existing PCs to Windows 8.1. You can purchase upgrade licenses through a Volume Licensing program to gain access to Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 8.1 Enterprise, and you can attach Software Assurance to your Windows 8.1 Enterprise Upgrade licenses.
Software Assurance for Windows
You can license Windows Software Assurance on a per device or per user basis. For devices or users that do not qualify for Windows Software Assurance, you can license Windows VDA for access to the benefits of Windows Software Assurance. With Windows Software Assurance and Windows VDA, you get flexible access to Windows Enterprise, plus a number of additional benefits.
Licensing Windows Software Assurance on a per device basis
You can license Windows Software Assurance on a per device basis in the following ways:
When you purchase a Windows 8.1 Enterprise Upgrade license through Volume Licensing, you can also acquire Software Assurance for that license.
Software Assurance is automatically included in certain Volume Licensing programs, such as Enterprise Agreement, Enterprise Subscription Agreement, Open Value, Open Value Subscription, and Enrollment for Education Solutions.
For devices that do not qualify for Windows Software Assurance (such as thin clients), you can access Windows Software Assurance benefits by purchasing the Windows VDA subscription.
Licensing Windows Software Assurance on a per user basis
There are three different per user options: Windows Software Assurance per User, Windows VDA per User, and Windows Software Assurance per User Add-on. The following table offers a comparison of these three options.
Windows Software Assurance per User
Windows VDA per User
Windows Software Assurance per User Add-on
When Added to Windows Software Assurance per Device
When Added to Windows VDA per Device
Primary user’s primary device must be licensed for Windows 7/8/8.1 Pro or Enterprise
No device requirements; may be assigned to any user
Primary user’s primary device must already be covered by Windows Software Assurance
Primary user’s primary device must already be covered by Windows VDA
Per user; no device limits
Local Install of Windows Enterprise
On any device running Windows 7/8/8.1 Pro or Enterprise or Windows tablet up to 10.1 inches in diagonal screen size
VDI Access and Windows To Go
Available from any device
Single MDOP subscription extends across all of a user’s devices
Note: ”Primary user’s primary device” means the user is the primary user of the device AND the device is that user’s primary work device.
For additional help choosing the right per user option, plus more details on the access rights to Windows Enterprise and other benefits of Software Assurance, refer to the Volume Licensing Guide for Windows 8.1 (PDF, 793 KB).
Windows Volume Licensing
Properly licensed Microsoft operating systems (such as Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP) have either a full operating system license or the combination of an upgrade operating system license and a pre-existing, full operating system license. If you do not have a pre-existing full license for a genuine operating system on your PC, see Get Genuine Legalization Solutions.
Only certain editions of the Windows operating system qualify for upgrades under Volume Licensing agreements. The table below lists the qualifying editions of Windows that are eligible for the Volume Licensing upgrade under each Volume Licensing program.
If your operating system license qualifies, you can purchase the Windows 8.1 Pro Upgrade license or Windows 8.1 Enterprise Upgrade license under your Volume Licensing agreement. Note that Windows licenses that are available through Volume Licensing are upgrade-only licenses and can only be acquired on top of a base operating system license; these licenses are not a replacement for a pre-existing full operating system license.
The following conditions must be met for a licensed PC to be eligible for a Volume Licensing upgrade license:
A licensed, qualifying Windows operating system must already be installed on the device that will be assigned the Volume Licensing upgrade license. The following table lists base operating system licenses—including preinstalled original equipment manufacturer (OEM) versions—that are eligible for upgrade.
You must remove the existing qualifying operating system from the device to deploy the Volume Licensing upgrade license, unless the PC is covered by Microsoft Software Assurance.
If you want to install or run more than one licensed operating system at one time (including the qualifying operating system), you can either:
Windows 8.1 Qualifying Operating Systems
Qualifying Operating Systems
New Enterprise Agreement (EA)/Open Value Company-wide
Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) & Select/Select Plus (All Except Academic)
Open (All Except Academic, Charity, and
Academic and Charity
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 (32-bit or 64-bit)
Enterprise (N, K, KN)*
Pro (N, K, KN, diskless)*
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 Single Language*
Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit)
Windows 7 Enterprise (N, K, KN)*
Windows 7 Professional (N, K, KN, diskless)*
Windows 7 Ultimate
Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows 7 Home Basic*
Windows 7 Starter Edition
Windows Vista (32-bit or 64-bit)
Windows Vista Enterprise (N, K, KN)
Windows Vista Business (N, K, KN, Blade)
Windows Vista Ultimate
Windows Vista Home Premium
Windows Vista Home Basic
Windows Starter Edition
Windows XP (32-bit or 64-bit)
Windows XP Professional (N, K, KN, Blade)
Windows XP Tablet Edition (N, K, KN, Blade)
Windows XP Pro Blade PC
Windows XP Home/Windows XP Starter
Other Operating Systems
Windows 2000 Professional
Windows NT Workstation 4.0
Windows 98 (including 2nd Edition)
*Windows 8.1 and Windows 8 Single Language, Windows 7 Home Basic, N, K, and KN are specialized editions that are available for certain markets. Diskless availability is limited to Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 7 Professional.
Download the Windows 8.1 Qualifying Operating Systems Chart (PDF, 249 KB)